Courts have experienced an increase in the number of cases involving young adults in recent years. This is perhaps an indication that the rate at which under age crime is happening has increased. Cases involving under age persons are commonly referred to as juvenile delinquent cases. Juvenile delinquent cases are criminal cases where suspects are under age (Stahl 7). The age at which one is considered underage varies from country to country although the average age is eighteen years old. However, this age is set at 17 years in the United States. Sentences that are given in these cases are identical to any other only that they are given different names to indicate who is involved. This means that if an individual is found guilty (delinquent), he or she can be fined, given suspended sentences, put on probation, or still worse be given a committed sentence (Stahl 11). Those juveniles who commit extremely serious crimes are sometimes treated, as youthful offenders are thus likely to receive severe punishments.
This paper presents a case of two underage offenders who were sentenced to a life imprisonment without parole. It evaluates this sentence in relation to various theories such as the life curse theory, the general theory of crime, attachment theory among others. In a case of Workman v. Kentucky, two 14-year-old boys were accused of rape. These young offenders were found guilty and sentenced to life in prison without parole. Rape in the US is treated as a particularly serious crime and, it more often it leads to life imprisonment (Stahl 17). The two had raped a 12 year old thus committing an extremely serious crime. Such incidents of juvenile delinquency can be analyzed using several theories as follows.
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Life Course Theory
According to the basic of this theory, causal relationship between child delinquency or early indulgence in crime and the later adult criminal behavior are not only caused by individual characteristics. The theory asserts that such traits are also significantly influenced by social events, which affect individuals differently (Katz). This theory is composed of three basic structures. The first one is the micro-level structure, which encompasses the influence by informal family and school social control factors. These factors are the ones used to explain crime in childhood and adolescence. The next structure talks about the continuity of antisocial behavior from childhood to adulthood. Thirdly, the informal social bond structure explains the changes in criminality in adulthood due to factors such as employment.
In this case, the first structure of the life course theory is applicable. The micro-level structure is controlled by informal family and social controls in places such as schools. There is an immense probability that the two young adults committed the crime due to certain family related aspects. For instance, the kids could have been brought up in unusually open society where sexual materials are never hidden from kids even when they are at home. Such social environments might influence the way one thinks especially when one is young. This implies that the two could be victims of circumstances in the sense that they fall into committing the crime due to curiosity. The kids must have wondered what is it that is involved in sexual activity and thus decided to experiment in order to find out. In addition, such social environment could have allowed them do sex in several occasions and thus seemed to have known what is involved. This might have prompted them to use force over the same because they had probably made it a habit.
The learning environment can also influence the behavior of individuals especially at a tender age (Katz). This could not be different from what could have happened to the two small boys. Modern technology has enabled jolly young people interact and share information of whatever kind the wish without being noticed. This plays an unusually significant part in influencing individual behavior especially of young people. Therefore, the two could have learnt of sex courtesy of social interactions in school and went ahead to do it forcibly.
The Life course theory describes how the entire life of a person from birth to death is interconnected by a series of events that affect each other subsequently as life progresses. Therefore, the life course theory emphasizes on time, social perspectives, and the overall life process (Gomez-Smith and Piquero 48). This gives the theory two central concepts, which are trajectories and transitions. Trajectories are defined as long-term patterns in one’s life. They are pathways such as criminal, non-criminal, parenthood, career, and marriage behaviors among others. Transitions, on the other hand, occur within trajectories meaning that they affect trajectories directly. They include events such as graduation and retirement.
The interaction between trajectories and transitions, show clearly that an abrupt change in one’s life amounts to a transition, which in turn affects a trajectory. In this case, it is worth noting that, at the age of fourteen, one is expected to completing the primary education. Such individuals are at a higher level of learning. This means that the societal roles change abruptly, and one is perceived as a grown up. This could be the reason why the two young boys decide to take of an activity only allowed to adults only after consent has been reached. That social belief that one is a grown up and thus not subject to maximum supervision creates a feeling of maturity. This is even in young adults thus influencing them to behave like adults. Such social inclinations can lead young people to commit a crime.
