Juvenile Delinquency: Causes, Types, Factors, and Control

The problem of juvenile delinquency is becoming more complicated and universal, and crime prevention programmes are either unequipped to deal with the present realities or do not exist. Many developing countries have done little to deal with these problems, and international programmes are obviously insufficient. Developed countries are engaged in activities aimed at juvenile crime prevention. Still, the overall effect of these programmes is relatively weak because the mechanisms in place are often inadequate to address the existing situation.

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What is Delinquency?

It was William Coxson who, in 1484, used the term 'delinquent' to describe a person found guilty of a customary offence. In simpler words, it may be said that delinquency is a form of behaviour or rather misbehaviour or deviation from society's generally accepted norms of conduct.

Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary has defined delinquency as deviant or criminal behaviour, usually among young people, and increases juvenile delinquency.

Who are Children and Juvenile?

A child is a human being under 18 years of age, whose dignity is the same as that of other human beings, but who has a relative capacity for judgment, expression, and defiance at that stage of their life. This definition is the basis for the existence of an autonomous system of justice for children, distinct from that for adults.

Article 1 of the Convention of the Child's Rights specifies that: "A child is agreed to be any human being under 18 years of age, even if the civil majority is reached earlier under the legislation applicable."


A juvenile is defined as a child or young person who, under the respective legal systems, may be dealt with for an offence in a manner that is different from an adult. Generally, the term juvenile means a person who has not reached the age at which one should be treated as an adult by Law. Juvenile is a term connected with young people who are not yet adults and are silly and more typical of a child than an adult. Juvenile delinquent means and includes a young person who is not yet an adult and is guilty of committing a crime.

§  The Penal Code: Bangladesh's age of criminal responsibility is above nine (previously seven) years of age (S-82).
§   Contract Act, 1872: Under 18 years old, one should be treated as a minor or Child.
§  The Employment of Children Act, 1938: Below the age of 15, one should be considered a child.
§  The Vagrancy Act, 1943: One should be considered a child until 14 years old.
§  The Children Act, 2013 regarding on age of the child, has stated, "A child is defined in section 4 and includes anyone up to the age of 18 years"
§  Convention on the Right of the Child (CRC): Article 1 provides: "A child means every human being below the age of eighteen unless, under the law applicable to the child, a majority is attained earlier".


The concept of a child has been given varied definitions by different Acts and statutes in Bangladesh.

Name of the Act

A child/juvenile is a person who is under the age of

The Majority Act, 1875

18 years.

The Guardians and Wards Act, 1890

21 years.

The Child Marriage Restraint Act, 1929

Boy- 21   Girl- 18

The Suppression of Violence Against
Women and Children, 2003


The Bangladesh Shrama Ain, 2006


The children act, 2013


What is Juvenile Delinquency or Crime?

In its simplest definition, crime is any specific act prohibited by Law for which society has provided a formally sanctioned punishment. This also can include the failure of a person to perform an action required explicitly by Law. Whether committed by adults or juveniles, types of offences or crimes are classified by the seriousness of the violations as follows: a felony is the most serious offence, punishable by a sentence to a state institution (youth authority facility or adult prison). Felonies generally include violent crimes, sex offences, and many drugs and property violations.


A misdemeanour is a less severe offence. The offender may be sentenced to probation, county detention (in a juvenile facility or jail), a fine, or some combination of the three. Misdemeanours generally include crimes such as assault and battery, petty theft, and public drunkenness. A fraction is the most minor, severe offence and is typically punishable by a fine. Many motor vehicle violations are considered infractions. Juveniles, like adults, can be charged with a felony, a misdemeanour, or an infraction. However, as we will discuss later, juveniles can also be charged with offences that are unique to youth. Juvenile delinquency, also known as "juvenile offending", is participation in illegal behaviour by minors (juveniles, i.e. individuals younger than the statutory age of majority). Most legal systems prescribe specific procedures for dealing with juveniles, such as juvenile detention centres and courts.

Juvenile delinquency has, for sometimes past, been a subject creating much social concern and, as such, has prompted many investigators and researchers to probe into its causes. The most exciting aspect of the issue of juvenile delinquency is that at every age, it has been regarded as a problem peculiar to contemporary society,

While the fact is that, like adult criminal behaviour, it has always existed in some form or the other, there is no apparent reason to expect that it will not remain so in the future. It is, therefore, necessary that as much meticulous care as is possible is taken to mould tie behaviour and outlook at every step and stage. Blind severity in youth produces an anti-social attitude in maturity (Ahamed 1966). It is sometimes argued that delinquency is not a criminal status. But this view has been exploded by Paul W. Tappan, who asserts that euphemistic terminology such as "hearing" instead of "trial" or "disposition" instead of "sentence" should not conceal from us the fact the nature of the entire procedure may be little different from that of a criminal court. Still, it may be even worse, for it may abandon the fundamentals of justice to promote superior justice (Tappan 1951: 170). 


