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The Correlation Between Juvenile Delinquency and Mental Illness
The Correlation Between Juvenile Delinquency and Mental Illness
Juvenile delinquency and juvenile crime are serious issues in the United States and other countries today. While it is important to stop crimes before they start, and to make sure that juveniles have other activities so they do not turn to crime, one of the overlooked areas has to do with the factors that relate to juvenile crime. Knowing what causes someone to commit delinquent acts, and what to do in order to stop those acts from occurring, are both very important tools in the fight against juvenile delinquency (Mulvey, Arthur, & Reppucci, 1997). Naturally, every juvenile is different. What causes one person to commit a delinquent act may not cause another person to do so. Still, there are common, contributing factors to juvenile delinquency - and mental illness is one of the largest factors that is most often seen (Peetz, 2008). In order to understand the correlation and what can be done about it, both mental illness and juvenile delinquency have to be discussed, along with how they affect one another.
Mental illness is nothing new, but better diagnostic criteria and a lower social stigma mean that more people are being treated for their mental and emotional problems. Additionally, more juveniles are being diagnosed and treated. For every juvenile who gets proper treatment, though, there are others who are not so lucky. When juveniles are very young, they rely on their parents to help them. If those parents do not see the mental health issues or do not feel there is a problem, how can the juvenile get help? Some young people may seek help at school, through friends, or through other family members, but most will not do so (Righthand & Welch, 2004). That leaves them vulnerable to their mental health problems and to the suggestions of peers who may also be struggling with mental illness. Some mental disorders are very benign, but others have much more serious implications (Zigler, Taussig, & Black, 1992).
Anxiety and depression can make juveniles act out in ways that are very inappropriate, and they can also make these juveniles withdraw and become more dangerous to themselves than they are to others (Zigler, Taussig, & Black, 1992). Either way, there are concerns that have to be faced. Parents and others who see signs of mental illness in juveniles should work to have them evaluated and get them the help they need. All too often, juveniles fall through the cracks of a busy and overworked system, however, and that can lead them down a path to both mental and physical problems, along with educational and law enforcement issues. Not all mentally ill juveniles end up committing delinquent acts even if they do not get help, but many turn to crime and delinquency because they do not care about their lives or they feel as though they do not fit in (Mulvey, Arthur, & Reppucci, 1993). They are often seeking attention and help, but going about getting that attention and help in a way that will actually harm them.
People who are juvenile delinquents are those who are committing crimes when they are still under the age of majority for their location (Mulvey, Arthur, & Reppucci, 1997). In most U.S. states, that age is 18, but in locations outside the U.S. The age of majority can be different. There are specific ways in which juveniles are dealt with by the criminal justice system as opposed to the way adult offenders are treated. However, depending on the seriousness of the crime and the age of the juvenile, there can be juvenile offenders who are charged as adults (Peetz, 2008; Righthand & Welch, 2004). In order to keep juvenile delinquency numbers low and ensure that those who commit delinquent acts do not continue to commit those acts in the future, the reasons behind the acts (and potential acts) must be discovered. If mental illness is the cause, that can often be treated. With the proper treatment of the mental illness, the delinquent behavior can generally be corrected (Zigler, Taussig, & Black, 1992).
When juveniles are delinquent, many people do not think that they might be mentally…[continue]
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