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Juvenile Delinquency

Theory to Practice

Robert McNamara

Publication Date - 25 November 2020

ISBN: 9780190078744

496 pages
8 1/2 x 11 inches

In Stock

Offering insightful video interviews with convicted juveniles, this comprehensive juvenile delinquency text provides a balance of theory and compelling applications that students will find engaging and relevant


Focusing on today's students, this comprehensive juvenile delinquency text debunks myths, engages students to learn key theories, and provides compelling applications that students will find relevant and useful.


The study of juvenile delinquency has a long and fascinating history. From the early days of treating juveniles like miniature adults to the Child Savers Movement, where advocates attempted to address issues stemming from the neglect and abuse of children. In the 1980s, the rise of violent juvenile gangs became a part of the larger narrative on delinquency, in part due to the discovery of crack cocaine and the turf battles that emerged over the distribution of the drug. In the 1990s, concerns about the violence and an increase in dangerous delinquents led to the prediction of a super predator of delinquent. Concerns about this group, along with the perception that the juvenile justice system was inadequate in addressing violent offenders, resulted in greater use of juvenile waivers, where the youthful offender is waived from juvenile court jurisdiction to adult court.

Despite these concerns and perceptions about the dangerousness of juvenile offenders, in recent years, there has been a considerable decline in delinquency arrests along with decreases in the use of detention/incarceration in the past two decades. Generally speaking, the juvenile justice system has done an adequate job of diverting offenders before they become a part of the system and rehabilitating them when they become involved in it. However, it is important that we not to lose sight of how significant social issues shape our understanding of crime and delinquency.

For instance, as the United States and other countries grapple with the enormous impact of COVID-19, including stay-at-home orders, the closing of schools, massive unemployment for millions of workers, and numerous risks for patients and health care workers, there are implications for juvenile offenders. While we are continuing to learn more about the COVID-19 disease, one of the more troubling trends is the high percentage of minorities who are affected by it.

As troubling as a pandemic is for this country, in 2020 we have also seen a number of high-profile cases in which an African American was killed by a police officer or while they were in police custody. This trend is certainly not a new one-the disproportionality of African Americans in the justice system has a long and storied past. The social and political backlash to the recent events involving George Floyd's death have resulted in peaceful protests by citizens wanting meaningful change, violent demonstrations and looting by others, as well as demonstrators dismantling many statues of historical figures due to their involvement in or support of the slave trade. These protests, along with some political leaders stoking the fires of division, have damaged the social fabric of the United States. At the base of the protests and debates, such as whether Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter, or whether or not to defund police departments, have, at their root, a history of exploitation of African Americans in the criminal justice system.

The fascinating thing about the disproportionality of African Americans (and Hispanics/Latinos) in the system is that they are not confined to adults; the juvenile justice system struggles with the same type of disproportionality as its adult counterpart. Perhaps the most intriguing dimension of these findings is that there is little debate about them-unlike most social issues, when it comes to the challenges minorities face in the justice system, there are few if any debates about whether such a trend exists. The controversy stems from why these trends are occurring, but no one disputes whether the trends are real ones-in either the adult or the juvenile justice system.

For our purposes, these protests, debates, and controversies are extraordinary reminders that the study of delinquency does not exist in a vacuum and that large scale social issues can dramatically influence our understanding of why youth commit criminal offenses. In the following pages, we attempt to balance the discussion of delinquency with a theoretical understanding and data typically found in sociological research, along with data and research on how to apply this information in a practical way. This juxtaposition of sociology and criminal justice is rather unique but it results in a more seamless and comprehensive understanding of delinquency.

As someone trained in both sociology and in criminal justice, my hope is that such a collaboration helps students, faculty, policymakers, and the general public, to grasp the complexity involved in understanding and addressing delinquency. To accomplish this goal, throughout the textbook I attempt to provide examples of how to apply theory to reality, mini-research projects designed to help students understand delinquency in their local communities, as well as putting readers in real-life scenarios where they must consider the many factors involved in making a difficult decision and then decide how to proceed. Additionally, to address the frustration many students (and faculty) sometimes experience with the multitude of programs to reduce or prevent delinquency, where it is easy to think that “nothing works,” I include examples of programs that are in fact effective. Of course, while I have done my best to provide the most up to date and accurate information about a variety of topics related to delinquency, any mistakes, omissions, or oversights, are mine to bear.

