Factors Negatively Influencing Psychology of Juveniles- Review and Analysis
“Child is the father of man” or so William Wordsworth said. And today he must be turning in his grave.
The word juvenile comes from a Latin word juvenilis which means ‘of or belonging to youth’ coming from juvenis meaning “young person” original “young” . Legally a juvenile is a person who is not old enough to be held responsible for criminal acts and in a layman’s language juvenile is basically a child (minor) not mature enough to take responsibility of the crime committed by him. But the brutal rape of the 23 year old physiotherapy student on 16 December, 2012 shed light upon multiple controversial and alarming issues out of which the most disturbing was the participation of a juvenile in the barbaric act. While the whole nation was and is still calling out for the capital punishment of the accused juvenile, who luckily has been spared from the furore, the public uproar has eventually led to the drafting of The juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) bill, 2014 which if passed, permits juveniles between the ages of 16-18 years to be tried as adults for heinous offences. But amidst the entire clamor one forgets the actual concern that needs to be addressed urgently and requires immediate attention of the law makers, law executioners and the society as a whole. Why was that juvenile there that night, away from his home and family?? And why did he commit this heinous crime at such a tender age? What drove him to the edge and that too to this extent???
Wess Stafford, President of Compassion International, once said “Every child you encounter is a divine appointment.”
Children are supposed to be the purest and the most innocent form of human beings untainted from any kind of evil. But if one looks around oneself, then today’s reality tells a different story. The recent statistics released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Ministry of Home Affairs, give out an alarming increase in the number of crime rates by the juveniles. The rate of juvenile delinquency has increased from 1.6 in 2001 to 2.1 in 2011 with an increase in the total percentage of juvenile crimes to other crimes from 0.9 in 2001 to 1.1 in 2011 and 1.2% in 2012 and remained static at 1.2% in 2013. Also the total cognizable juvenile crimes in IPC has increased by 13.6% over 2012 from 16509 in 2001 to 27936 in 2012 which increased to 31,725 in 2013 with a total number of 43,506 juveniles being appended under IPC and SLL( State and Local Laws) under sex out of which 1867 were girls . It is point of great concern that according to reports, the highest increase in the incidence of crimes committed by juvenile was observed under the head 'Assault on women with intent to outrage her modesty' (132.3%) followed by ‘Insult to the modesty of women’ (70.5%) and ‘Rape’ (60.3%). If we see the state wise trend then, Madhya Pradesh (6,210), Maharashtra (5,708), Andhra Pradesh (2,201), Rajasthan (2,104), Chhattisgarh (1,942) and Bihar (1,814) have reported high incidence of juvenile crimes under various sections of IPC. These six States taken together have accounted for 63.0% of total cases of juveniles in conflict with law under IPC reported in the country. Even more disturbing was the incidence of rape cases, committed by juveniles, highest of which was reported from Madhya Pradesh (347) followed by Maharashtra (197), Uttar Pradesh (196) and Rajasthan (183) which was 18.4%, 10.5% and 10.4% of total rape cases committed by juveniles respectively in the country.
Originally the term juvenile delinquent referred to any child found to be within the jurisdiction of a juvenile court. It included children accused of status offenses and children in need of state assistance. The term delinquent was not intended to be derogatory: its literal meaning suggested a failure of parents and society to raise the child, not a failure of the child. But today, the society’s response towards juvenile delinquency is austerely, an involuntary association of crime with the child without any consideration of other factors.
Legally, there has been a lot of legislation by the government in the field of juveniles with first being the Children Act, 1960 which was preceded by the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959 with states given freedom to authorize to enact their own laws for the care of delinquent children and juveniles. This was followed by the Juvenile Justice Act, 1986 and then the Juvenile Justice (care and protection of Children) Act, 2000, and the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2006,. The recent one being, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Act, 2011 which is also known as the reformatory act as it not only provides provisions for the children in conflict with law but also for children in need of care and protection. Despite intensive rehabilitative measures and special procedure for tackling the problem of juvenile delinquency, there is a growing tendency among youngsters to be arrogant, violent and disobedient to law with the result that there has been a considerable rise in the incidence of juvenile delinquency, one wonders why??? The answer may be as Arvind Narrain says “the expansion of category of children in need of care and protection has led to serious questions as the system still remains custodial in nature and what one in effect does is bring more children within a criminal justice framework” . Meaning that since children who have not committed any crime but are in need of protection and care also end up in formal justice system of India which is very much similar to the prison system, they prefer to remain out of it even if that means on streets, resulting in a vicious cycle of neglect and criminalization.
When we talk about a juvenile delinquency or associate a crime with child, we need to look into the varied factors that contributed towards the growth of this tendency into a child.
