Juvenile Delinquency: A Prevention Approach


We talk of ‘terrible twos’ but we all seem to forget about the ‘terrible teens’. Parents of teenagers know all too well the difficulties, hurdles and challenges of raising an adolescent. Adolescence is a very tough time for teenagers…and their parents too. Parents of teenagers go through enough difficulties with their teenagers- mood swings, unruly behavior, coming home after curfew; besides them engaging in anti-social and criminal behavior. Teenagers commit crimes all over the world, Kenya being no exception.

One of the key causes of adolescent delinquent behavior is peer pressure. At adolescence, teenagers are experiencing a lot of psychological changes. Psychologically, they have an inner desire to find their true identity and to fit in with their friends or classmates; making them very impressionable and easily coerced into doing illegal acts.

Juvenile delinquency may also stem from ineffective parenting. Some parents spend little or no time with their teenagers (and generally speaking, children of all ages). Hence, the teenager has very little or no parental supervision; they have the freedom to do as they wish, without facing any type of consequence from their parents. Therefore, they think they can get away with anything; it starts small, innocent and gets bigger and bigger; eventually leading to illegal behavior. Additionally, some teenagers engage in illegal activities to get attention from their parents who are too focused on something else -such as their work -and don’t give them enough time, attention and focus that they so deeply desire.

Related to parenting is the home environment. From birth, the home is the first and major influence on a baby. As children grow up, they learn through observation; what they see is what they do. Hence, when a child sees violence in the home, for example, they are more likely to engage in violent acts. Children not only learn through observation, but also through reinforcement. Let me explain: when a child does something wrong and does not face any form of consequence, or does something good and does not get any form of praise, they learn that their actions, whether good or bad have little or no ramifications. Hence, it becomes the norm to engage in whatever behavior (good or bad) they choose to do as it will have no consequences (which is not always true).

Apart from the home environment, poverty is another cause of illegal activities. Youth who lack finances or opportunities to get an education, or to get a job may end up engaging in crime in order to sustain themselves, and maybe their families too.

Social media cannot go unmentioned when it comes to delinquent teenagers. Teenagers get false impressions of violence and other illegal acts from various social media platforms. Rebelliousness is idolized and is portrayed as the norm-everyone is doing it. There’s also the false impression that illegal acts can be done with little or no consequences. Also, adolescents may get their role models from social media; who could not be the most ideal people to look up to.

So, what should we do to curb this juvenile delinquency?

First, the major role goes to parents. Parents, however busy you are, I encourage you to purposely make time for your children. This involves spending quality time with them and allowing for open and honest conversations. It is important to understand, love and accept your child as an individual, rather than in comparison to others, especially siblings. Effective parenting also calls for you to offer good guidance and support to your children; encourage them when they put in effort and hard work in their schoolwork and address their bad behavior in effective and appropriate ways.

As a a parent, you ought to be keen to notice a change in behavior in your teenager(s), and to act on it as soon as possible before it is too late. Many teenagers get into trouble; therefore, one of your roles as a parent is to know whether your teenage daughter/son is headed for more serious problems or when he/she is just ‘being a kid’. This will be easier to identify when you have a good relationship with your child(ren).

Moreover, adolescents would benefit greatly from individual and/or group counselling that will help them explore themselves and come to a greater sense of self awareness and develop a personal identity. Teenagers who have a strong sense of self tend to engage in less delinquent behavior. Also, parents may benefit from parenting skills training ; counselling is beneficial for parents as well.

Audrey is a counselling and wellness psychologist and training expert with a passion for helping individuals and organisations attain their highest emotional and psychological health levels.

As the lead consultant at Halisi Counseling & Wellness Services, her consultancy portfolio spans a wide spectrum of sectors and includes services such as psychospiritual counselling, adolescent psychological counseling, trauma counseling, self-awareness and development and training and facilitation sessions for groups and organisations.

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Published by Audrey M. Hongo

I am a counselling and wellness psychologist and training expert with a passion for helping individuals and organisations attain their highest emotional and psychological health levels.

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