Delinquency is a legal term initially used in 1899 when Illinois passed the first Law on juvenile delinquents' behaviour. Juvenile delinquency is typically defined as an act committed by a minor that violates the government's Penal Code with authority over the area in which the action occurred.

Juvenile delinquency is a subculture. It is today recognised as a social cum human problem. The difference between the delinquent and the non-delinquent is the degree of exposure to this delinquency culture pattern. 'Juvenile delinquency' refers to illegal anti-social behaviour by children. So, it is the term used for offences committed by children under a particular age limit.
Generally, 'Juvenile Delinquency' means those activities committed by under-aged persons forbidden by society or the Penal Code. But there are many disagreements among criminologists and sociologists on defining this multidimensional phenomenon. As a result, no standard or universal definition of the concept of delinquency has been developed as yet.

According to Paranjape, "Juvenile delinquency refers to a large variety of disapproved behaviours of children and adolescents that society does not approve of and some kind of admonishment, punishment or corrective measure is justified in the public interest". On the other hand, the Second United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders held in August 1950 in London explained that juvenile delinquency is restricted to all violations of criminal Law and minors' maladjusted behaviours, which society disapproves.


Considering the following vital issue: (a) age and accountability of the accused; (b) probably the deleterious influence of the family on him; (c) inadequate guardianship role, particularly in this respect; (e) being the closest situation to an adult crime that may progressively be merged into one another and so on. The problem of delinquency has been guaranteed by all possible ways and means.

 'Juvenile delinquency' refers to illegal anti-social behaviour by children. So, it is the term used for offences committed by children under a particular age limit. According to the Children Act, 1974, the age limit for children is 16 years in Bangladesh. But in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), 1989- 'Juvenile' refers to a person under 18 years. So, children's laws and policies in Bangladesh are not consistent with UNCRC. The definition of a child or a juvenile is not uniform in the laws of Bangladesh. Different legislations provide different age limits for delinquents, but all are within 12 to 18 years of age.

Sutherland (1949) defines juvenile delinquency as adolescents acting out subterranean values or impulses that are an accepted part of a culture but nonetheless tend to be obscured and, to a greater or lesser extent, controlled in the mainstream of society.

Span (2002) observed juvenile delinquency as the anti-social behaviour of a minor, not more than 18 years of age, which violates the general welfare of people in a larger society. Ozanne et al. (1998) research suggests that juvenile delinquency is an act of cultural resistance. The simplest definition of the significant child-related issue in many countries is 'children who act against the law'.

However, there are other definitions of the child in various other legislations. A few examples of the Child Marriage Restraint Act section 2(a) defines a child and a minor if male as one under 21 years of age and if female under 18 years of age. The Bangladesh Labor Act, 2006 section 2(8) says Kishore means someone who has reached the age of 18 years. The Vagrancy Act, section 2(3), provides that a child means a person under 14 years.


From some viewpoints, there is a difference between adult criminals and juvenile delinquents, a product of modern legal philosophy. Delinquency has sociological implications given factors are as age and criminal accountability, and recognition of parental responsibility to ensure social obedience of the child. In this study, juvenile delinquent means juveniles the age of 8 to 18 years who commit delinquency for the first time and has discharged under probation and after-care services under the supervision of a PO.

Types of Juvenile Delinquency

Juvenile delinquency, or offending, can be separated into three categories: negligence, crimes committed by minors that are dealt with by the juvenile courts and justice system; criminal behaviour, crimes dealt with by the criminal justice system; and status offences, offences which are only classified as such because one is a minor, such as truancy, also dealt with by the juvenile courts. (Woo lard & Scott, (2009). The legal regulation of adolescence. In R. Lerner & L. Steinberg, Handbook of Adolescent Psychology (3rd ed.)


