Juvenile crime is a significant problem in our society, but what is causing it? There are a number of common issues among juvenile offenders that seem to contribute to the overall statistics. Children today are exposed to extreme media, broken families, poverty, and other problems earlier and more often than their parents were.
Crimes committed by children under the age of 18 are classified as "juvenile crimes" by law enforcement agents. The Federal Bureau of Investigation states that juvenile crimes account for almost 20 percent of all reported crimes. Between 1987 and 1994, juvenile violent crime charges like assault and murder more than doubled. Starting around 1994, the rate began to decrease steadily, and by 2000, murder arrests among juveniles had decreased by almost 75 percent.
Many people believe juvenile crimes are typically committed by males; however female arrest rates have increased dramatically since the 1980's. By 1997, female offenders represented 26 percent of overall arrests, including 16 percent of violent crimes, 21 percent of assaults, 6 percent of murders, and 9 percent of robberies. Females are responsible for 9 percent of weapons violations, 11 percent of arson, 28 percent of burglaries, 13 percent of drug violations, 45 percent of embezzlement, 16 percent of vehicle theft, and 26 percent of disorderly conduct charges.
Female juvenile arrests are on the rise because girls are socialized differently today, plus society has accepted the idea of feminine superheroes and villains. The self-perception of girls is overall different than it was 30 years ago. On the other hand, juvenile crimes overall can be traced back to the decline of the family unit within our society. More children today live in single parent homes, and the divorce rate is now higher than fifty percent.
There are several risk factors specific to juvenile crime. Juveniles living in poverty stricken areas are often exposed to violence and drug abuse very early. Getting into "the wrong crowd" is another common risk factor, as is having easy access to firearms. Broken or unstable families can be among the highest risk factors for juvenile offenders, as can family violence. Another major risk factor is the influence from the media that almost every child in the country receives on a daily basis.
Since the primary risk factor seems to be poor family structure or function, the best way parents can ensure that their children avoid becoming a juvenile offender is to remain actively involved in their child's day to day life. That means staying informed and involved with their school work, friends, and extracurricular activities. Plus, studies show that children who sit down to eat dinner with their families on a regular basis are at reduced risk for drug use, alcohol and tobacco use, and of becoming a juvenile offender.