Psychological Theories vs. Policies in the Juvenile Justice System

The 20th century presented for society lots of challenges and innovations in different spheres of life: women became more confident, taking the same positions as men took; personal interests and self-improvement was considered to be the major point to care about; education and psychology turned out to be ones of the most significant spheres of life. Taking into consideration such changes, people’s attitude to many activities has been considerably changed. In this paper, we will analyze the improvements, which were typical for the juvenile justice system and its connection to psychology and different psychological activities.

Certain changes were inherent to the juvenile justice system during the 20th century: psychological theories became more important in comparison to other policies and practices; to evaluate the offender’s inner world and analyze the reasons for the committed crime – this is what was significant and difficult. Of course, it was possible to punish the offender, establish several years of probation, and look after him/her to catch once again and put more serious charges. However, the fast growth and spreading of psychological theories made these theories dominating in the juvenile justice system: psychological counseling, psychoanalytic theory, and many other psychological services turn out to be good examples of how exactly the domination of psychological theories takes place.

To prove that psychological theories had some kind of domination among other policies and practices in the juvenile system, it is necessary:

  1. to find out the principles of work of the juvenile justice system;
  2. clear up what the most frequently used psychological theories are; and
  3. compare the impact of the psychological theories on the juvenile justice system with the impact of other policies on the same system using reliable examples.

The juvenile justice system is a kind of agency system that has numerous deals with young people, who have some conflicts with the law and aims at preventing these people from possible illegal activities in the future. There are several periods of the development of the system under consideration: “the Colonial Period (1636 – 1823); the House of Refuge Period (1824-1898); the Juvenile Court Period (1899 – 1966); the Juvenile rights Period (1967 – 1975); the Reform Agenda of the Late 1970s; the Social Control Period of the 1980s; and…the 1990s” (Shoemaker & Wolfe, 2005, p.12).

Each of these periods has its peculiarities and approaches. However, the 20th century is characterized by certain attention to psychological theories like psychoanalysis, ego psychology, social learning theory, and behaviorism. Liebenson (2006) admits that frequent use of psychologically oriented intervention will certainly prevent possible future disability of violators. This is why it turns out to be more important to evaluate the reasons for the crime and the psychological conditions of a person before starts judging him/her and their actions.

Usually, crimes are characterized by the unconscious motivation of actions, negative learning experiences, and some social factors. This is why psychological theories, which help to analyze all those factors, have to dominate in the juvenile justice system. For example, psychoanalytical analysis deals with unconscious motivation and the violator’s comprehension of the situation. With the help of Sigmund Freud’s works, it is possible to find out what may bother the patient, why he/she evaluates the situation in the concrete and a usually wrong way, and when it is possible to re-analyze the situation.

Psychoanalysis is considered to be very significant if a person commits a crime unconsciously. Any investigations or examinations cannot help on the same level as the chosen psychoanalysis may help. The negative point of this practice is that it is necessary to follow the order and pass such counseling several times, and very often, it is too difficult for a violator.

Ego psychology is one more psychological theory that dominates the juvenile justice system. Those people, who want to find out justice, have to pay attention to those points, which have some connection to ego and superego. For example, a crime may be committed by a person to satisfy his desires. The demands of a person are usually redirected by a person’s ego, and the ego has a certain connection to the superego.

This is why the evaluation of ego plays a considerable role as any other policy or even more. If the investigations prove that ego does not agree to the superego, a violator feels guilt and anxiety (Putwain & Sammons, 2002). If certain attention is not paid to the ego and superego of a person, it is impossible to be sure that even long-lasting punishment may prevent a person from future crimes. So, ego psychology is considered to be very significant among all policies and practices in the juvenile justice system.

Behaviorism is the last psychological theory I want to discuss in this paper and prove that such theories are and should always be dominated in the juvenile justice system. First of all, let us consider that juvenile crime is not the same as adult crime. Lots of young people commit crimes without taking into account possible outcomes and changes in their lives. This is why to help a child/teenager to improve their own life and become a significant part of this world, it is better to concentrate on such psychological theory as behaviorism. It is based on the idea that actions are ruled by conditioning. Conditioning is based on relations with the environment.

The environment may have both positive and negative influence on a person, this is why in the juvenile justice system, it is also better to clear up who exactly the environment influence the future development of a person. It is not enough to announce the punishment and conduct numerous psychological testing; it is necessary to evaluate how the same environment may influence the same person after committing a crime. To achieve good results in the sphere of juvenile justice, behaviorism should be considered as well.

All people can make mistakes; however, not all of them have a chance to think over the mistake and learn something from it. The juvenile justice system deals with the crimes, committed by young people, who cannot even evaluate how serious their actions and the outcomes may be. This is why in order not only to punish a person but also to help, the representatives of the system under consideration should pay attention to numerous psychological theories, which will help to understand and improve a violator.

Young people, like no one else, should have a chance to evaluate personal mistakes and be ready to become a significant part of this world. This is why psychological theories are considered to be helpful; this is why these theories dominate over the other practices; this is why psychologists should work on the government to help our future generation not to make mistakes in future and be able to analyze already made mistakes.

Reference List

Liebenson, C. (2006). Rehabilitation of the Spine: a Practitioner’s Manual. Baltimore: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Shoemaker, D. J. & Wolfe, T. W. (2005). Juvenile Justice: a Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO.

Putwain, D. & Sammons, A. (2002). Psychology and Crime. New York: Routledge.

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PsychologyWriting. "Psychological Theories vs. Policies in the Juvenile Justice System." February 9, 2022.