In the modern times child delinquency has become a major problem all over the world. But there cannot be a single solitary factor that can be said to have the reason for this now more that ever growing global problem.
The notion of unitary causation of crime should be substituted for the concept of internal and external pressures and inhibitions. Dr. Jyotsna H. Shah has broadly divided the factors of delinquency causation into two parts namely
1. Inside the home
2. Outside the home
Family and home are recognized as the cradle of personality and character of a child and a lot of factors inside the home of a child itself can lead him to the path of crimes. There are parental discord, unhappy home background, wrong parental attitudes, comparison and jealousy between siblings, poverty, poor housing, etc.
The family exerts a deep and persistent influence in the initial upbringing of a child and has everlasting impressions on the life activities of a person. But in case of a broken home, all that a child gets to see around him is negativity, which is slowly inculcated within him itself. A broken home can be broken psychologically or physically. The former is described as “a tyranny ruled over by its meanest member” and physically broken home is the one in which one or both parents are missing, dead, divorced or deserted or committed to prison. In a psychologically broken home there is a constant bickering, little respect for the right of each individual and the child is ‘pushed around’ or ridiculed. It is basically an authoritarian home, where father assumes the old fashioned patriarchal rule and the wife and the children are relegated to a passive status. In such homes child is more than often rejected, never having the genuine experience of ‘belonging’ and therefore, as a result becomes desolate, anxious, restless or often hostile. Research shows that from 30 to 60 per cent of juvenile delinquents come from broken homes. A four year study by California youth authority showed that “62% of the state’s juvenile delinquents were the result of broken homes” . Further, psychological tensions and emotional disturbances at home because of favoritism, rejections, insecurity, harshness and other tensions affect the behavior pattern of a child. The child feels himself disturbed emotionally, and according to the psychiatrists and psychoanalysts it is the most popular factor in causation of juvenile delinquency. A girl who finds no affection at home may find affection in illicit relations with boys. A child does not necessarily become delinquent because he is unhappy but a child in an unhappy home may take on delinquency patterns if there are any around for him to acquire. Therefore, locality in which the home is located is also important. If the home is located in a high delinquency area, then the probability of the child encountering many a delinquent pattern is higher than if the home is located in a low delinquency area. The home may also determine the prestige values of various aspects and also the type of people with whom a child later develops intimacy. The child may learn to reject immigrants, members of certain minority groups, policemen, people from other social groups etc.
Criminality in the Home
Criminality in the family may also affect one’s psychology. It is a fact that criminal behavior on the part of parents or elder siblings in an important factor in predisposing boys towards misconduct. Criminality can be of the one that is part of the family by one of its member or all of its members being involved and convicted for one or more than one crimes.
Failure of Parents in acquainting the child with what is bad
Most of the times, in a normal happy family also, parents often fail to acquaint the child with different kinds of illegal and immoral behavior. He is always expected to resist or withhold the taboos of the outside world and to deal with the community situations in a law-abiding manner by himself only. This failure of parents can result in delinquent behavior of the child if he comes into association with other delinquent children outside his home. Failure of the parents in this part may result from the fact of a working mother or of having a strict, harsh or a father who is no more.
Child Abuse and Violence against Children
One of the biggest reasons of criminal tendency among the children is the abuse and violence that they face at their home or outside their home. In India, abuse of children and violence towards them is partly allowed and even encouraged by culture, beliefs, traditions, superstitions and claimed economic realities. Subtle forms of violence-manifested in child marriage, outdated practices including Devdasi (dedication of girls to Gods and Goddess) and female foeticide or genital mutilation in some communities such as Bohri Muslims, superstitions such as sex with a young virgin for curing sexually transmitted diseases- are justified on the grounds of culture, tradition and religion.
Psychological and physical violence towards children is routine in India and are not even recognized as forms of violence by most of the families, for instance, slapping, hitting, pulling by hair or boxing the ears as punishment at home or in schools. In many poor families, the child id forced to work hard and unrelentingly, from an early age to supplement the family or simply in order to survive, even as his or her physical and emotional well being as well schooling is blatantly neglected.
Sexual abuse cuts across class, religion, caste or ethnicity. Even in educated, high-income families, sexual abuse is frequent with children and what is more disturbing is that most forms of sexual abuse that do not amount to rape were dealt lightly in the earlier law (before the ordinance, 2013). The most horrific forms of sexual abuse, that children are generally subjected to, such as penetration in other parts of the body or forcing the penis into a child’s mouth, was covered under section 354 of the IPC which is about “outrage of modesty”, a bailable offence with a punishment maximum upto 2 years. Only rape or sodomy could lead to criminal conviction. The word rape did not include boys and sodomy was tagged under ‘unnatural offences’, while intercourse was mostly interpreted to mean sexual relationship with an adult. The inadequacy of this law first came to light in the case of Sakshi vs Union of India & ors., when in Delhi even though a six year old girl had been systematically abused through fingers in her vagina and anus, made to perform oral sex over a period of time as well as forced to witness sexual orgies by her father, the Delhi High Court held that no rape had taken place and the accused was guilty of only molesting the child. Even the Supreme Court, while giving its final order, did not expand the definition of rape but only laid down guidelines for examination of child victim in court.
