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CAUSES OF JUVENILE CRIME

The National Crime and Violence Prevention Program (PRONAPRED) of 2014-2018 identifies the adolescent population as a high crime-risk population. The main causes identified are not different from what is being reported in the

Latin American specialized literature, among them teen pregnancy, drug use, family disruption, school desertion, unemployment, lack of social capital, lack of public spaces, a culture of illegality, and social exclusion (PRONAPRED, 2014).

These risk factors or causes of juvenile crime have been investigated in a small number of studies. Not that many studies and empirical evidence can be found regarding the causes or correlates of juvenile crime in Mexico, but some good accounts exist. In fact, the same risk factors, particularly family disruption and poor parenting, are repeated time and again in the specialized literature (see Table 6.5).

Table 6.5. Mexico: Summary of selected studies on the causes of juvenile delinquency

Year

Author(s)

Method

Major finding/argument

1946

Hayner

Statistical

School dropout, extreme poverty, weakening of parental controls, early exposure to criminal adults

2003

Frias et al.

Statistical

Negative environments facilitate antisocial behaviors

2004

Castillo

Subjective

assessment

Poverty, lack of socialization, recreation and employment opportunities, labeling, family breakdown, marginalization and exclusion, school dropout, and organized crime

2005

Jimenez

Subjective

assessment

Social exclusion, discrimination, drugs, family disruption, lack of employment, health and education opportunities, and lack of cultural activities and sports

2007

Cisneros

Statistical

Social exclusion, alcohol and drug misuse, media labeling, and the failure of the family and education institutions among others

2007

Quiroz et al.

Statistical

Family hostility and rejection, lack of communication with parents, and the use of severe discipline from parents

2008

Herrera et al.

Statistical

Alcohol, amphetamine, and/or cocaine use prior to crime

2010

Castillo

Statistical

Gangs, unemployment, lack of education opportunity, overcrowding, lack of proper housing, and urban expansion toward the periphery

2012

Estrada and Cano

Qualitative

Lack of public spaces and sports, family disruption, lack of parental supervision as both parents work, lack of police in streets, neighborhood social decay, and vigilante justice

Source: Author’s own based on previous studies

One recent argument advanced by Jimenez (2005) is that contemporary Mexican youth, particularly the poor, are socially excluded and discriminated, this resulting in juvenile violence and crime. Other reasons are access to drugs, family disruption, lack of employment opportunities, health, education, and access to culture and sports (Jimenez 2005). Also in Mexico, Frias-Armenta et al. (2003) found that negative environments or ecological factors around adolescents (e.g., poor parenting, child abuse, alcohol misuse by parents, school and neighborhood signs of social disorder, etc.) could explain more than half of the variation in their self-reporting of antisocial behaviors. Some of these findings were later verified by Cisneros (2007) based on demographic and risk factors data of juveniles and young adults aged 18-21 that were serving their sentences in correctional institutions and prisons in the State of Mexico in 2000. He found high proportions of juveniles convicted and young adult prison inmates that had suffered from social exclusion as well as having problems of alcohol and drug misuse. Also, a good number of them were raised in low-income households with a history of child abuse.

One last comment before we continue to the next section is that the National Survey of Victimization and Perception of Public Safety (ENVIPE) allows to know the total number and proportion of offenders under 18 years. This is of course based on the perception and memory of the victims surveyed. In this respect, it is important to know that in 2014, only 2.8 % of the victims surveyed were able to identify the age of their attacker as being someone under 18 years old. In 2010, this proportion was 3.0 %>, that is, a difference within the margin of error.[1] As such, considering that the total population under 18 years old nationwide was around 39 million or 32 % of the total population in 2015, it is clear that the number of crimes committed by minors is well below their percentage in the total population. These figures give us a reference point from which we can assess the real magnitude of the juvenile crime problem in Mexico.

  • [1] In fact, the age group in the ENVIPE with the highest percent of offenders as identified by thevictims is those between 26 and 35 years old with around 30 % of all offenders.
 
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