Most juvenile offenders have some characteristics, psychological symptoms, and behaviors, which differ from the ones of their peers not involved in crime. Without any doubt, it is essential to determine them to screen potential offenders effectively. Hillege et al. (2017) successfully identified seven subgroups of juvenile offenders based on their characteristics, psychological symptoms, and behaviors. These subgroups were named after their own key features:
- sexual problems,
- antisocial identity and mental health problems,
- lack of empathy and conscience,
- flat profile,
- family problems,
- substance use problems,
- sexual, cognitive and social problems” (Hillege et al., 2017).
All the subgroups mentioned above are related to some extent. For example, a child, who has endured severe family problems, is more likely to lack empathy and suffer from alcohol or drug abuse than a child from a wealthy family with devoted parents. However, some characteristics, psychological symptoms, and behaviors are more common, and it is crucial to pay more attention to them.
First, numerous juvenile offenders present antisocial personality disorder signs, which have pushed them to commit a crime. Antisocial individuals are unable to control their own emotions, rarely sustain close relationships, ignore others’ feelings, and act irresponsibly. Unfortunately, the symptoms are common among teenagers, who are immature because of their age; thus, many of them get involved in crime. The reason for an antisocial personality disorder may be inadequate parents, poverty, or substance abuse. According to Borras et al. (2017), juvenile offenders have more emotional and interpersonal problems compared with their peers and are at high risk of psychological disturbance. Teenagers with antisocial personality disorder disregard societal attitudes to what is right and what is wrong and neglect others’ rights. Therefore, they do not take committing a crime as seriously as mature and conscious individuals do.
Second, many teenagers who abuse alcohol or drugs become juvenile offenders. Unfortunately, “the problematic use of alcohol and the use of substances during criminal behavior has increased between the years 1995 and 2010” (Hillege et al., 2017). Numerous teenagers perceive alcohol and drugs as forbidden fruits and aim to prove their maturity by consuming them. However, they are often not mature and conscious enough to control their behavior under the influence of substances. Hence, the likelihood of committing a crime significantly increases. Moreover, teenagers who suffer from substance abuse, get low grades at school, are not involved in extracurricular activities, and hang out with negative people. These factors not only lead to adverse consequences in almost all aspects of their lives but also push them to commit a crime.
Fortunately, it is possible to screen potential offenders and prevent them from committing a crime. The understanding of their characteristics, psychological symptoms, and behaviors considerably simplify the processes. Undoubtedly, it is essential to realize that potential offenders display a significant number of specific features rather than a few of them. It is evident that teenagers who have different social problems are at high risk of getting involved in crime; thus, it is vital to pay more attention to children from low-income families or neighborhoods with higher than average crime rates. The study conducted by Borras et al. (2017) “demonstrates the need to develop validated programs that include the assessment of psychopathological and psychosocial risk indicators, as well as training programs that enable adolescents to achieve an adequate adjustment to society” (p. 50). Hence, the number of juvenile offenders can be significantly decreased if society members take small steps to eliminate the issue.
Borras, C., Palmer, A., Hernandez, A., & Llobera, J. (2017). Socio-cognitive and personal characteristics of juvenile offenders: A field study. International Journal of Psychological Research, 10(1), 45–52.
Hillege, S. L., Brand, E., Mulder, E. A., Vermeiren, R. R., & Domburgh, L. V. (2017). Serious juvenile offenders: Classification into subgroups based on static and dynamic characteristics. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 11(67).