The relationship between delinquency and school is, seemingly, obvious. This is because the dispositions of delinquents are developed in school. These dispositions include anger, disruptive behavior, violence, etc. While schools remain the greatest sources of delinquent behavior, they can also be effective in combating delinquency (Balow 15). This is because delinquents spend most of their time in school. The nature of the relationship between school and delinquency is controversial. Some people argue that school failure and delinquency are directly related, others believe that school failure causes psycho-emotional problems which are the cause of delinquent behavior and others believe that school failure and delinquency are caused by a common external problem such as poverty and violence at home. Let us examine these relationships between school and delinquency (Siegel, and Welsh, 342).
Contribution of school to delinquency
As stated above, school life is believed to have two causative relationships with delinquency. One is the direct relationship between school failure and delinquency and the other is the cause of delinquency by the psycho-emotional problems from school. Let us have a look at the aspects of school life that can be associated with delinquency (Carlie 1).
Poor academic performance
Pupils who are poor academically view the classroom as a threatening environment. The poor academic performance will make the pupil lack self-esteem and thus he/she will develop defense mechanisms to conceal his/her weaknesses. Common defense mechanisms used by such pupils include disruptions in the classroom, aggression, emotional outbreaks, and withdrawal. Withdrawal here includes truant behavior, daydreaming in the classroom, or even dropping out of school. These defense mechanisms lead to aggression and counter-aggression between the pupil and teachers which make the pupil/student develop negative behavior and associate with his/her peers with delinquent behavior. This ultimately makes the student/pupil delinquent (Siegel, and Welsh, 341).
In the same way, gangs develop to boost the self-esteem of their members. Since most gang members are poor academic performers, they find alibis for poor academic performance and get involved in disruptive and aggressive behavior. They get peers to socialize with and also establish an environment to vent their classroom humiliations. This makes them value the activities of their gang more than classroom work and thus they spend more time in the gang than in class. This leads to the development and perfection of delinquent behavior. In a nutshell, children who are poor academically are more likely to offend, commit crimes, and remain in crime (Carlie 1).
Empirical evidence shows that dropouts are high among children coming from low-class families. This indicates a relationship between delinquency and social classes since dropping out of school has an indubitable contribution to delinquency. Several explanations have been made concerning this relationship between low-class students and delinquency. First of all, students from low-class families will most probably have a myriad of personal problems. Examples of these problems include economic problems, family problems like violence at home, personality problems like low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence, etc. These problems can potentially lead to delinquency. Consider economic problems, for example. A poor student may steal from his/her fellow students, from teachers, or even from the school. He/she may also be forced to take part-time jobs to meet his/her needs. This will most probably lead to truancy and it may eventually lead to delinquent behavior. Poor students may also be discriminated against if they school together with middle-class students. This will lead to social and academic problems which can potentially lead to delinquency (Balow 15).
Although the hypothesis stated above is applicable in most cases, it has attracted a lot of criticism. This is because students/pupils who are poor academic performers are more likely to exhibit delinquent behavior than students who perform well in school; regardless of their social class. Thus affluent students who are poor performers are likely to become delinquent due to the expectations put on them. On the other hand, poor students may endure academic problems due to a lack of expectations from their families. Despite this criticism, social class has been a great contributor to delinquency (Siegel, and Welsh, 342).
Truants and dropouts
As discussed above, poor academic performance may make a student truant or worse still; make him/her drop out of school. Truancy and dropping out of school have been proved to have an undeniable contribution to delinquency. Truancy makes a student be left behind by schoolwork and makes it very difficult for him/her to catch up. This may lead to the development of the discussed defense mechanism or the dropping out of the school of the student. Both consequences of truancy are primary causes of delinquency. Truancy itself has the potential of drawing students to delinquency. This is because most truant students spend time-consuming drugs and alcohol, and involve themselves in violent behavior. All the problems that result from truancy are more serious with school dropouts. This is because school dropouts have a lot of time to engage in activities like drug trafficking and consumption, violence, graffiti, etc. Dropouts also have limited literacy which is normally insufficient for employment. Therefore, dropping out of school is a great contributor to delinquency (Carlie 1).
Various aspects of the school may also lead to student delinquency. Some schools are very large such that students can miss classes or fail to come to school without being noticed. Others treat middle-class students better than low-class students and therefore add frustrations to low-class students. Others have irrelevant curriculums which make students despise education for failing to see how it can pay off (Carlie 1). Schools may also be neglected and therefore they may lack the facilities required to motivate students. Some of these facilities include libraries, teachers, and desks. Since most of the neglected schools are built in neglected neighborhoods, the neighborhoods provide a favorable climate for delinquent behavior among students. The problem of immigration and the high level of racial diversity in inner-city schools have also had a great contribution to delinquency. This diversity encourages biased treatment of students by teachers and school staff. This has led to a lot of incidences in schools including shootings and teacher and student assaults (Siegel, and Welsh, 343). Schools, therefore, have the potential of changing the levels of delinquency since most delinquents are influenced by circumstances in school to engage in delinquency.
The Problem Behavior Syndrome
Critics of the hypothesis that delinquency is caused by poor academic performance argue that both delinquency and failure in school depend on a third factor. This factor is known as Problem Behavior Syndrome. It refers to the reaction of adolescents to problems in their lives by involving themselves in delinquent behavior which, in turn, affects their academic performance. Taking this to be true, we need to concentrate on the influence of the Problem Behavior Syndrome on the formation of gangs and devise ways of mitigating the effects of Problem Behavior Syndrome (Carlie 1). From the discussion above, the extent to which Problem Behavior Syndrome influences the occurrence of delinquent behavior depends on the ability of the student to control his/her reaction to problems that occur in his/her life.
School failure has been proven to be a great contributor to the occurrence of delinquency. With effects on self-esteem, classroom absenteeism, and effects on dropout decisions, it indubitably leads to delinquency. As discussed above, low self-esteem and truancy lead to an unfavorable classroom environment that prompts the student to develop defense mechanisms that aid him/her in covering his/her weaknesses. This leads to the perfection of delinquency skills. They also lead to gang membership which makes the student conform to the activities of the gang. Since virtually all gangs engage in delinquency, the students ultimately involve themselves in delinquent behavior (Carlie 1).
Moreover, student subgroups are very influential such that, the more delinquent the subgroup is, the more an individual in the subgroup is influenced towards delinquency. Additionally, schools that are established in disadvantaged neighborhoods exhibit high delinquency levels. High-crime schools, also, spend a lot of money on solving social problems and thus their academics may lag. This could lead to substantial levels of delinquency. Teachers and parents should make sure that they establish appropriate measures to ensure that poor academic performance does not lead to delinquency.
Balow, Bruce. “Delinquency and School Failure.” 2004- Web.
Carlie, Michael. “School Failure and Delinquency.” 2002- Web.
Siegel, Larry, and Welsh, Brandon. Juvenile Delinquency: Theory, Practice and Law. Clifornia, U.S.A. Wadsworth, 2006. Print.