According to the developmental research of Moffitt (2006), two different types of offenders emerge in adolescence. One is the repeat offender, referred to as the life-course-persistent offender, who begins offending or showing aggressive anti-social behaviour in adolescence (or even childhood) and continues into adulthood; and the age-specific offender, referred to as the adolescence-limited offender, for whom juvenile offending or delinquency begins and ends during their period of adolescence. Because most teenagers tend to show some form of anti-social aggressive or delinquent behaviour during adolescence, it is essential to account for these behaviours in childhood to determine whether they will be life-course-persistent offenders or adolescents-limited offenders. Although adolescent-limited offenders tend to drop all criminal activity once they enter adulthood and show less pathology than life-course-persistent offenders, they still show more mental health, substance abuse, and finance problems, both in adolescence and adulthood, than those who were never delinquent.

Features of Juvenile Delinquency in Bangladesh

All the political and socio-economic variables changed the rate and pattern of adult crimes and juvenile delinquency. Many social factors contribute to the commission and increase of juvenile delinquency in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, the frequency of juvenile offences has risen with the rise in population. The socio-cultural and economic changes occurred in the growing industrialisation and urbanisation of global and national media influence. The urbanisation process has affected family life in our country, causing the breakdown of family values and the subsequent growth of social disorganisation, which has worsened the juvenile delinquency situation in Bangladesh.


The nature and extent of juvenile delinquency in Bangladesh, like any other society, depends on the socio-economic reality of a child. The children of Bangladesh involve themselves in different types of deviances: stealing, murder, pick-pocketing, fraud, truancy, fighting, sexual perversion, etc. Children raised in a poorly organised family environment with complex personality traits engage in smoking, beggaring, burglary, rape etc. Age and sex occupy a prominent place in the aetiology of juvenile delinquency. Both the variables are necessary for defining and explaining juvenile delinquency.

Age is very significant because aggressiveness, in most cases, will down with the growth of age. Sex should be considered to get an insight into the problem of delinquency, adult and juvenile, as males constitute an overwhelming majority in the ratio. In addition to age and sex, the ecological distribution of crimes gives an impression about the nature of offences and the social environment, urban or rural; they occur, as juvenile delinquency is primarily an urban phenomenon, though juvenile delinquency is not totally absent in villages. In rural areas, the parents usually handle the deviant children. When a family fails to control a derailed child in cities, there are agencies. Like police, probation officer, and development centres, to deal with the problem.


Current Trends of Juvenile Delinquency

The present juvenile crime and delinquency situation can be characterised by the following basic facts and trends: (Khan, B.U. and M.M. Rahman (2008) 'Protection of Children in Conflict with the Law in Bangladesh', Save the Children UK, Dhaka: Bangladesh Programme.)

a) There has been an observed increase in violent and aggravated crimes among youth.

b) The number of drug-related crimes is growing.

c) The process of globalisation and greater mobility of large population groups has led to increased criminal activity associated with intolerance towards members of other cultures.

d) The difficulties encountered by immigrants and their descendants in certain countries are sometimes related to the high levels of group crime deriving from the activities of the ethnically based delinquent groups.

e) In many cases, juvenile crimes are linked to less apparent sources of motivation; various actions may reflect, for example, the standards of particular subcultures, teachings or traditions deriving from religious radicalism or the compulsion to use violence as a means of contracting gender identity.

f) Children and adolescents under challenging circumstances constitute a ready reserve for organised crimes, participation in armed conflicts, human and drug trafficking, and sexual exploitation.

g) The disintegration of families, poverty, and the death of parents in armed conflict or from HIV / AIDS has led to the forced independence of many young people worldwide.


Cause of Juvenile Delinquency in Bangladesh

A considerable segment of people in this country is inferior. They live below the poverty line in terms of the actual poverty indicators. According to recent statistics, around 6.5 million people in Bangladesh live below the poverty line. Due to poor economic conditions, parents cannot get their children to go to educational institutions and assist them in developing promising academic or vocational careers. Parents want their children to help them in the work field instead of going to educational institutions. Sometimes parents cannot provide their children with all the basic necessities of human life, specifically food and clothing. Then the poor children set their legs out for criminal activities. The children do not know which exercises are lawful and which are not. They require some work which can provide their food and clothing. OrOrganisedangs deploy poor children in criminal activities by taking advantage of their vulnerable economic conditions. Recent statistics show that many poor children (under 18 years of age) of Jessore and Khulna have been deployed carrying Phensydil and other contraband drugs. Some poor children become members of pick-pocket gangs and petty thievery.

