The Main Factors That Contribute To Juvenile Delinquency Among Jamaican Males

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What is deviance in the Jamaican context? The definition of what is called deviant in the Jamaican society can sometimes be seen within the culture (Walker &Morgan,2011, p.52). Deviance within the Jamaican society is anything that goes outside of the country’s norms (Stone,1992). In other terms deviance in the Jamaican context can be anything from theft, murders, rape or truancy (Stone,1992). Research has shown that generally speaking of every 10 adolescents, 4% will turn to some form of deviance (Hanimoglu, 2018, p.). In same Jamaica has shown an 80% increase in deviant behaviour from male adolescents from the late 90s to 2000s, that is a cause for concern for the country's young male, (Walker & Morgan, 2011, p.51). According to Professor Barry Chavannes, most of Jamaica’s criminals are young adolescent males. He further noted that these individuals weren’t born deviant, but became bi-product based on a number of factors within the society (Walker & Morgan, 2011, p.52). The occurrence of juvenile delinquency in the Jamaican society is due to contributing factors such as; poor family structure, lack of education and the influence of their peers.

Poor family structure can increase the likelihood of the Jamaican male becoming a juvenile delinquent. Families with poor structures can be viewed as families which exhibit conflicts, misbehaviour, and often child neglect or abuse on the part of both and or one parent which occurs continuously. Research showed a correlation between discipline and socioemotional health within a specimen of Jamaican Adolescents. The statistics or result showed that the shocking amount of teenager participants experienced physical punishment within their families. The study found a significant association with physical punishment and with an unfavourable psychological and behavioural result or outcome, the study showed that teenager who reported being victims of physical discipline showed a greater tendency to developmental adaptation than those who are non-victimized peers. Although, a different study showed that more industrialized culture, sociodemographic factors had no association with cases of physical punishment. Furthermore, there was a statistical significance with the gender on all socioemotional dimensions and behaviour problems but not with physical punishment (Smith, Springer, & Barrett, 2010). Empirical research has shown that favourable child outcomes are facilitated by parental nurturance and responsiveness facilitate. In contrast to, correctional or disciplinary and neglectful parenting put children at risk for unfavourable result. Cruel parenting is a serious risk factor for children’s aggressive and violent behaviours; hostile and abusive families produce violent children and youth as proposed by the research literature. Furthermore, a positive correlation is seen between physical punishment and aggressive behaviour. Research has shown a relationship between boys who lacked close identification with their fathers (Smith & Green, 2007, p. 419).

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Research has shown that a person raised in a single parent family shows a statistical relationship of increased risk of delinquency and antisocial behaviour exist. Furthermore, the socioeconomic conditions of these family and other risks, such as disciplinary styles and problems in supervising and monitoring children, show that these other factors account for the differential outcomes in these families (Austin, 1978).

Another factor provoking delinquency among adolescent males in the Jamaican society is the lack of education. It is not only seen in their misbehaviour in the classroom, resulting in unfavourable judgement from teachers or peers but also in their poor performance academically. Students who are not performing well can be linked to having limited educational aids such as the textbooks needed for their studies, they may also have little opportunity to engage in educational pursuits such as going on field trips due to high costs. It is not always the case, but males coming from low socio-economic families are often unable to attend school regularly, attend poor quality schools, and prone to school dropouts thus being encouraged to become hustlers at an early age (Smith, 2007). The chaotic atmosphere of secondary schools’ learning environment can also affect students to perform poorly in their academics (Asikhia, 2010). Most untrained teachers blame students other than themselves when they fail to carry out expected conduct at the end of the lesson or in examinations, the school failure undermines a student’s interest and commitment to school and learning. Therefore, limited educational opportunities could lead to a lack of jobs or further studies. This may result in teenagers seeking out crime as a means of survival. Adolescent males who drop out of school and show no interest in education may be linked to having a mental illness. Students with a mental illness may display behavioural deficits such as violent behaviour, and difficulty in paying attention. Such issues can affect classroom learning and social interactions of the students. Basieo-perira stated male students with mental illnesses such as conduct disorder, and attention deficit is a higher risk for delinquent behaviours.

Lastly, peer pressure can be seen as a contributing factor to delinquency among adolescent males. The average Jamaican male as purported by Professor Barry Chavannes is influenced by their peer group, and as such are prone to adopt their behavioural patterns (Walker & Morgan, 2011, p.52). Delinquent adolescent males are normally lacking in their sense of self-worth which usually leads to low self-esteem. Furthermore, in a search to find oneself they may mimic the attitudes and behaviour of their peers for an identity. Mattias (2010) noted that the most unvarying finding in criminology is that juvenile delinquency is fundamentally a group phenomenon. Also, the peers of juvenile delinquents are delinquent to a much greater extent than persons in association with non-delinquents.

In addition to the above, juveniles have innate feelings; the need to be accepted and loved; hence they crave a sense of belonging from a particular group whether it be at school or within the community in which they live. As Mattias alluded to in his foreword to Tremblay (1993), Acts of vandalism are praised within youth groups and in return, they are rewarded with acceptance, appreciation, and information. This suggests that juveniles will adapt to the characteristics of a deviant group by participating in delinquent activities in order to feel accepted. (Mattias, 2010).

Of the many theoretical perspectives given in explaining juvenile delinquency in Jamaica, the effects of family structure, education, and peer pressure are amongst the strongest influencing factors. The lack of parental supervision and monitoring are as a result of poor family structure and may result in children becoming deviant. Also, poor educational opportunities and low academic performance can limit a juvenile’s potential and render them susceptible to peer pressure the end product of which often result in delinquent behaviour.


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