What is the relationship between poverty and juvenile delinquency? There are various studies on the relationship of both poverty and juvenile delinquency. And, there is a substantial evidence that suggest a positive relationship between both of them. For example, one study by (Jarjoura, et al, 2002) suggest that “poverty and delinquency are related. Children who experience long periods of poverty between birth and age 5 or in the early teenage years (ages 11-15) are more likely to engage in both property and violent offending.” Scientists believe that there is a two way relationship and both can become a cause or an effect.
Poverty and juvenile delinquency
There are various variables that become the reason of delinquency in poor households. Among these variables the most common causes are as following.
- poor and deficient nutrition
- lack of education
- unemployment in family
- poor parental care
- presence of gangs and cliques in the poor neighborhoods
Adolescent living in poor household leave education at very young age. Their parents expect that they will earn money. Their families cannot afford to send them to schools. As a result, they do not get the education that can mold them into a responsible citizen. The poverty indirectly or directly causes delinquency in these adolescents.
Nutritional problems are common in poor households. Especially, chronic poverty can cause health problems in later life. These health problems are difficult to cure because they developed in early growing age. Poor nutrition can cause violent and aggressive behavior in teens. Also poor nutrition can lead to depression and insomnia in adolescents. All of these factors can indirectly make a person delinquent towards the society.
The unemployment in the family for long period of time can bring long-term poverty. The child or the adolescent has to survive through this phase with unfulfilled needs and desires. Obviously, unemployment means less food, less education, no recreation, and poor lifestyle. All of these become symptoms of delinquency in the adolescent. Because, the adolescent wants to fulfill needs he/she can go at any length to improve lifestyle.
Low economic status is not the most decisive factor in juvenile delinquency. But, it is one of the factor that has many underlying factors that contribute to delinquency. For example, children living in poor neighborhood face more unfavorable situations like gangs, slums, cliques, and criminal neighborhood as a whole. So, it gives them more exposure to criminal engagement.
These factors suggest the disadvantages that a poor economic status poses on the young adult. The society only sees the outcomes of poverty on an adolescent when he/she commits a crime. The adolescent then become labeled as a criminal that makes the situation worse. Later, the adolescent finds it satisfying to do a robbery or other criminal act. Indulging in criminal activities gives the adolescent a kind of satisfaction. The society, judicial system, family, and school needs a lot of efforts to make sure that the adolescent get out of the negative impacts of the poverty.
Chronic versus short-term poverty
Most of the studies that claim a relationship of poverty and juvenile delinquency show that there is a difference between persistent poverty and short-term poverty spells. Short-term poverty means a household that experience poverty for a year or so. On the other hand long-term or chronic poverty means being poor for at least 8 years or more.
Chronic poverty can occur at different period of time. Childhood poverty that stays till early or late adolescence can have dangerous outcomes. The child develops negative emotions and tries to take revenge from the society as he/she grows up. Robbery, stealing and theft gives a satisfaction to the adolescent. It helps the adolescent overcome financial problems. But in reality it leads to big problems.
Short-term poverty does not yield similar problems. Obviously, the adolescent or the child can outgrow from a rather short period of financial problems.
- Burgess, E. W. (1952). “The economic factor in juvenile delinquency.” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. Vol 43(1). https://scholarlycommons.law.northwestern.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3984&context=jclc
- Jarjoura, G. Roger; Ruth A. Triplett, and Gregory P. Brinker (2002). Growing Up Poor: Examining the Link Between Persistent Childhood Poverty and Delinquency. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 18, 159-187.