Problematic family is a crucial cause for the deviation of the juveniles. The absence of a father or mother due to death or divorce, lack of parental control, lack of home discipline, sour relations between father and mother, and the presence of criminals among the family members are the principal indications of a problematic family. Due to these problems, a child's mental growth takes an abnormal course. In slum areas, adult males and females get married several times. They have children of their first and second marriages. These children are not usually taken care of. These uncared children become notorious criminals in different organised gangs. The juveniles of a well-off family with a father residing abroad derail due to a lack of father's guidance. They get a tremendous amount of money from their father. Affluence and the father's absence make the juvenile involved in a vicious circle.


Due to poverty, loss of land by river erosion, and unemployment, many people have been migrating from different parts of the country to Dhaka and other metropolitan cities. Large scale migration from village to town started in the 1980s. Many women from rural areas came to the city and started working in garment factories. This titanic migration had to degenerate effect on city life, destroying the social equilibrium of Dhaka, Chittagong and some other metropolitan cities. The people coming from villages usually take shelter in slum areas, pavements and streets. They are deprived of basic necessities and basic amenities of life. The father and mother of the family go out of their abode in the first hour of the day to earn money, leaving their children uncared for and uncontrolled. In this situation, the politicians use children (popularly known as Tokai) in their political activities, including picketing and ransacking cars and shops. They have also utilised organised gangs in their criminal activities.

The surrounding environment of slum areas, smuggling zone and crime-prone areas are very vulnerable for the juveniles. When residing in such places, juveniles come in contact with criminal patterns and learn criminal techniques, and then they become notorious criminals. Action movies and obscene pictures hurt the mindset of juveniles. The violence and sexuality visualised in the film make the juvenile go to brothels and involve them in violent activities. There is no single cause or simple explanation for the development of delinquency behaviour, but there are different causes of delinquency. The various reasons are being followed.


In the context of Bangladesh, juvenile delinquency is a burning issue that severely affects our social life. But for this crisis, not only our juveniles are blamed mainly, but our present social structure, culture and overall mismanagement of our economy are also responsible. On 27th October 2004, the 'Daily Noyadigonta' published a report on juvenile delinquency in Bangladesh. This report emphasised that juveniles are involved in various criminal activities through underworld connections. They are engaged in theft, pick-pocketing, murder, arms and bomb caring, drug-selling etc. The report showed that the Godfathers used them for holding their arms and drugs. These juveniles are involved in various criminal activities for the lack of parent's care and poverty, and the Godfathers properly utilise their (juveniles) weakness of poverty (Noyadigonto, 27th October 2004: 8). In an article, Md. Anwar Hossan (2002) has identified various factors of juvenile delinquency in Bangladesh. The vital factors which influence juveniles to involve in multiple criminal activities are- imitation, mass media, child labour, the influence of slums, poverty, lack of constructive recreation, peer group association, family crisis etc. (Hossan, 2002: 19-25).

Mohammed Afsar Uddin (1995) identified many factors for the involvement of juveniles in criminal activities in his 'Juvenile Delinquency in Bangladesh'. The vital factor for juvenile delinquency is– Psychological factors, cultural factors, family conditions, family control & relationship. When a particular society breaks down; there nobody can replace himself quickly with the normal norms and traditional rules of society. In this circumstance, the juveniles feel pressure and frustrated because of society's present depression and imbalance. So juveniles involve in many ananti-socialctivities for the current societal depression. People migrate from villages to urban because of in-industrialisation and ur-urbanisation various working sources etc. As a result, people are cut off from their previous norms, values, rules-regulations and other customs. Therefore, people feel many cultural problems in the present situation. The existing cultural conflict in society severely affects the juvenile, which leads them to be involved in many criminal activities. Condition of family, control over children by family also promotes the juvenile to involve in various crimes. Data about family control over juveniles show that 57% of juvenile families have control of their juveniles, leading them to be involved in many delinquent activities gradually (Afsaruddin 1995: 25-28).


In Bangladesh, the poor and the children of wealthy families are involved in many anti-social activities. The rich family gives their children vast amounts of money for expenditure, which influences them to indirectly activate any criminal activities. In many poor families, the family members are always involved in quarrels because of poverty, which negatively impacts the children's minds; children spend most of their time with their friends outdoors to be relieved from family crises, which gradually influences them to involve in many criminal activities.

