Dr. MJ Bazos MD,
does delinquency mean?
- Delinquency means antisocial or violent behaviour
in young people, often involving criminal acts.
- There is a wide range in the seriousness of
- Many young people commit crimes such as not
paying on public transportation or shoplifting.
- Most young people who get involved in criminal
activity simply outgrow the behaviour as they get older.
What are the facts on
youth crime in Canada?
- Overall, reported cases of crime in Canada have
gone down over the past few years.
- Like crime rates on the whole, the average rate
of youth crime has generally dropped in the same period.
- Two-thirds of youth crime for which police lay
charges is property related - usually stealing.
- Most youth crime is non-violent.
Youth crime is not out
- Print media stories about crime in Canada focus
mainly on violent crime by youth.
- In one study 94% of newspaper stories on youth
crime involved violent cases.
- Changes in how and why police charge people have
contributed to changes in reported youth crime.
- The reported increase in the rate of youths
charged with violent crimes over the last decade is almost entirely because of a
rise in minor assault charges.
- Beyond minor assault charges, the actual rate of
youths charged with violent crime has increased by only 1/5 of l percent between
1993 and 1995.
Factors that can
contribute to delinquency
- Children with antisocial or aggressive behaviour
are more likely to show antisocial behaviour as teenagers and adults.
- It is possible as early as kindergarten to
identify children likely to become antisocial or aggressive teenagers.
Health and Family
- Brain damage in children, caused by fetal alcohol
syndrome, poor nutrition or exposure to toxic substances can be a contributing
factor to aggressive behaviour.
- Family conflict or violence in the home, or
parental mental illness can increase aggressive behaviour in children.
- A high number of young offenders have a history
of being abused or witnessing abuse in their homes.
- Having difficulty in school and being unable to
read well are both linked to failing or quitting school.
- Problems paying attention or learning often lead
to school failure or dropping out.
- Chances of getting involved in delinquent
behaviour increase if students drop out of school.
- Social factors
- Living in poverty means that children are more
likely to experience poor nutrition, poor health, increased family stress and
fewer social supports.
- Youth unemployment and lack of job opportunities
can increase the likelihood of delinquency.
- Pressure from other young people is also a
factor, especially when gangs are involved.
- School-based violence, in the form of bullying
and harassment can cause serious problems for young people.
- Victims may start a pattern of school avoidance
while bullies need to be helped out of using violence.
- Behavioural problems are more common in boys than
- Research is not clear about whether this is
because of biological or social reasons.
- Crimes by girls tend to be less serious.
- A recent study found 14% of boys compared to 4.4%
of girls were often physically violent.
- There has been a noticable rise in the numbers of
female young offenders in the past ten years.
The more of these risk
factors children are exposed to the greater the likelihood they will become
involved in criminal behaviour, either as offenders or victims.
What can reduce delinquency?
- A steady and supportive relationship with at
least one caring adult throughout childhood is very important.
- Strong relationships help children to develop a
sense of trust, confidence, self-esteem and social skills.
- Children need chances to make friends, to play
and to learn in safe, caring situations.
- Programs that enhance children's social and
emotional development can decrease the possibility of delinquency.
- These programs help to counter the risk factors
that contribute to delinquency.
To think about:
"Lost in the media coverage and in
the sea of pop-culture images is the fact that there is little evidence that
kids today are any worse than kids five or twenty-five years ago." K. Onstad
,"What Are We Afraid Of?: The Myth of Youth Crime" Saturday Night Magazine,
"Many young people in
Canada do numerous things in any given year that could land them in youth court
if they were caught...they steal, vandalize, fight, use public transportation
without paying ...therefore, the best way of thinking about youth crime and the
official processing of it is that there is an infinite supply of youth crime in
the community that could be processed by the courts."
A.N. Doob & J.B. Sprott
"Interprovincial Variation in the Use of Youth Court" Canadian Journal of
"Healthy children -
living within a loving, supportive environment and in decent housing, adequately
nourished and with the ability to participate in community life - are less
likely to be violent or to become
in serious criminal activity." "Money Well Spent: Investing in Preventing Crime"
National Crime Prevention Council of Canada, September 1996