Application of Criminological Theory Research Paper

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Criminological Theory

Adults -- and especially adult educators -- have long been concerned with the miscreant behavior of youth. This concern may stem from the fact that our nation's future rests on the development of its younger individuals -- the idea being that the delinquent of today is the criminal of tomorrow if proper action isn't taken to ensure that any delinquent behaviors and/or antisocial behavior is stopped (Shoemaker). Whatever the reasons are, when juveniles engage in deviant behavior, adults are left asking, why would they do this, and moreover, what do we do now?

As the principal at a school dealing with delinquent or even criminal behavior, questions arise as to the cause of such behavior: is this nature or is it nurture? Is it the responsibility of someone's genetic behavior that makes him or her criminal or is it the environment that they are raised in that determines their behavior? These are just a few of the questions that come up when dealing with juvenile delinquents. Research has suggested that both environment and genes play a part in the criminality of a person; however, that said, only a few individuals who experience the same environments as many others actually commit crime. Criminological theories provide a specific fashion to approach and understand why people commit crimes that can be examined when it comes to deviant behavior in juveniles.Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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TOPIC: Research Paper on Application of Criminological Theory Assignment

Focusing on individual free will and our ability to make choices as the central explanation for committing delinquency / crime is more of a classical theorist school while positive school theories focus more on embracing determinism as scientific method. Criminologists who study crime must contemplate the question: how do some people commit a crime? Do they contemplate benefits and risks? Why do some individuals create crimes regardless of their consequences? Criminologists, in general, study crime in relation to what causes crime and how it can be prevented (2010). That being said, the question arises: what is deviant behavior? Most individuals might be thought to be acting deviantly in society if they're violating what the significant social norms in that particular culture is (in the case of a juvenile delinquent, it would be going against the norms of the school and acting different from the children who are acting with more traditional or conventional behavior). There are many elements that can affect juvenile delinquency, for example, empirical realities suggest that there are racial discrepancies in schooling that could be responsible for the different levels of delinquency involvement between African-Americans and whites via a self-fulfilling prophecy: "higher drop out rate of black compared to white adolescents; charges of racially biased testing; categorization and tracking; negative teacher attitudes toward black students and lower teacher expectations for black than white students (Gibson 2002).

Criminologist Edward Sutherland developed a differential association theory in his work Principles of Criminology (1939) which said that the differential associations that shape behavior vary in frequency, duration, priority, and intensity, but they contribute to the way that young offenders learn the behavior. Sutherland also believes that a final element in differential association is that while criminal behavior is viewed or can be viewed as an explanation of general needs and values, it is not explained in the same way that noncriminal behavior is explained by the same needs and values. Therefore, by this principle, the motives for delinquent behavior cannot logically be the same as those for conventional behavior. It is the learning of deviant norms through contact with an excess of definitions toward criminality that produces delinquent behavior (Siegel & Senna 2000). A young individual has more motives by this theory for engaging in criminal behavior then as opposed to engaging in more conventional young behavior. Researchers have studied and discussed other dimensions of the learning process, but the basic concept is the same and that is that younger individuals learn deviant behavior from peers as well as other very close relationships.

The classical school of criminology holds that individuals -- both adults and children -- act according to free will, "rationally exercised, in the pursuit of happiness and the minimization of pain" (Shoemaker 2009). According to earlier proponents of this though (e.g. Cesare Beccaria and Jeremy Bentham), all people, including children, are believed to weight the costs and the benefits of their proposed actions before they embark on them, and all people, it is believed, have the capability to do this (2009).

The American legal system is based on the ideologies of free will and individual responsibility for one's actions, however, it has been found that some people do not have the same capability to reasons and weigh the outcomes of their behavior. This would include, for example, mentally ill individuals and children. It is because of this reasoning that children are thought to be less responsible for their behavior than adults are -- and a complete system of juvenile justice, including distinct court proceedings and separate confinement facilities have been created for them over the past 150 years (Shoemaker). Whatever system has been put in place to deal with juvenile offenders, the bottom line is that juvenile delinquents are still though to be less responsible for their actions than an adult and therefore there are different ways that educators and law enforcement officials need to deal with juveniles.

As a vice principal at a school, the approach to understand why the delinquent behavior is taking place is to analyze the cause by looking at personal, social and environmental factors. Looking at juvenile delinquency and associating the pressures that are put on youth and trying to examine them from a youth's perspective may be one way to deal with a child engaging in delinquent behaviors. Another consideration is that researchers have maintained that "over 90% of delinquents have some type of learning disability" (Shoemaker 2009), which needs to be taken into account as vice principal of a school because there may be a need to deal with the delinquency from more of an educational standpoint -- that is, perhaps the child is "acting out" out of frustration and embarrassment when it comes to the actual learning process in school. Some children may engage in deviant behavior in order to mask their disability, meaning that they may be trying to overcompensate or gain peer respect through intimidation or other means.

Attempts to reconcile the conflicting evidence regarding the connection between learning disabilities and delinquency suggest that many learning-disabled children are able to overcome their handicap and become good students with satisfying social lives. However, some of these youths do not learn to compensate for their handicap in the learning environment, and are at a 'high risk' of developing emotional and behavioral problems as adolescents (Shoemaker 2009).

There is very little middle ground for those juveniles Shoemaker (2009) posits. Most learn to adapt and the few who do not learn to adapt develop problems later in adolescence. Thus the link between learning disabilities and delinquency is not automatic, but rather, it can be intercepted by different environmental circumstances, which includes school- and family-based reactive strategies (Shoemaker 2009). What this all means is that children should be able to adapt well in school and in peer environments if they are given strong encouragement and support in both their family life and school life (2009).

The child in question comes from a lower socioeconomic family and thus looking at how economic conditions relate to delinquency is relevant. Shaw and McKay (1969) conclude that delinquency is more a product of economic conditions and locality-based traditions and values rather than ethnic culture. Their view was emphasized by the observation that delinquency rates among African-Americans and the members of different nationality groups varied significantly throughout the city of Chicago in accordance with the general geographic distribution of overall delinquency rates (Shoemaker 2009). Shaw and McKay (1969) also posit that there is a persistence of high delinquency rates in certain areas and that a tradition of criminality eventually develops in certain neighborhoods and it is passed on from one generation to another. Therefore, it can be surmised that if a child is living in one of these environments -- even if they are going to school in an environment where traditional behavior (i.e. non-delinquent) is the norm, it may not be enough to positively affect the child's behavior. A very strong emphasis may need to be put on encouraging and supporting this child while at school in hopes of making a positive change in behavior. The child needs to understand that criminal or delinquent behavior is not the norm in that environment and it should not be the norm in other environments either. The extent to which children in a criminal or delinquency area may decided to identify with a conventional or criminal lifestyle relies on certain strengths of the legitimate social control forces in their lives -- especially those in a family setting, according to Shoemaker (2009). The bottom line is that the choice of one lifestyle over another lifestyle really depends upon the amount of… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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