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Crime Delinquency Teenagers
Virtually no one can deny that there is a definite, tangible link between adolescence and crime. Anyone not familiar with this subject would be hard pressed to dispute the eminent statistical data that alludes to that dangerous link. In 1990, teenagers were more than 3.5 times likely to commit an indexed crime than were adults in the United States. Index crimes are both violent criminal activity such as "murder & non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault" as well as serious property crime such as "burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson" (No author 1990). This point is underscored by the fact that in 2005, approximately 10,000 prisoners in the United States were serving life sentences for actions that were committed before they turned 18 (Liptak 2005). This proclivity of teenage criminal offenders is evinced overseas in other countries as well, such as in Australia where "teenagers aged 15 to 19 were more likely to be charged for a crime than any other age group, including adults, and the offending rate was almost four times as much" (Styles 2011). With the incidence of recidivism on par with general criminal offenses, the message is clear -- teenagers are the population subset that is most likely to engage, repeatedly, in criminal behavior.
What makes this phenomenon all the more compelling, and in certain cases, sad, is the very nature of an adolescence, which is wedged between the final stages of childhood and the impending hopes of adulthood. In much the same way that several physical aspects of teenagers are undergoing rapid changes, their emotional and mental development is also undergoing a number of significant transformations. To that end, teenagers are far from adults and, as some academics and laymen argue, should not be judged for their actions as such. It is quite possible that the link between teenagers and criminal behavior could be an effect of psychic and emotional metamorphosis they are undergoing, much of which is attributed to the fact that their brains are still forming.
A substantial amount of evidence exists that corroborates this thesis, such as the decidedly juvenile and even aberrant nature of some serious crimes that are committed by adolescents. There is seemingly little limit to the astounding nature of index crimes committed by teenagers, a large majority of which are fairly inexplicable. In 1994, 16-year-old Michael Johnson both allowed and watched a pair of friends to stab his grandparents to death (Krueger 2006). In November of 1997, 15-year-old Rebecca Falcon and 18-year-old Clifton Gilchrist were responsible for the murder of a taxi cab driver that was no robbery attempt, and had little practical value for the pair (Liptak 2005). This murder was one of several instances of teenagers being charged with felony murder, meaning that they "participated in a serious crime that led to a killing but" were "not proved to have killed anyone" (Liptak 2005). On Super Bowl Sunday in 1992, 14-year-old Timothy Kane, who had no prior history of violence or any sort of involvement with the criminal justice system, was present when a pair of friends murdered a husband and nearly decapitated his wife during a burglary. Kane is currently serving a life sentence for a deed he did not do (he was not directly involved in the murder), and is just another example of teenagers committing inexplicable crimes that end up shaping the rest of their lives (Liptak 2005).
Admittedly, people commit crimes for a variety of reasons, and the fact that teenagers are not fully developed adults does not absolve them from the responsibility of controlling their own actions. However, there is indisputable evidence that alludes to the fact that due to their process of growth and maturation, teenagers are decidedly at a disadvantage when com[pared to their adult counterparts when it comes to impetuous behavior -- such as the type that can lead to unprecedented criminal behavior and which is proven in the following quotation.
Amygdale: The brain's emotional center, which controls anger, fear, recklessness, among other reactions. In teens, the activity here is in high gear. In adults, it's tempered by a more developed frontal lobe.
Frontal lobe: The brain's executive center, which includes the prefrontal cortex, responsible for anticipating consequences, planning and controlling impulses. In short, it keeps the amygdala in check. In teens, however, this area is barely functioning and will not be full developed until age 20 to 25. (Krueger 2006).
This quotation specifies the specific areas within the brains of teenagers that may partly explain any sort of rash behavior on their part that can lead to criminal activity. Furthermore, it implies that adolescents have a considerable amount of time to wait until their brains are fully functioning (which may occur as late as their turning 25 years old). When the information in this quotation is compared to some of the statistics that demonstrate the high rate of incidence of adolescent crime, the thesis that these young people involve themselves in behavior that is unexplainable, and which they themselves do not even understand, becomes all the more plausible. This statement gains even more credence when one considers the impact that a lack of a fully functioning frontal lobe can have on adolescents' actions. Adults are able to mitigate the effects of their amygdale with the processes of their frontal lobes. Teenagers, however, do not have this luxury -- and have a track record for exceedingly high crime rates to prove it.
Again, it is virtually impossible to make broad generalizations as to the reasons why any population subset has a proclivity towards criminal behavior. Still, when one considers the nature of many of the crimes they commit, particularly those that are index crimes, there are some commonalities that can be found that attests to a marked lack of reason and thought process, both of which are traits of mature, fully functioning adults. The preponderance of these commonalities and their impact on both adolescents and their victims is one of the reasons why the death penalty was revoked for adolescent offenders in 200?. The following quotation demonstrates some of the shared traits between adolescent index crimes -- and reinforces the notion that reason for the abundance of these transgressions may have to do with the process of development inherent in teenagers.
In the Supreme Court's decision, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy said teenagers were different, at least for purposes of the ultimate punishment. They are immature and irresponsible. They are more susceptible to negative influences, including peer pressure. And teenagers's personalities are unformed. "Even a heinous crime committed by a juvenile," Justice Kennedy concluded, is not "evidence of irretrievably depraved character" (Liptak 2005).
There are several eminent aspects of this quotation that suggests that teenagers commit so many crimes because they are not fully responsible for their actions since their minds and bodies are in the process of developing. One of the most notable is that Justice Kennedy was one of the principle people responsible with discontinuing the death penalty for adolescents, since due to the nature of their maturation process he believes their actions do not necessarily coincide with a "depraved" nature or personality. Furthermore, this quotation reinforces the notion that adolescents are prone to a number of influences, such as "peer pressure" and other forms of potential negativity, which their criminal behavior may result from. When the prudent scholar pauses to analyze the fact that many adolescents do in fact no wrong from right, yet are still compelled to do insidious actions of a criminal nature, the need to examine the reason -- one which is endemic to the state of maturation and growing up in which these offenders are going through -- why becomes all the more prudent.
The group mentality that appears as an integral component in the committing of teenage crimes is not only germane to the United States, but to other parts of the world as well. In fact, the ubiquity of this phenomenon of high rates of adolescent crime from a global perspective helps to underscore the fact that the root of this issue lies with the development of the human mind and body, and not just the particular circumstances of a specific crime. However, it is interesting to note the role of the susceptibility to outside influences that seems to be relevant to many teenage crimes across the globe. For instance, in Western Australia,
Youth Crime gangs are the greatest emerging threat to law enforcement… These teenagers, who were mostly boys charged with crimes of theft, unlawful entry and assault, were offending at the highest rate since 1996-97, outstripping adults whose offending rates have been in decline and drop after a certain age (Styles 2011)
This quotation highlights another fairly important aspect of teenage crime, one that is firmly related to teens being susceptible to peer pressure and outside influences. Gang activity plays a large role in the criminal behavior of teenagers. There are several gangs and gang members that are…[continue]
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