The General Theory of Crime
This theory asserts that only the personal-level explanations of criminal behavior are required in order to explain criminal behavior. However, the theory goes ahead to indicate that lack of self-control is not a motivating factor that can lead to committing of a criminal offence. This means that the presence of self-control does not determine the likelihood of one committing a crime in any way, but it only presents a probability to do so (Grasmick, Charles, Robert, Bursik, and Bruce 54). To put this in other words is that self-control is not fully deterministic. This is because other opportunities and hurdles affect it meaning that it can only be probabilistic.
According to this theory, a child is likely to develop unusually low self-control at an early age. This is a fact because children depict the absence of this trait at an early age. For instance, they may show low self-control courtesy of specific characters. These characters include, low tolerance to frustration, they cannot postpone gratification, and of course, show a tendency in engaging in risky behavior (Grasmick et al. 54). In this regard, the action of the 14-year-old boys could not have fallen further from such influences. There is a higher probability that the two had developed low self-control because of the natural factors associated with the trait in children. In fact, research show that low self-control could fail to develop at all in one’s lifetime.
This links the theory to the life course theory whereby development in early stages of life influences the rest of one’s life. Self-control is developed when parental emotional investments in a child are high. This includes monitoring the behavior of a child remarkably closely, detecting misbehavior, and punishing accordingly. This is highly effective in helping a child develop self-control. Such a fact could have influence the two minors to commit the crime. It could be true that their parents had failed to help their children inculcate the value of self-control at a tender age.
Although the aspect of self-control could be extremely instrumental in determining ones criminal life, this is disputable. The assumption that self-control is as a ‘’all or none’’ phenomena is not robust enough to withstand challenges. According to Katz, self-control is a personality trait that exists as a continuum, and it could develop or fail to develop at any stage of life. Besides, it will be inaccurate to suggest that person-level traits are perfect indicators of future behavior of imprudence and criminal behavior. This is because it does not produce uniformity in the predictions. For instance, an individual with higher self-control could be affected by various constraints or circumstances and commit a crime more easily than that one with lower self-control.
This theory share in life course theory that what happens in early stages of life affects the future. The theory is founded on the hypothesis that the manner in which an attachment develops between the person close to a child or a caretaker in early life affects all the future developments (Horner 117). This means that an individual has a present personality structure that is influenced by various factors as one develops. Influential factors are mainly the ongoing socialization encounters. Therefore, a Childs behavior develops in line with what they see and perceive as protective and nurturing in the persons around them. Therefore, these children develop affection to these people and eventually end up behaving in manner influenced by those around them. Parents or care takers who fail to demonstrate protection and nurturing traits lead to poor development of the children’s attachment and eventually affection.
In relation to juvenile delinquency, research has shown that delinquents lack affection for others (Horner 119). Such children have trouble when it comes to associating with others. This means that a child is likely to commit a crime because of what he or she feel about others. This could be closely associated with the case of the two boys in the sense that their parents could not have invested emotionally enough in their children. This may have led to what they did because they could not associate with others well. In addition, their self-control could have failed to develop because of poor parenting.
In conclusion, juvenile delinquency is mainly described in relation to the environment that an individual was found in early stages of life. This is mainly centered at the social environment either at home or at school. The social environment in which the child is in, especially in early stages of life determines the probability of a child indulging in criminal behavior. The life course theory explains this best in terms of the effects of what takes place in one’s early life. If the early events surrounding and individual prompt one to commit a crime, this goes on to happen. In addition, it does not happen only at childhood, but also in later stages of life. Some personal traits such as self-control determine the chances of committing a crime in children. This factor is also determined by the social environment and mainly by the people around a kid like parents and caretakers. Poor self-control means that chances of committing a crime at a tender age are high and vice versa. Similarly, juvenile delinquency is influenced by the way a child is attached to the people around them. If they find such people protective and nurturing, they develop attachment, which help them associate with others positively, thus reducing chances of harming them and vice versa. Delinquents are most children with lesser or poor attachment.
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