Labeling and Juvenile Delinquency

The impact of labeling on juvenile delinquency are direct as well as indirect. There are various researchers who researched on the theory of labeling and juvenile delinquency. The theory about labeling juvenile as delinquent says that once a juvenile is labeled as delinquent he/she will surrender himself as delinquent. This juvenile delinquent label entails that the person is out of control of the parents, school, police, and other authorities. So, only legal justice system has the right to call a person as a juvenile delinquent. This labeling is only possible once the juvenile has a fair trial and the crime is of serious nature. But in some cases there is an unfair labeling of delinquency even before the trial. Unofficially, the community also labels a juvenile deviant because of the criminal activity.

The official labeling

The official adjudication of the juvenile in the court may increase the risk of further involvement in deviant activities. Because it gives the juvenile a reputation of deviancy among peers and parents of peers. The juvenile considers himself a deviant person. Therefore, he/she finds it fitting to become part of a socially deviant group. In this way, the juvenile participates in further criminal activities, he considers it his career. The socially deviant group will act as a protection against all the crimes. Although this protection is not a real protection but the juvenile may finds it really satisfying. The juvenile will feel like this is the only place where all of his criminal activities get approval.

In short, the labeling of the juvenile as a criminal will make this person not a good fit for the normal society. The negative impression of labeling will make the juvenile represented as irresponsible and not a trustworthy member of the society. There are some stereotypes that our society most cruelly assign them. The juveniles are well-aware of these stereotypes that will worsen the situation.

Juvenile detention facilities

Juvenile detention facilities may sometimes have a negative influence on the youth. The juvenile can become part of a gang in the detention facility. A juvenile can meet other criminal youth that can add to the negative behavior and violence. The environment that surround the youth is not suitable to learn good behavior. It is difficult to make sure that the juvenile does not become part of any gang during detention.

It is important that the juvenile should work productively during the detention time. This detention time means not only social training but moral and spiritual training. The juvenile needs good role models around him that can help him mold into a good person. Community work is a good intervention for minor delinquency.

Rejection from peers

The juveniles know about the stereotypes, stigmas, and labels that the society assign to delinquent teenagers. The society may assign these labels to the juvenile or else the juvenile knows from his previous perception of the delinquents in the society. In any case, the juvenile may find hesitant to become friend with the conventional peer sin the society. The juvenile will withdraw from the peers and will become part of deviant groups. This is because they hesitate, feel embarrassed, scared, uneasy, or confused of how others will react towards them.

The non-labeled peers will also feel hesitant to become friends with labeled peers. There is always pressure from parents and teachers to stay away from deviant people and groups. There is always a feeling of fear and lack of trust towards deviant person. The conventional peers will fear that the labeled juvenile might have ties with deviant groups. This can prove dangerous for them. The stigmatization will make it difficult for both the labeled and the non-labeled teens to become friend.

Feeling of humility

Some juvenile find it humiliating and demeaning that others have labeled them as a criminal. As a result they become more violent, deviant and try to take revenge from the society. This embarrassment also makes it difficult to become friend with conventional teens.

A juvenile may have committed a crime unintentionally but labeling can make him a more serious criminal. Labeling often makes a person more serious and stable criminal. The juvenile may achieve higher level of delinquency because of his involvement in the gangs and cliques. And this labeling can become so strong that the delinquency will navigate to adulthood.


  • Abrah, P. B. (2019). Labeling Theory and Life Stories of Juvenile Delinquents Transitioning Into Adulthood. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology63(2), 179–197.
  • Bernburg, J. G., Marvin, D. K., and Craig, J. R. (2006). “Official Labeling, Criminal Embeddedness, and Subsequent Delinquency: A Longitudinal Test of Labeling Theory”. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 43(67). Newark.



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