Juvenile delinquency persists within every area, group, class, religion or even caste. There is a very thin line of difference between deviance and delinquency. It is on this thin line that the causes and the impact of delinquency come into the picture.
Juvenile delinquency is the phenomenon where criminal activity is performed by the minor, who are generally considered to be under the age of 18 years. Actions, mannerisms or behavior which violate the law can be attributed to reasons such as conduct disorder, clinical mental health disorders which violates a certain structure of societal norms, delinquency on the other hand constitutes one act and the conduct disorder would include a particular pattern of antisocial behavior over a period of time. Thus juvenile delinquency can be a part of all the behavioral challenges and changes that occur during the adolescence period. The degree and gravity of the same can be determined only when its consequence results in an offence punishable by law. To make it precise the two words ‘juvenile’ and ‘delinquency’ can be understood separately.
WHO IS A JUVENILE?
A juvenile is any individual who is under 18 years of age. However, the age limit can also be determined by the law in order to ensure they are not deprived of their liberty. Juvenile is a child who has not attained the age of majority, to be tried like an adult under the law to be held liable for the crimes committed. There is a significant difference between the words juvenile and minor. They cannot be used interchangeably. Minor relates to the legal capacity or majority, whereas juvenile refers to young criminal offenders.
DEFINITION AND SCOPE OF JUVENILE DELINQUENCY
In general, juvenile delinquency is defined as a participation of minors between the age group of 7 and 18, in the activities punishable by the law. An individual is said to be an individual delinquent when, he behaves or performs any act which is dangerous to the society and for him as an individual. The scope of the juvenile delinquent acts are enumerated in the statutes of the respective states. Individuals who demonstrate behaviors that do not conform to the social norm or youthful behavior cannot be taken to be as juvenile delinquents since such mannerism are often part of the maturation and growth process and tends to disappear spontaneously in most individuals with the transition to adulthood. A majority of the adolescent also commit petty offences which do not transition into criminal carrier in the long term. At the same time it is imperative to be aware that juveniles tend to most often create or choose a group which has a particular subculture. This culture subsequently over a period of time encourages them to perform criminal activities like that of an adult and thus choosing to become a juvenile delinquent. Since juvenile delinquency is a global phenomenon, we need to look at the causes and remedies for the same from a broader perspective.
CAUSES OF JUVENILE DELINQUENCY
Various studies highlight the fact that, the sudden changes in adolescents are inevitable and it is due to a hormonal surge which is associated with puberty. What can be seen very prominently is the physical changes in the body of an individual. What cannot be seen and if often undermined are the mental and sexual changes alongside attaining maturity.
There are various perspectives with respect to social factors. In involves discrimination and issues related to class, culture, employment opportunities, poverty, education and family background. Juveniles develop delinquent tendencies due to peer pressure regarding their cultural deprivation, frustrations regarding their status in the society. Certain researches states that, juveniles who come from a lower classes of the society have a tendency to rebel the positive norms of the society and follow the opposite value system, often resulting in delinquent behavior. Thus delinquents often give up the positive values or norms and try to outsmart the same by acting tough and indulging in activities irrespective of the consequences  for the reason that it gives them an excitement. Most often poverty and lack of education result in lack of opportunities which results in individuals taking up illegal activities, hooliganism, brawls and much more that will make them perform delinquent actions.  As per the world youth report, 2003 the family background and lifestyle also plays a significant role in leading the minor to become juvenile delinquents.
It is to be kept in mind that the diagnosis of personality or mental health disorder cannot be made when it comes to a minor. At the same time, the disorders can be identified through behavior patterns over a period of time. An example of the same is conduct disorder- “a lack of empathy and disregard for societal norms”. Another perspective that can be given to the psychological factor is the Freud’s theory or id, ego and superego. The correlation is very simple- when the individual’s personality (id) becomes strong; the societal norms become very weak (super ego). Subsequently this leads to the ego that turns that individual into an antisocial person.
Various biological studies state that the factors which cause delinquent behavior in juveniles can be due to the genetic makeup. They are not chained or restricted by these genetic makeups. However, it does push the individuals towards such delinquent behavior. One of the significant proofs for the same is hormonal changes which results more often than not in rebellious behavior and deviances. The environment in which the individual is growing or living in also can be a source of provocation for such minors to turn into juvenile delinquents. Use of illegal and powerful drugs by the children is found in the majority of the cases of juvenile delinquency. There are two sides associated with this, one being use of more powerful drugs than adults and the other being addiction to the same starting at a very young age (below 18 years). Individuals or juveniles who are under the influence of powerful drugs are more prone to performing delinquent activities.
