Individual Theories of Delinquency Term Paper

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Crime Theories and Juvenile Delinquency

There are many theories of crime that aim at determining or explaining why individuals resort to criminal and/or violent behavior. Among the different types of offenders are juvenile delinquents who are driven to deviancy for a number of reasons. By examining two theories of crime, behavioral and psychodynamic, one can gain a better understanding of the motivating factors behind juvenile delinquency.

One of the most relevant behavioral theories in criminology is the social learning theory. Albert Bandura posited that "people learn by what they see" (Arrigo, 2006, p. 87). He believed that violent tendencies were not inherited, but rather that they were modeled on three distinct principles: reinforcement from family members, the media, and the environment (Isom, 1998). Thus, people behave in ways that are "consistent with what we are exposed to and thus familiar with as a byproduct of our environment" (Arrigo, 2006, p. 87). Atkinson, Atkinson, Smith, and Bem (1990) expand on Bandura's claims and state, "When children observe and subsequently imitate their parents, they learn how adults are reward or punished in specific situations, and these experiences influence their own sense of morality" (Arrigo, 2006, p. 169). However, when there is a lack of parental direction, the model for proper moral behavior is missing and thus, a child is left without guidance, which can, in turn, contribute to deviancy. It is also important to keep in mind that "maladjusted behavior is learned in the same manner as adjusted behavior," thus a lack of guidance cannot be the sole source of learned criminal behavior (Phares, 1991, p. 371; Arrigo, 2006, p. 87).

As parents are role models in the psychosocial development of children, a disruption in the family dynamic -- such as divorce or violence -- may also contribute to juvenile delinquency. Rossman, Hughes, and Rosenberg (2000) contend "children's behavioral problems [are] mostly a function of violence in the child's immediate family, with violence against the child exerting the most powerful impact but witnessing violence adding to that impact" (Arrigo, 2006, p. 170). Furthermore, according to…

Sources Used in Document:


Arrigo, B. (2006). Criminal behavior: a systems approach. New Jersey: Prentice Hall.

Isom, MD (1998, Nov 30). Albert Bandura. The Florida State University College of Criminology

and Criminal Justice. Retrieved 8 March 2013, from

Sigmund Freud. (n.d.). The Florida State University College of Criminology and Criminal

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