Good example of research paper on mental illness and juvenile delinquency

Mental Illness and Juvenile Delinquency

In recent years, reports of crimes committed around the globe are causing alarms for many not just because of the violence it entails but as to the identity of perpetrators. Criminals nowadays are becoming far younger than they were years ago and for the government, this is alarming as these children should be with their families and learning. Several reasons have already been identified as to why juvenile delinquency persists: from family conditions to social influence. However, some also argue that mental illness is at fault with some cases of juvenile delinquency. Mental illnesses disable children and teenagers from discerning the nature of their actions and in fewer instances, these illnesses would disable them stopping their actions.
According to the National Institute of Justice (2012), there are at least 73. 8 million youth under the age of 18 in the United States as of 2012. A youth, according to state statutes, are under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court especially if they are between ages 15 to 17 years old. For the past couple of years, juvenile cases have been reported in various states in the country, amounting to at least 1. 3 million as of 2010. In the estimates of the US Census Bureau, at least 225 arrests were done for every 100, 000 youth in the country each year. Most of the arrests were non-Hispanic black youths and the rate of violent crimes were high on after school hours, some of them being homicide cases. The presence of these delinquents have also been reported to have detrimental effects to the community as the records suggests that delinquents have been threatening their peers at school or in the community. At least 1 homicide or suicide per 3. 5 million students in 2010 have been reported due to being threatened or injured by weapons brought within school property. At least 22% juvenile arrests are recorded and brought for processing through state juvenile justice systems before being released. The remaining percentage of arrests were referred to the juvenile court while a few, were directed to the criminal court due to the extent of the crime committed .
Experts have tried to explain as to why delinquency occurs given the high rate of delinquency around the country, and around the globe. In the early days, delinquency was mostly because of family relations as parents or fellow family members tend to abuse or threaten the lives of their children. Musick (1995) argued that the varying parenting styles of parents in these early years restricted the growth and freedom of children, opting the child to rebel through delinquency to challenge the limits of their parents, as well as escape their family life. Delinquency was also caused by the living conditions of the period as children would commit crime to survive or escape forced labor. Similar causes were also raised in recent years as noted by Elrod and Ryder (2011) as poverty became prominent in many parts of the globe. Parents also lost time to watch over their children, causing these children to commit crime to gain their attention. In some cases, family violence also triggered the onset of juvenile delinquency. Poor educational attainment and peer pressure are also cited as major reasons for delinquency in the youth today .
However, there are also studies that reveal that mental illnesses may have something to do with Juvenile Delinquency. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures (n. d.), children with mental disabilities in the US now account to 65 to 70% of the 2 million children or teenagers arrested each year. Studies shown that all of these arrested juveniles have notable mental disabilities that has contributed to their delinquency traits. One of the most common behavioral disorders recorded in juveniles is the Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), which disables a person to focus and unable to control their behavior. At least 5. 4 million American children and adolescents are reported to have ADHD and while 4. 8% of these children are under medication, it is uncertain if these children are regularly monitored by their family and doctors. Aside from ADHD, emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression, affect a person’s function and for children, quite deadly due to the capacity of depression to affect the sanity of those afflicted. It is observed that the rate of depression in children or juvenile offenders are higher than those for adults . Other forms of mental disorders recorded on children, as stated by Siegel and Welsh (2010) are psychological abnormalities like schizophrenia, paranoia and obsessiveness.
In rare cases, children or adolescents that have been inflicted by disorders such as oppositional defiant disorder, conduct disorders, clinical depression, alexithymia and eating disorders. Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) often entails victims to exhibit bouts of uncooperativeness, defiance and hostility towards the authorities. ODD patients tend to lose their tempers quite easily and use spiteful or obscene words to others. Conduct disorders, on the other hand, prohibits children from following the rules or behaving accordingly. Some may see these children as anti-social or weird, while a few would say these children with CD are bullies. Clinical depression is also a common problem with adolescents as the depression would cause them to lose focus and feel extremely helpless or hopeless. Many experts believe clinical depression is a serious business as their studies show children with this type of depression would commit more delinquent acts. Alexithymia is also recorded in apprehended juveniles but unlike ODD, CD and clinical depression, alexithymia patients tend to disable the child from understanding his or her emotions. They would also be unable to speak about it as they cannot discern its true aspect. Finally, eating disorders is mostly connected to anxiety and depression as eating becomes a method to stop losing weight. It may also lead to substance abuse .