PREVENTION OF JUVENILE DELINQUENCY
Prevention of juvenile delinquency is very imperative for the society as well as for the individuals. If not for prevention, the juveniles would end up becoming habitual offenders. Primarily, counseling sessions with the individuals and their family is given. This is done in two primary forms- individual related programs and environment programs. The same is conducted and funded by the state. This ranges from awareness programs, youth mentorship, family and parenting counseling sessions, educational and employment opportunities.
- Individual programs: These are specifically focused on the juvenile. They are provided with counseling, proper education and psychotherapy.
- Environmental programs: This involves instilling them with vocational training for employment and socio- economic purposes in the life of the juvenile.
The individual programs focus on the clinical, educational, mental hygiene, parental education and recreational aspects of the juvenile. The clinical aspect of the program  works with psychiatrists, clinical psychologists and psychiatric social workers. They focus on case studies, various alternatives for treatment, referring the individual to other agencies and helping students who wish to excel in the treatment of behavioral problems. The educational programs are very crucial to the life of the student. They need to be taught with equality and must be instilled with moral values which affect their lives. It is the school where students learn the difference between right and wrong after the values instilled at home. The mental hygiene method not only helps in the prevention of delinquency but also for the treatment of any mental health disorder. The application of mental hygiene is broad and varied and played an important role in preventing the delinquency and crime in every industry.  Parental education is imperative and necessary for the very structure of society to function smoothly with very less levels of substance abuse, deviance and delinquency. Recreational programs promote the individual’s self confidence and transmit all the energy that an adolescent has into sports, dance, music and any other physical and recreational activities.
The environmental programs on the other hand deals with community, publicity, parental love and family environment. The community programs  intend to focus on the local community’s participation rather than the expertise and assistance of the professionals. It is said to work in three folds- local people’s efforts change neighborhood conditions, local people do not accept the adverse social and physical environment as natural and enviable and since local people make changes by themselves, it has a far better and longer effect. The publicity method  helps in creating awareness and it ensures that all media forms while mentioning the activities of the juveniles ensure to enumerate the true causes and prevention methods for the same. The aim is to protect juveniles from false reports. The parental love method intends to teach the need for abundant or at least adequate love and affection to the children, and the results of the same. Children with no love, affection and attention from parents often end up tied up to delinquent actions. The family environment forms the crux of any childhood or adolescent life. The family environment is all encompassing with respect to- values, love, and attention, mental and physical health. This program intends to achieve such an all over approach towards enriching the life of juveniles.
Juvenile delinquency as mentioned previously is a phenomenon that cannot be uprooted from the society through legislations or organizations. The programs, organizations and laws rather help in reducing the delinquency rates in juveniles and to ensure that such behavior does not become habitual. Exploitation of children in the form of labor or engaging them in illegal activities has always existed in society. This abuse has long standing effects- emotional, physical and mental. What makes this phenomenon all the more concerning is because the causes for it are not individual specific. It is due to factors which are broad, hard to overcome and very challenging. It boils down to the economy, social life, the societal norms and value, class, caste, race, sex and all possible layers of discrimination.
The government apart from making legislation has to administer institutions to implement them and ensure that it reaches the classes, caste, sex, etc., across every part of the spectrum which is in dire need of it.
 The United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency, 45th session, (1990- 1991).
 Albert K Cohen, Delinquent Boys: Culture of the Gang, (Glencoe, III.: Free Press, 1955).
 Ombato, John Onyango and Gerald O. Ondick, Factor Influencing Youth Crime, 21 (International journal of Research in Social Sciences, 2013).
 Walter B. Miller, Focal Concerns, (1958).
 Cloward R. A. and Ohlin L. E, Delinquency and Opportunity: A theory of delinquent Gangs, (1960).
 Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, (4th edn., American Psychiatric Association, 2004).
 K. S. Williams,Textbook on Criminology, (7th edn., Ashford Color Press, 2012).
 George W. Albee, Psychiatric Clinics In Transition, (1969).
 Dr. K. R. Masani, Inauguration Of Indian Council For Mental Hygiene, (October 1944).
 Elmer Hubert Johnson, Crime, Correction and Society, (1974).
 J. D.Caven, Functions of the Juvenile Courts 281.
BY GAYATHRI.S | SASTRA DEEMED TO BE UNIVERSITY