Child abuse takes various forms. It includes physical injury, negligent treatment or maltreatment, psychological and emotional harm, sexual abuse, trafficking, and economic exploitation (as in the case of ill-paid, often tortured, child labor)-in short, any action or attitude that causes or may cause harm to the child’s development, protection, survival and role in society. According to the latest edition of Crime in India, published every year by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Ministry of Home Affairs, the number of crimes committed against children went up by 7.6 per cent to 20,410 in 2007, from 18,967 in 2006, accounting for 1.8 per cent of all crimes reported. Delhi accounts for 12.8 percent of the crimes against children, ranked third after Uttar Pradesh (16.6 per cent) and Madhya Pradesh (13.2 per cent). All these numbers obviously exclude the under-reporting.
Further, a study conducted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development (MWCD) in 2007 found two out of every three children to be physically abused, mainly by the parents. Mores than half were also victims of sexual abuse. While the states of Assam, Andhra Pradesh, Bihar and Delhi reported the most abuse, the children most likely to be maltreated in this manner were children on the streets, working children and, surprisingly enough, children in institutional care.
A 2005 International Save the Children Alliance (ISCA) report for the UN says “violence in the family including physical, sexual and psychological abuse as well as neglect, abandonment and discrimination, not only has a major impact on the child’s well being and development, it fundamentally affects a child’s choices and may force her or him into coping strategies that often lead to further victimization or criminalization” . Thus, often the primary factor that brings children into conflict with law is the breakdown of their familial, protective and familiar environment.
Due to the present day industrial progress, economic growth and urbanization, one’s economic conditions contribute more than any other factor towards criminal tendencies. Also, the modernization has paralyzed the Indian domestic life. The institution of family has disintegrated to such an extent that control of parents over their wards has weakened which leaves them without any surveillance and in this case, those children who lack self-restraint fall an easy prey to criminality. It is a well accepted principle that there is a strong relationship between criminality and economic inequality as also between crime and unemployment. In today’s society where money is the paramount consideration to assess the social status of a person in society, unemployment among the youths accounts for an unprecedented rise in property crimes (theft, robbery etc) and a consequential increase in the arrest rate of juveniles and youth. Those who are jobless or have less secure employment such as casual and contract workers, are more likely to be involved in property related crimes. Also, failure of parents to provide necessitates of life such as food and clothing etc, draws their children to delinquency in a quest for earning money by whatever means. Many a times, this quest leads these destitute children and other deserted ones to big cities for migration ending up in the slums of these cities brings them in contact with anti-social elements carrying n prostitution, smuggling of liquor or narcotic drugs and bootleggers. Thus, they lend into the world of delinquency without even knowing that what they are doing is prohibited by law. Shockingly, at times even the parents connive at this for the sake of petty monetary gains. Statistics on children who are in conflict with law or have fallen into delinquency reveal they often come from a particular background, or rather are found in a particular background, including growing up in violence and exclusion. According to a report by The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), over 72 per cent of the children apprehended for being in conflict with law, come from households with an annual income of less than Rs 25000. The next biggest group, 27.3 per cent, belongs to the families with an annual income of Rs 50,000–Rs 2 lakh. The share of such children from the upper middle-income group of Rs 2-3 lakh is only 0.16 per cent, while the remaining 0.19 per cent came from those earning more than Rs 3 lakh . Either the children of the rich do not commit crimes as frequently as the poor, or they manage not to get apprehended and charged.
Influence of Media
The importance of mass media in influencing human mind has been repeatedly emphasized by some experts. Experience has shown that television and films have the maximum impact on the viewers due to the combined audio-visual impact. Now-a-days most of the serials or films shown on the television or cinema halls depict scenes of violence which adversely affect the viewers, particularly the young boys and girls, who often tend to imitate the same in their real life. The rising incidence of juvenile delinquency is essentially the result of evil effect of violence and vulgarism and unwanted sex exposures depicted in movies or television. Along with this, computers and internet have also opened the flood gates for pornographic material being easily available on easily accessible websites which has adverse effect on the moral health of youngsters. Likewise, pornographic literature also has an unwholesome influence on the impressionable minds of the minds of the youth which generates criminality among them.
