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Why do people become delinquents? Many theories have been proposed to answer this question. However, life is complex and chaotic. This fact makes it hard to make one concrete model of delinquency. This paper will provide an overview of some current delinquency theories.
Discussion of Theories
Trajectory theory is dedicated to explaining the possible origins of delinquent behavior. Unlike more simple theories about delinquency, it attempts to provide an extensive overview of all the factors that can lead a person to delinquency. Trajectory theory is based on the idea that a person may be on a certain trajectory that directs them toward delinquency. There are five primary types of trajectories that a person can be influenced by. The first is called “biological trajectory” and concerns the increased number of males who engage in delinquent behavior. The second trajectory is dedicated to psychological issues. Often people with psychological disorders can engage in delinquency as a coping mechanism and eventually slip into becoming a delinquent. The third trajectory is sociological. It examines how children living with a low socioeconomic status can be prone to delinquency due to their social surroundings. Behavioral trajectories are the fourth type, and they are based on the idea that delinquency can be tracked from an early age if the child does not show the standard behavior patterns. Finally, environmental trajectories suggest that the environment around the person may lead them to engage in delinquent activities out of desperation or lack of feasible alternatives.
This is only one of the possible models for trajectory theory, and the types of trajectories themselves may vary between researchers. However, the key point lies in the fact that there is a myriad of reasons and factors that can affect a person and lead them to commit acts of delinquency. At times, a specific event may serve as the checkpoint for the start of such actions while in other cases it is a prolonged process. Life is much more complex than a simple model can predict, so it is imperative that such issues are examined from a variety of perspectives.
What Makes People Prone to Delinquency
As trajectory theory suggests, there is a great number of scenarios that can lead to delinquent behavior. While no single model can predict all these possible factors, some can certainly put a person at a higher risk of delinquency. While it is never supported by society, an abundance of unchecked delinquent behavior around a person can skew them towards believing that it is the norm, and this can lead them to start seeing it as acceptable behavior. This is especially true with regard to low-income areas, where social programs have failed to provide people with the bare necessities to live. This type of delinquency can start with small instances but eventually develops into larger actions.
Another aspect, perhaps more internal, and almost unavoidable without proper care, is the severe lack of empathy for others shown by the person. When a person is unable to consider the damage they cause to other people, and what it would be like to be in their place, it can make a person especially prone to delinquency. Such a person may not experience guilt from their actions and, therefore, see no reason not to escalate the criminal behavior in the future. It may begin at a very early age and should be addressed through psychological treatment as soon as possible.
Latent Traits and Properties
Latent trait theory is based on the idea that a person can have characteristics that may make them more susceptible to delinquent behavior. As the previous section suggested, delinquency may come from internal factors, and latent trait theory focuses specifically on these. These properties may include an impulsive personality, lesser intelligence, genetic abnormalities, chemical imbalances during brain activity, and other external factors such as drug use. The theory proposes that human development is controlled by a so-called “master trait” that does not change throughout a person’s life. It is always present and at any time can affect a person’s behavior. Their actions are often directed by this trait and can lead to delinquent activity if the trait puts them in such a position. However, only through an opportunity for delinquent activity can a person be fully persuaded to commit such acts. For example, when being in the constant company of other delinquents, a person is often presented with opportunities to steal, vandalize or commit other criminal acts. This situation engages the “master trait” of the person and can lead them to see those actions as acceptable.
It is important to note that although this theory may make it seem like delinquent behavior is unavoidable and ingrained in a person, this is not a completely accurate impression. According to latent trait theory, a person can evade these types of opportunities for delinquency by avoiding engagement with people who provide them. Therefore, it suggests that people should avoid becoming involved with delinquents for fear of becoming delinquents themselves. While the logic of this idea is sound, it does not address situations where a person is unable to avoid such opportunities, for example those provided by family members.
Trajectory theory allows for a more complex explanation of delinquency. The theory points out how people can become delinquents from both external and internal factors. Latent trait theory suggests that people are prone to become delinquents due to various characteristics that they naturally possess. However, if opportunities for delinquency are avoided, such behavior can be prevented.