Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (1980) defines adolescence as “the state or process of growing up”; even more specifically, adolescence is also defined as “the period of life from puberty to maturity terminating legally at the age of majority”. Looking back on their adolescence, adults often conjure up grand memories, and laugh at their mistakes. Adolescence is a period in life that everyone must ’survive’ in order to become an adult, although some go through it more turbulently than others. “Falling approximately between the ages of 12 and 20, adolescence is characterized by physical changes leading to sexual maturity” (Encyclopedia. om).
Along with these obvious physical changes, more complex and hidden changes occur in an adolescent’s attitude, outlook, and self-identity. Ultimately, the ‘goal’ of adolescence is to gain personal independence, and a sense of one’s self. Although these physiological changes happen slowly, the environment has a great impact on how one’s adolescent period will affect the person when they reach adulthood. Affective discipline at home, strong support groups, and a loving environment are all part of the key to surviving this difficult period and becoming a stronger person in the end.
Many teenagers without the right combination of support factors in their lives can ’slip through the cracks’ and discover a world more hostile than ever imagined. Our job as parents in today’s society requires an understanding of this problematic time in a child’s life, as well as regression into our own adolescence, to better prepare ourselves to raise the generations of tomorrow. Juvenile Delinquency is defined by Webster’s as “a status in a juvenile characterized by antisocial behavior that is beyond parental control and therefore subject to legal action” as well as a violation of the law committed by a juvenile and not punishable by death or life imprisonment”.
In short, juvenile delinquency involves any criminal behavior committed by a minor. There is no question that there has been an increase in delinquent behavior since the days of our parents’ adolescence. Activities such as ‘rolling’ neighbors’ houses, egging mailboxes/windows, or graffiti on park benches has been replaced by more serious activities such as spray painting buildings, breaking and entering, or even early drug use. Today’s juveniles do not seem to fear, or even respect authority as previous generations have.
Lack of discipline in the home and a much more tolerant society is not help to a steadily increasing juvenile delinquency rate. An unstable home environment can draw teenagers to join gangs or engage in premarital sex, to name just a couple of ‘acting out’ behaviors. Children need to be taught at an early age not only the difference between right and wrong, but also the positive results attained from practicing respect and moral values. If parental guidance fails, or if an adolescent veers too far off the path, then usually outside forces will step in to the situation.
Parens Patriae is literally defined as “the state is the father” (Juvenile Delinquency Theory, Practice and Law, 1994), and views juveniles’ delinquent behavior as a need for action taken beyond parental control. This doctrine is intended to act in the best interest of a child in question, and enacts rehabilitative measures, rather than using harsh consequences. There are many differences surrounding each youth’s misdirection, and this third party action is deemed necessary only when a guardian’s discipline and/or consequences have failed to control the adolescent.
It is stated that the Parens Patriae doctrine will give “treatment” rather than treating a child similar to an adult offender. Although treatment is considered the most effective method of rehabilitation in most cases, there are those juvenile offenders who are “beyond control” and whose cases are transferred to an adult court. The state will also take charge when a child has committed a status offense, or has been neglected and/or abused, even by their parents. The idea of ‘the state being the father’ encompasses all children, whether delinquent, handicapped, or mistreated. This doctrine protects a child’s right to be guided and guarded.