Features Used in this Text:

Chapter Scenarios: these are real life situations in which readers are presented with a case that unfolds throughout the chapter. In the context of learning the concepts and theories, students learn how these apply to the scenario.

Video Interviews: interviews with convicted juvenile offenders are integrated into the text via URL links as well as excerpts into sections of the chapter. This is a defining feature of the book since it provides customized illustrations of the concepts and theories identified in each chapter.

Make the Call: this exercise puts the reader in a role (e.g. juvenile court judge, police officer, social worker) and presented with a situation in which they have to render a decision. The factors that are relevant and important are considered with questions they must address before their decision is made.

Apply Theory to Reality: this exercise provides students with the opportunity to begin learning how to apply delinquency theories to particular situations. The student must summarize the theory, apply it to the given set of circumstances and offer insight into how the theory extends the understanding of the particular crime.

What Works?: These are examples of programs to address or prevent delinquency that have been empirically evaluated for effectiveness.

Your Community: this feature has students exploring programs and issues in their local community. The task involves them conducting mini-research projects, where they interview and observe program directors, staff, and customers in an effort to learn more about the problem locally. Examples include runaway shelters, domestic violence diversion programs, gang prevention programs, or even police departments.



  • Each chapter begins with a commonly held assumption about delinquency, and offers a fact-based explanation
  • Boxed inserts on applying everyday theory from real world examples help students connect current research and practices to the juvenile justice field
  • Videotaped interviews offer students insights by allowing them to read, see, and hear convicted juveniles describe their own experiences
  • "You Make the Call" exercises provide examples of real-world problems that juvenile justice system officials (e.g. police officers, judges, probation and correctional officers) encounter, giving students the opportunity to learn about career opportunities and the challenges that they'll confront in the field
  • Ancillary materials include a comprehensive Instructor's Manual, Test Bank, PowerPoint slides, and student resources such as study flashcards

About the Author(s)

Robert McNamara is Professor of Criminal Justice at the Citadel. He is the author or coauthor of thirty books, including Multiculturalism, Crime, and the Criminal Justice System, Second Edition (OUP, 2020). Dr. McNamara has served as a senior research fellow for the National Strategy Information Center, the Policy Lab, the Police Executive Research Forum, in Washington, DC, and the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Baltimore, Maryland.


"Students are going to find this text interesting and user-friendly. It uses real world scenarios to help them understand the information."--Jennifer Perry, Central Carolina Technical College

"This text provides an excellent overview of juvenile delinquency in general. It is well written and up-to-date."--Lisa Lamb Weber, Texas State University

"Comprehensive, current, and user-friendly, this text will engage students and keep them engaged. The pedagogical structure is outstanding! The components of case study, theory and practice, 'You Make the Call,' and community assignments are exactly the way the field of study is moving. The use of short videos is excellent."--Dorinda Dowis, Columbus State University

"The coverage is balanced and complete, and the use of outside media is fun and interactive for students; I would use this feature for online discussions."--Pamela Newell, University of North Georgia

Table of Contents


    1. The Nature of Delinquency
    Public Perceptions of Adolescents and Delinquents
    Public Perceptions of Crime and Delinquency
    Policymakers' Perceptions of Crime and Delinquency
    Changes in Juvenile Justice Policy
    Media's Images of Delinquents
    The Nature of Adolescence
    Cultural Differences of Youths
    Baby Boomers
    Generation X
    Generation Y/Millenials
    Societal Problems and Youths
    Risk and Protective Factors
    Definitions of Juvenile Delinquency
    History of Juvenile Delinquency in the United States
    Nineteenth-Century United States
    Delinquency in the Twentieth-Century
    Delinquency in the 1960s-1970s
    Delinquency in the 1980s-1990s
    Difference between Juvenile Court and Adult Court
    Delinquency and Public Policy