Dealing with Juvenile Delinquency

The procedures followed in the juvenile justice system differ significantly from those observed for adult offenders. Each state has specific programs or systems that deal with juvenile offenders. Juvenile offenders come into police contact in several ways. Some are caught committing a crime and arrested; others are referred to the police by parents or school officials. Once the police have become involved, they may choose to deal with a juvenile offender in several ways. The police can:

a) issue a warning and release the minor

b) detain the minor and notify the parents to pick him up

c)  refer the case to juvenile court

d) arrest the minor and refer the case to juvenile court

If the case goes to court, the minor and the parents meet with a juvenile court intake officer. The intake officer can handle the matter informally, refer the juvenile to a probation officer, dismiss the case, or file formal charges. When deciding whether to file charges, officers often consider:

a)  the offence

b)  the offender's age

c)  the offender's previous record

d)  the offender's educational or social history

e) the ability of the parents to control the offender's behaviour or seek help

If dealt with informally, the minor reports to a probation officer, is given advice and is ordered to perform community service, pay fines, attend treatment, or enter probation.


If charges are filed in juvenile court, the minor is arraigned, at which time his charges are read before a judge. The judge then decides whether to detain or release the juvenile until the hearing. After appearing in court, three things are possible:

a)  Plea Agreement – the minor may enter a plea agreement with the court. This often requires the juvenile to comply with specific conditions, such as attending counselling, obeying a curfew, or paying restitution.

b)  Diversion – the judge may divert the case, which means he retains control over the matter until the juvenile successfully completes treatment programs or performs community services. If the juvenile fails to comply, formal charges may be reinstated.

c) Adjudicatory Hearing – the judge may decide to have an adjudicatory hearing, a trial in a juvenile case. While both sides argue the case and present evidence, a juvenile trial before a judge, not a jury. If the judge decides the juvenile is delinquent at the end of the hearing, he may order punishments such as probation, community service, or even detention in a juvenile centre.

Preventing Juvenile Delinquency

Prevention of juvenile delinquency serves at-risk youths, their families, and the public as it can stop the transition of juvenile offenders to adult offenders. Prevention services are offered by different government and private agencies and include such services as:

§  Substance Abuse Treatment

§  Family Counseling

§  Individual Counseling

§  Parenting Education

§  Family Planning Services

The availability of education, and encouragement of minors in obtaining an education, play a large role in preventing juvenile delinquency. This is because education promotes social cohesion and helps children learn to make good choices and practice self-control.


Factors Affecting Juvenile Delinquency

Physical Factors:

–  Malnutrition.

–  Lack of sleep.

–  Developmental aberrations.

–  Sensory defects.

–  Speech defects.

–  Endocrine disorders.

–  Deformities.

–  Nervous diseases.

–  Other ailments.

–  Physical exuberance.

–  Drug addiction.

–  Effect of weather.

Mental Factors:

– Mental defect.

– Superior intelligence.

– Psychoses.

– Psychoneuroses.

– Psychopathic constitution (including emotional instability).

– Abnormalities of instinct and emotion.

– Uneven mental development.

– Obsessive imagery and imagination.

– Mental conflicts.

– Repression and substitution.

– Inferiority complex.

– Introversion and egocentrism.

– Revengefulness (get-even complex).

– Suggestibility.

– Contra-suggestibility.

– Lethargy and laziness.

– Adolescent emotional instability.

– Sex habits and experiences.

– Habit and association.


Home Conditions:

–  Unsanitary conditions.

–  Material deficiencies.

–  Excess in material things.

–  Poverty and unemployment.

–  Broken homes.

–  Mental and physical abnormalities of parents or siblings.

–  Immoral and delinquent parents.

–  Ill-treatment by foster parents, step-parents, or guardians.

–  The stigma of illegitimacy.

–  Lack of parental care and affection.

–  Lack of confidence and frankness between parents and children.

–  Deficient and misdirected discipline.

–  Unhappy relationship with siblings.

–  Bad example.

–  Foreign birth or parentage.

–  "Superior" education of children

School Conditions: 

–  Inadequate school building and equipment.

–  Inadequate facilities for recreation.

–  The rigid and inelastic school system, "the goose-step."

–  Poor attendance laws and lax enforcement.

–  Improper grading.

–  Unsatisfactory teacher.

–  The undesirable attitude of pupils towards teachers.

–  Bad school companions and codes of morals.


Neighbourhood Conditions:

–  Lack of recreational facilities.

–  Congested neighbourhood and slums.

–  Disreputable morals of the district.

–  The proximity of luxury and wealth.

–  Influence of gangs and gang codes.

–  Loneliness, lack of social outlets.

–  Overstimulating movies and Show

Occupational Conditions:

–  Irregular occupation.

–  Occupational misfit.

–  Spare time and idleness.

–  Truancy.

–  Factory influences.

–  Monotony and restraint.

–  The decline in the apprenticeship system

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