Good Argumentative Essay About Why Juveniles Commit Crimes:
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Social Disorganization Theory
Juveniles commit crimes for many various reasons. There exist many theories that have to do with this very subject, though fewer are actually devoted only to juveniles. From the biological to the psychological and even to learning theory it is important to note that while most theories will focus upon the individual and even the group, few except social disorganization will focus upon the environment and its effects upon people. Social disorganization is not so much a focus upon the individuals within the community, but the community itself and its lack of coherent values and beliefs. Juveniles choose to commit crimes, but likely as not where they live can make a difference.
Social Disorganization Theory
There are a number of reasons that juveniles can fit into the niche of the criminal, but many of them usually have some basis in the home. What a person sees, hears, or experiences as a child will gradually allow them to know what is acceptable within their sphere of influence, and what is thereby considered to be normal in their own personal experience. Within a community however there is seen in some areas an equilibrium of sorts in which families tend to follow the same values, honor the same unwritten codes, and even adhere to rules that, while not always understood, are at least respected and recognized. With the theory of social disorganization the values that might otherwise hold a community together are absent, thereby inviting the middle portion that gives this theory its name. Without recognized rules and values, there is no cohesion, and the likelihood of criminal behavior rises.
The theory of Social Disorganization originated in Chicago back in the 1920’s, stemming from a school of sociology that studied criminology and other disciplines. It is essentially the lack of control of values and rules among the residents of a community. (Wong, 2011) In short, it is anarchy on a small scale, a bit of chaos within a given community that will breed all types of ill behaviors. Within these communities youths are not spared from the types of neglect and negative examples that adults might otherwise be labeled as resistant to. Children, being far more susceptible to such behavior, do not yet have the emotional and social filters that would allow them to figure out for themselves the “good” from the “bad”.
There is really no conclusive evidence that social disorganization theory can explain away criminal activity in any and all communities, but there is the possibility that certain social processes are confined to neighborhoods that shared an economically depressed state. While it is not absolutely indicative of such neighborhoods, it has been noted that those communities in which social structure, social processes, and juvenile delinquency are more likely are seen to experience higher crime rates and are therefore more high-risk.
Sometimes the most accurate predictions can be taken from the views of the youth and their perceived ability to look forward to any type of future. (Kingston, Huizinga, Delbert, 2009) For many kids it is far too easy to think that what they see and hear is all they have to aspire to, a lifetime of striving for what their parents or other guardians have, despite what they might want to the contrary. For some it is a means by which they only do enough to get by, to make a living and support a family, while for others it might be a precursor to criminal activity in order to obtain wealth, status, and even happiness.
Peer pressure is a large reason why juveniles commit crimes, and in neighborhoods that are considered high risk for criminal acts this is often seen as a normal and acceptable thing to do amongst the younger generations. The allure of gang life, of the supposed structure and brotherhood it can bring, and even the promise of wealth and the feeling of belonging can lead many young people to commit crimes of all types.
A good deal of crime has to do with drug use, distribution, and the tension it can cause between one group of youths and another. Gang violence is also a very serious epidemic in some areas and can have a great deal to do with the drug trade. The fast money, increased street cred, and promises of a life that might mean something could greatly affect the minds of juveniles and become the sole reason they will act out, regardless of their upbringing.
Although there are many that might disagree, stating that their neighborhoods are simply bad and cannot be changed, there have been efforts throughout many communities that have attempted to pull together and devise ways to improve the quality of life. In some areas this is very difficult as the struggle against gang involves the strict adherence to making life as miserable as possible while only a few get what they want, thereby keeping the neighborhood in general little better than a ghetto. Some are highly resistant to change, while some will fight to keep their communities in the same squalid manner they currently are. There are methods that have been attempted and put into place to change matters, but they are still struggling to work against the status quo of the affected communities, which at times is akin to placing a bandage over a broken bone.