    2. Measuring Delinquency
    Measuring Crime and Delinquency
    Uniform Crime Reports (UCR)
    Limitations of the UCR
    National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS)
    Victimization Studies
    Limitations of NCVS
    Victimization Surveys and the UCR
    Measuring Crime: Self-Report Studies
    General Trends in Delinquency
    Official Statistics
    Delinquent Trends: Self-Report Studies
    Correlates to Delinquency
    Social Class
    Chronic Offending
    Victimization and Delinquency
    Victimization Risk
    The Youngest Victims
    Measuring Delinquency and Public Policy

    3. Status Offending
    A Brief History
    The Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA)
    Amendments to the JJDPA
    Status Offenders versus Delinquents
    The Changing Nature of Status Offending
    Programs for Runaway Youths
    School Configuration
    Academic Performance
    Family Involvement
    Neighborhood and Community Factors
    Historical Roots
    Incorrigibility and the Juvenile Justice System
    Curfew Violations
    Proponents and Opponents of Curfews
    The Legality of Curfews
    Underage Drinking
    Underage Smoking
    Effects of Smoking
    Reasons Teenagers Smoke
    Media Campaign and Teenage Smoking
    Status Offenders and Public Policy

    4. Social Structural Theories of Delinquency
    Social Structural Influences
    Deindustrialization and the Economy
    The Housing Crunch
    Public Education
    The Origins of Social Structural Theories of Delinquency
    Emile Durkheim
    Contemporary Applications
    Social Disorganization Theory
    Concentric Zones
    Disorganization and Delinquency
    Breakdown in Control
    Reasons for Delinquency
    The Social Ecology of Delinquency
    Walter Miller's Lower Class Culture Theory
    Strain and Anomie Theories
    Robert Merton's Strain Theory
    Robert Agnew's General Strain Theory
    Differential Opportunity
    Subcultural Theories of Delinquency
    Albert Cohen's Theory
    Subculture of Violence
    Social Structural Theories and Public Policy

    5. Social Process Theories of Delinquency
    Learning Theories and Delinquency
    Social Learning Theory
    Edwin Sutherland's Differential Association Theory
    Sykes and Matza's Neutralization Theory
    Drift Theory
    Ronald Aker's Social Learning Theory
    Social Control Theory
    Albert J. Reiss's Personality and Control Theory
    Walter Reckless's Containment Theory
    Travis Hirschi's Bonding Theory
    Gottfredson and Hirschi's General Theory of Crime
    Labeling Theory
    Application of Labels
    The Labeling Process
    Consequences of Labeling
    Social Conflict Theories
    Marx and Engel's Conflict Theory
    Modern Conflict Theory
    Social Process Theories and Public Policy

    6. Individual Views of Delinquency
    Rational Choice and Delinquency
    Classical Criminology
    Positivist Theories
    Biochemical Factors
    Neurological Issues
    Genetic Influences
    Intelligence and Delinquency
    Psychological Theories
    Psychodynamic Theory
    Behavioral Theory
    Cognitive Theory
    Violence and the Media
    Cognitive Skills of Youths
    Piaget's Stages of Cognitive Development
    Kohlberg's Theory of Moral Development
    Developmental Psychology
    Psychological Disorders
    Oppositional Defiant Disorder
    Conduct Disorders
    Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
    Bipolar Disorder
    Individual Theories and Public Policy

    7. Family and Delinquency
    Good Parenting
    Family Structure
    External Structural Changes to Families
    Cohabitation and Childbearing
    Women in the Workforce
    The Changing Role of Fathers
    Internal Family Dynamics
    Birth Order
    Family Size
    Family Violence
    Verbal Assault
    Neglect and Abuse
    Types of Neglect
    Reasons for Neglect
    Child Abuse
    Sexual Abuse
    Child Protective Services
    Initial Assessment or Investigation
    Family Assessment
    Case Planning
    Provision of Services
    Ongoing Assessment
    Case Closure
    Foster Care
    Families, Delinquency, and Public Policy