Of the environmental influences that may mould the behavior of a child, community institutions and agencies are of upmost importance. The community contains to a remarkable extent essentials of life, for it includes families, social institutions, various primary groups and carries on the basic activities of society and theses institutions provide stimulus as well as content for delinquency. Especially for children, in the community, after home, the school plays an important role in moulding their character and activities. According to Albert K. Cohen, probably delinquency and crime are related to the school in much the same way they are related to family conditions, namely, though the effects which school activities have on the student’s associations with delinquent and anti-delinquent behavior patterns . Many adolescents commit criminal acts because they seek to be accepted by friends and schoolmates. Juveniles produce delinquent behavior because they want attention from peers or seek approval from others their own age. Criminal acts are often considered ‘cool’ and this concept is buried deep in adolescent psyches and even juveniles from healthy background also exhibit the tendency for delinquency if for any reasons they are swayed to the belief that criminal acts will earn them acceptance or attention.
Biological factors such as, early physiological maturity or low intelligence also account for delinquent behavior among juveniles. As observed, the age of puberty among girls has gone down by three or four years on an average. As a result of which they attain puberty at the age of twelve or thirteen while they still remain mentally psychologically incapable of conceiving about the realities of life and fall an easy prey to sex involvements for momentary pleasures without realizing the consequences of their act without proper parental guidance and counseling. Special care should be taken to ensure protection of girls against prostitution and child pornography. Sometimes juvenile delinquency is also a direct result of psychological or mental disorders. For example, adolescents with schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and even ADHD can all sway adolescents towards more risk-taking and criminal behaviors. Drug and alcohol dependency is also a contributing factor to many delinquent behaviors.
Crime and violence reoccur when society is disorganized, floundering and beset with social and economic problems. This social disorganization is reflected by the conflict in social values which interrupts the harmony of the society. Therefore, crime must be understood on the basis of human behavior and the social and the emotional needs of a person. Since, crime is a social fact and human act, the process of dealing with a criminal does not come to an end after the offence has been legally defined and penalty is imposed on the offender in accordance with the law. It is also essential to understand crime as a social and individual phenomenon and the need to prevent its recurrence or repetition by adopting an attitude conducive to the re-socialization and reformation of the offender.
The above given analysis, of the foregoing socio-cultural and economic explanation of juvenile crime suggests that no single factor can offer a satisfactory explanation for the crime causation. The reason being, that these factors are more or less of a general type and cannot explain a particular situation of delinquency. Therefore, it can be inferred that, delinquent behavior is an outcome of the combination of a variety of factors which create situation conducive to crime. With the widening of social interaction due to the impact of industrialization, urbanization and modernization, there is a greater need for community control because law alone cannot repress the rising trend in juvenile criminality in modern times.
With the passing of Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014 in the Lok Sabha, intending to replace the Juvenile Justice Act, 2000 giving the authorities a free hand to try the children aged 16-18 years as adults in heinous offences it is of great exigency that instead of following up with the policy of deterrence by punishing the children involved and scarring them for life, we should look out for the reasons behind this growing trend of children getting entrapped into vicious circle of crime and suffering and try to reach out to them, making it the quintessence of reformation.
As Nelson Mandela, the former President of South Africa said “There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.”
Criminology and Penology with Victimology by Prof N.V. Paranjpe
Criminology and Penology by J.P.S. Sirohi
# Crime in India 2013 statistics, National Crime Records Bureau, MHA
# Arvind Narrain, The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection) Act 2000: A Critique in Children in Globalizing India. Challenging our Conscience. Haq: Center for Child Rights,2002
# Dr. J.H Shah, Juvenile Delinquency A challenge2.
# Dr. Mireain Van Water’s Youth in Conflict, p-48
# Sutherland, Principles of Criminology, 6th Edition, p-175
# Quoted in Barners and Teeters, New Horizons in Criminology, p-181
# David Abraham Sen “Family Tension, Basic Cause of Criminal Behaviour”, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology,40:330-343 Sept-Oct,1949
# Pinky Virani, Bitter Chocolate: Child Sexual Abuse In India, New Delhi: Penguin 2000,p-25
# Sakshi vs. Union of India & ors. (Writ Petition(CRL) No 33 of 1997 with SLP (CRL) Nos. 1672-1673 of 2000)
# Crime in India, 2011, National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Ministry of Home Affairs
# Study on Child Abuse: India 2007, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India
# The Right Not To Lose Hope: Children in Conflict With Law, A Contribution to the UN Study on Violence Against Children, Save the Children, UK 2005
# Crime in India 2006, National Crime Records Bureau, Ministry of Home Affairs
# Martin H. Nenmeyer, Juvenile Delinquency in Modern Society, 1995,p-405
# Cf. Albert K. Cohen, “The Schools and Juvenile Delinquency” in Sub-committee to investigate Juvenile Delinquency, Education and Juvenile Delinquency, Interim Report, 8th Congress, p-50-60
The author can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org