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Juvenile Delinquency: Prevention, Treatment, and Risk Assessment - Soapboxie

                                         CHAPTER ONE


1.1 Background to the Study

Biologically, a juvenile is generally a human between the stages of birth and puberty. However, the legal definition of a juvenile generally refers to a minor, otherwise known as a person younger than the age of a majority. Juvenile delinquency is one of the most serious problems that need to be addressed both in developed and developing countries. In the U.S.A. the definition of juvenile delinquency embraces a wide range of situations when the law is broken by individuals who are underage, i.e. by those who have not reached 18 years. Such cases may include matters from violating the curfew to committing a murder (Basics on Juvenile Delinquency). Child rearing practices are often associated, although to a varying extent, with juvenile delinquency as rooted in the negative experience acquired during childhood years and exacerbated by faulty child rearing practices. Some of the latter can be interpreted as malpractices causing antisocial behavior of children and teenagers. However, a linkage between child rearing practices and juvenile delinquency and its magnitude have not been studied in depth so far. Articles published in recent years provide an outline of major features of parenting styles and practices that can act as possible predictors of juvenile delinquency specified (Hoeve, Dubas, & Gerris, 2009). These features that are of multifaceted nature need to be studied in different national, cultural, and socio-economic settings. A comparative analysis of different child rearing practices used in the developed and developing countries against the background of juvenile delinquency suggests that factors that can predict the outcomes of the types of social behavior of young people have universal nature. However, they may operate differently in different settings of family and wider social environment and demonstrate their correlation with social, economic and cultural conditions of a given society, community or family. 

Local and international news is replete with reports of crime. At least once in ever week a Nigerian tabloid would have on its pages some reports of one form of crime or the other, committed either against individuals or against corporate bodies (Ribadu, 2014).  A developing and even more disturbing phenomenon is the number of children, young persons and youths getting involved in crimes. According to the FBI report, although fewer crimes are being committed in the USA, the juvenile arrest rate has grown by 20% since 1991 and about 2.7 million juveniles were arrested in 1995, making it about 18% of all arrests. Additionally, in 1994 more than 1.5 million delinquency cases were processed in juvenile courts in the United States representing a 41% increase in cases since 1985 (Butts, 2012).  Juvenile delinquent behaviour is one of the important issues faced by most nations of the world today.  Juvenile delinquency appears to be on the rise despite the social awareness of the ills of crime. Psychologists, sociologists and criminologists in Nigeria and the world over have long debated the various causes of delinquency. The causes of such behavior, like those of crime in general, are found in a complex of psychological, social, and economic factors. Clinical studies point to emotional maladjustments in many delinquents, usually arising from disorganized family situations, as a factor in delinquency. Scott (2010) saw delinquency as typical responses to family stress, and motivated by one of the following: escape from home situations, avoidance of stress through excitement, hostility, loyalty testing and compensation. Recent research and theory has focused on the processes by which family poverty leads to violence and delinquency in individuals who live in public housing and lower-income neighborhoods (Aber, Seidman, Allen, Mitchell, & Garfinkel, 2012; Gonzales, Cauce, Friedman, and Mason, 2009). Gender (Moffitt et al, 2001); peer influences (Garnefski & Okma, 2008), race/ethnicity (Walker-Barnes & Mason, 2016), self-esteem (Rosenberg et al, 2013) and the presence of trauma, abuse and/or violence (Fox, 2010), in a child or youth‘s life are all factors implicated in the studies on the causes of juvenile delinquency. Some other theorists argue that just like in other criminal behaviours, there is no one single explanation of delinquency. Adopting an eclectic approach to understanding the causes of  delinquency may appear to be better because studies have shown that many of these factors overlap. A young person who lacked appropriate parental control may also have low self-esteem and face many barriers in life at a very young age. Whatever the cause may be, however, researchers seem to agree that delinquent behavior is very complex and there is no one reason why some children or young people commit delinquent acts while others are able to marshal their resources and live a positive life.  There is no formal definition of juvenile delinquency or delinquent behaviour. However, it would be imperative to first understand who a juvenile is before attempting to define juvenile delinquent behaviour. In most States a juvenile is defined as a person under the age of 18 (O‘Connor, 2015).