    8. Gangs and Delinquency
    Definition of Gangs
    Gang Databases and Identifying Gang Members
    Reasons for Joining
    Media Distortion
    Origins of Gangs
    Extent and Types of Gangs
    Black Gangs
    The Crips
    The Bloods
    Hispanic/Latino Gangs
    People Nation vs. Folk Nation
    The Latin Kings
    Asian Gangs
    Chinese Gangs
    Japanese Yakuza
    Vietnamese Gangs
    White Gangs
    Stoner Gangs
    Female Gangs
    Gang Structure
    Social Solidarity
    The Changing Nature of Gangs
    Gang Behavior
    Community Responses to Gangs and Public Policy

    9. Special Populations and Delinquency
    Sexual Activity
    Juvenile Sex Offenders
    Juvenile Prostitution
    International Trafficking of Children
    Mental Illness
    Fire Starters
    Domestic Violence
    Chronic Offenders
    Violent Offenders
    Computer Hackers
    Public Policy for Special Populations

    10. Schools and Delinquency
    Structure of Public Education
    Social Class
    No Child Left Behind
    Problems in Schools
    Academic Achievement
    School Crime
    Bullying and Intimidation
    School Shootings
    Strategies to Reduce School Crime
    School Uniforms
    Zero Tolerance
    Alternative Schools
    School Searches
    Due Process
    Corporal Punishment
    Free Speech
    Public Policy Regarding Delinquency in Schools

    11. Females and Delinquency
    Definition of Sex and Gender
    Differences between Boys and Girls
    Physical Differences
    Specialized Differences
    Historical Overview
    Females and Delinquency
    Increase in Female Crime
    Being Like Males
    Paternalism and Females
    Theories of Female Delinquency
    Early Biological and Psychological Explanations
    Sociological Explanations
    Feminist Perspectives
    Liberal Feminism
    Phenomenological Feminism
    Socialist Feminism
    Marxist Feminism
    Radical Feminism
    Gender and the Juvenile Justice System
    Female Delinquency and Public Policy

    12. Delinquency Prevention
    Current Delinquency Prevention in the United States
    Primary Delinquency Prevention Programs
    Prenatal Care for Expectant Mothers
    Early Childhood and Preschool Programs
    Parenting Skills
    Neighborhood/Block Watch
    Target Hardening Measures
    Crime Preventions through Environmental Design (CPTED)
    Secondary Delinquency Prevention Programs
    Types of Risk Factors
    Individual Risk Factors
    Social Risk Factors
    Community Risk Factors
    Examples of Secondary Prevention Programs
    Mentoring Programs
    Job Training
    School-Based Programs
    Community Involvement
    Delinquency Prevention Programs
    Delinquency Prevention and Public Policy

    13. Law Enforcement and Delinquency
    Historical Overview
    The Juvenile Justice System and Policing in the United States
    Police Matrons and Delinquents
    Professionalization of Policing
    Law Enforcement;s Perception of Juveniles
    Law Enforcement Officers and Social Workers
    Law Enforcement Discretion
    Racial and Gender Biases
    Procedural Rules Governing Juveniles
    Search and Seizure
    Custodial Interrogation
    Delinquency Prevention Strategies
    The Police Athletic League
    Police Cadet Programs
    Aggressive Patrol
    Community Policing and Problem-Oriented Policing
    Law Enforcement-Juvenile Public Policy

    14. Juvenile Court System
    Historical Overview
    Recent Changes
    Criminal Court Transfers
    Confidentiality Laws
    Tougher Juvenile Sanctions
    Juvenile Justice Participants
    Defense Attorneys
    Probation Officers
    Court Advocates
    Juvenile Court Process
    Plea Bargain
    Transfer Procedure
    Waivers to Adult Court
    Death Penalty
    Juvenile Courts and Public Policy

    15. Corrections and Delinquency
    Community-Based Corrections
    Intensive Probation
    Shock Probation
    School-Based Probation
    House Arrest
    Community Service
    Mediation Programs
    Day Treatment Facilities
    Institutional Corrections
    Short-Term Facilities
    Institutional Life
    Mental Illness and Detention
    Female Inmates
    Suicide and Institutionalized Youths
    Privatization of Juvenile Corrections
    Institutional Programs for Detained Youths
    Education and Vocational Training
    Recreational Programs
    Counseling and Therapy
    Constitutional Rights of Detained Juveniles
    Reentry and Aftercare
    Juvenile Corrections and Public Policy


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