Grisso (2008) stated that the high prevalence of these mental disorders within the Juvenile Justice system of the US is due to the fact these mental disorders increase the youth’s aggression and makes them hard to control. Not only do these youths threaten others, but they would also threaten themselves. On another point of view, the changes in the laws directed towards juvenile delinquents as the juvenile justice system of the country now added provisions saying youth with mental disorders should be charged if they commit illegal behaviors. The growth of juvenile violence in the 1980s and the 1990s shifted the policy and now made sure cases would be filed based on the offense. While this is the case, these reforms only triggered the increase of youths with mental disorders to come to the system again, instead of being directed to the proper sectors for treatment. Finally, the increase in mental disorders for youths under the juvenile justice system is due to the relationship between the government and the child sector. With the reduction of public mental health services for the public, especially for children, treatment is no longer possible for many sectors of society. This results to the increase of delinquents with mental disorders in the community. Since there is a scarcity of mental facilities that would help these children, families would either ask the police to arrest the child or entice them to commit delinquency so the court can order for their treatment .
In order to combat the growing number of juveniles with mental disorders and help in their recovery, the government has now launched its mechanism for intervention. The National Conference of State Legislatures (n. d.) indicated that ongoing assessments and treatments are the key goals of the government to help these youths with mental disorders. The National Center for Mental Health and Juvenile Justice continuously conducts mental health screenings to determine youths with mental disorders and try aiding in their recovery. In some states, however, screening would only happen if the juvenile is already placed on corrections or under adjudication. Several efforts, such as the one in Pennsylvania tried to improve their response efforts to help these juveniles by adopting screening protocols such as the Massachusetts Youth Screening Instrument. These screening tests aided families and health workers to help the child to recover and at the same time, promote awareness over the importance of understanding the dangers of letting children with mental disorders loose and untreated. Nevada, Illinois and Texas had already passed their own versions of the law that would ensure screening is done on the youth.
For some states, such as North Dakota and Oregon, assessments are conducted in order to determine who needs to seek help or be sent to isolation. In 2007, laws requiring alcohol and drug education, assessment and treatment was introduced in the two states to ensure that juveniles are aware as to the nature of the issue. Children with mental disorders would also benefit from these lessons as it would provide easier mediums that explains the concept. Psychiatric evaluations, on the other hand, are ordered in Tennessee to determine if the juvenile in question should be charged with an adult level punishment. In some states, like Cook County, its juvenile court has its own forensic lab to check the necessity to send the child to treatment or be tried as an adult. Once the assessment is done, the government now runs reform towards its juvenile delinquency statutes to ensure that juveniles, especially those with mental disabilities, would be addressed without bias or contempt. Community-based mental treatment is also introduced by the government and the public to help these children recover into good citizens. Various diversion programs are currently active throughout the country which can help juveniles in all sorts of their problems. Facilities are also opened and established to ensure that these troubled children have a place to go to for treatment .
Children are the voice of the future and in order to help them develop as responsible adults, they should be cherished and guided for them not to stray away from the right path. If they are allowed to stray away from the right path, it is likely they would become delinquents and cause chaos in society that may paralyze development. However, it is important to observe and analyze the signs sent out by possible delinquents as they may show a more serious issue that needs immediate attention. Mental illness is often times misinterpreted for something milder, but studies reveal that it should not be taken lightly for the signs and symptoms of these illnesses are similar to common mannerisms or irritations. With mental illnesses affecting a person’s control over himself or herself, treatment and strict monitoring should be done as these people do not have the capacity to stop their actions, let alone be aware that they are already doing something wrong. Immediate intervention should be done to help these children as they deserve to live a life far away from jail as they would shape the future.


Elrod, P., & Ryder, R. S. (2011). Juvenile Justice: A Social, Historical and Legal Perspective. Burlington: Jones and Bartlett Learning.
Grisso, T. (2008). Adolescent Offenders with Mental Disorders. Future of Children, 18(2), 143-164.
Musick, D. (1995). An Introduction to the Sociology of Juvenile Delinquency. Albany: SUNY Press.
National Conference of State Legislatures. (n. d.). Mental Health Needs of Juvenile Offenders. Retrieved from National Conference of State Legislatures: http://www. ncsl. org/documents/cj/jjguidebook-mental. pdf
National Institute of Justice. (2012). Juveniles. Retrieved from Crime Solutions: https://www. crimesolutions. gov/TopicDetails. aspx? ID= 5
Siegel, L., & Welsh, B. (2010). Juvenile Delinquency: The Core. Belmont: Wadsworth.