No community is ever really hopeless, but through the theory of social disorganization it is feasible to state that those communities that are affected are very difficult to turn around. More often than not habit will force matters within any community to stay the same, just as it will in neighborhoods in which people are diligent and shown to care about their neighbors and the community in general. Habitual caring, or non-caring, will eventually show through within any society, dividing a community, a town, or even a city into sections in which there can be seen clear delineations of class and even ethnicity. The poor to working class are usually, but not always, seen to live in the more squalid communities in which there is little if any real police presence, thereby allowing community values to slip and eventually disappear altogether, held at that point only by certain households that feel they can do little to nothing to stem the tide of criminality that their children will eventually be caught up in or forced to experience in some way.
At that point it becomes less about the possibility of whether juveniles will commit crimes then it does to when and how often. Kids within these types of communities see the area in which they live and generally make one of two choices, to get out when they can, or to join in and weather the storm in any way they can. Committing crime in some neighborhoods gains juveniles great status, particularly if they are gang-related or otherwise considered status symbols that can elevate them in the eyes of their peers. Be it violent or not, crime in such areas is a means to either survive or get by, and many kids in such areas have come to figure out that in this manner they can make their mark and become known, or at the very least keep from being singled out.
Social Disorganization theory is less about the people within a community and more about the community itself and the effects it can have on people. (Kubrin, Weitzer, 2003) Essentially any study that has to do with this theory will come to include the people that live within the neighborhood, as without them and the results they give the study is essentially useless, but this theory is still largely about the effects upon the people, not the people themselves.
Juveniles from any walk of life, any class and any community can, and do, find reasons to steal, be it the thrill, the status, or even the threat of poverty and even peer pressure that can come from gangs. There is no real precursor to tell who will be most susceptible, not even with social disorganization theory. While it is true that those who live in high-risk neighborhoods show a greater tendency to be assumed to be criminals, it is not a fair or adequate conclusion as crimes can be committed by youths from all walks of life. The only real conclusion is that it is an epidemic in some areas and a serious problem that must be addressed and, if possible, combated in a manner that will lead to an eventual solution of the issue.
Such programs as Scared Beyond Straight and its associate programs that differ per county and state work hard to influence teens to turn their lives around and view what they’ve done from a different perspective. While it isn’t a foolproof method it does boast an impressive success rate in comparison to various other programs that seek to achieve the same goal. While this program moves towards forcing juveniles to evaluate their current position, it also seeks to live up to its moniker, scaring the juveniles into behaving. There are other methods that are just as useful, such as incentive programs that can affect the teens in a positive manner rather than show them only the consequences of a road that might land them in jail or worse.
In comparison to social disorganization theory, other theories attempt the same goal when it comes to sorting out why juveniles commit crimes, though in different manners. Where social disorganization theory looks primarily at location and its effects upon individuals, such theories as the biological theory and psychological theory tend to focus on the individual. The biological theory insists that criminality is genetic, and goes on to state that it tends to give those who suffer from such a condition a far different appearance than other, law-abiding individuals. While this theory is a bit suspect it has been proven in some cases, though not all by any means.
Within the tenets of the psychological theory there is a great representation by Sigmund Freud and his ideas concerning the Id, the Ego, and the Superego, all having to do with the individual. Learning Theory has at least a little stronger correlation with social disorganization theory, but still focuses upon the subject of people and their reactions, not so much the environment in which they are found. While a great deal of what makes juveniles commit crimes comes down to choice, the location, or environment, in which they find themselves can often prove to be a deciding factor as to what choice they will make. In the end though it is truly the type of motivation they are given to do good or to do ill.
Kingston, Beverly; Huizinga, David; Delbert, Elliot S. (2009). A Test of Social Disorganization
Theory in High-Risk Urban Neighborhoods. Sage Journals, 41(1), p53-79
Kubrin, Charis E.; Weitzer, Ronald. (2003) NEW DIRECTIONS IN SOCIAL
DISORGANIZATION THEORY. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. Retrieved from
Wong, Carlin. (2011) Clifford R. Shaw and Henry D. McKay: The Social Disorganization
Theory. Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science. Retrieved from
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