 In Nigeria, the definition of a juvenile is implied from the provisions of the 1946 Children and Young person’s Act, as a person above the age of 14 but under 17 (Okonkwo & Naish, 2012). Also according to Section 68 of the Criminal justice Act, 1991, children (i.e. those under 14 year, and young persons, (i.e. those 14 and under 17 years (18 years for some purposes), are referred to as juveniles. Developmentally, a juvenile is a person at the adolescent stage of development, which according to Erikson (1950, 2012) in his theory of development is between the ages of ten and twenty. It has been established that that parenting plays an important role in the personality development of children (Baumrind, 2013; Chan & Koo, 2011). In the case of less optimal parenting, the risk of deviation is enhanced among children. Therefore, parent training programs are developed and used to manage these issues. Unfortunately, there is not a single parent training program available from Nigeria. The present dissertation aims to fill the above-mentioned gap in the existing literature by assessing the associations of four parenting styles and juvenile delinquency with respect to gender differences. Moreover, the study also sheds light on the cultural variations in associations of parenting styles with child outcomes.


Involvement of adolescents in delinquent activities is on the increase in Nigeria. The last two decades witnessed crimes ranging from minor stealing to major robbery and killing perpetuated by teens.  There has been increasing concern of the Police and the general public on the seriousness of adolescent crime and conduct problems (Wu, Chia, Lee and Lee 2014).  They reported that juvenile delinquency rate rose from 367 to 538 per 100,000 between 1986 and 1996.  They claimed that most of the juveniles arrested in 1996 were arrested for petty crimes, such as theft, with about 38 percent arrested for shoplifting and 18 percent for simple theft.  The outcome of their research also shows that most serious crimes, such as rioting, robbery and extortion accounted for 15 percent.  Kring, Davison, Neale and Johnson (2007) indicate that the diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder ADP include two major components: i. “A pervasive pattern of disregard for the rights of others since the age of 15; and ii. The presence of a conduct disorder before age 15 (such as truancy, running away from home, frequent lying, theft, arson and deliberate destruction of property, working only inconsistently, breaking laws, being irritable, physically aggressive, defaulting on debts, being reckless, impulsive, neglecting to plan ahead, show little regard for truth and little remorse for their misdeeds”. Eke, (2014) notes that there are two main categories of delinquent behaviours Nigerian adolescents are engaged in:  criminal and status offences.  The criminal offences include stealing, arson, rape, drug offences and murder, burglary, pick pocket, and armed robbery.  However, she listed status offences to include: running away from home, malingering, truancy etc. Boroffice (2014) believes that factors such as biological social, view of self, attitudes, beliefs, sense of his future etc., are some of the factors that predispose adolescents to unhealthy behaviours.  The menace of destitute in our streets in the cities is already a social problem to Plateau State, the Government and the general public. Psychological tensions and emotional disturbances at home may drive the adolescents away from home or from school and have the potentials of exposing them to negative associations.  Personal performances both at home and in the public may be affected (Okorodudu and Omoni, 2005). Okorodudu and Omoni also observed that adolescents may exhibit suicidal tendencies, juvenile delinquency, vandalism, destruction of public property, maiming and murder of parents and violence against the larger society.  Juvenile delinquency is noted by Ekojo & Adole (2017) as gang delinquency.  The gangs delinquent are group of adolescents and youths that exhibit criminal behaviour. Several researches done on factors that precipitate delinquency among adolescents (Okorodudu and Okorodudu, 2014; Eke, 2004; Eke, 2004a, Eke, 2004b) stress that adolescence is a period of stress and storm.  Eke also observed that the period is characterized by rebelliousness.  This is caused by non-conducive environment. Nigerian, Plateau State Government had devised and employed several measures aimed at curbing adolescents‟ delinquency in our society but to no In Nigeria and Plateau State, parents expand beyond immediate mother and father to include members of the extended family, neighbours and every other person who in one way or the other is involved in upbringing of the child (Okpako, 2014).


The main purpose of this research is to examine parental background and delinquency among youths in Nigeria.

  1. To investigate measures taken by the government to influence parents to control their wards against Juvenile delinquency.
  2. To evaluate effects of improper parenting background and its effect on youth.
  3. To examine the roles parents play in the increase rate of delinquency.
  4. To what extent has the government done in educating parent on proper upbringing?
  5. To what extent has the parenting background reduced delinquency?
  6. How is the lifestyle of youth with improper or no parental up bringing?



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