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CAUSES OF JUVENILE CRIME

German criminology is using the same theories for explaining juvenile crime as they have been developed in the Anglo-American literature (Oberwittler 2012). Strong emphasis is given to the notion of juvenile delinquency as a “normal” phenomenon and of its episodic nature. It is because of this and the petty nature of most juvenile crimes that German juvenile justice policy remained moderate by emphasizing diversion, restorative justice, and “constructive” educational measures imposed by the youth court. In the last decades, however, empirical evidence has been found that a small percentage of male juveniles developed carriers of persistent offending. Explanations given are more or less stress and social developmental theories emphasizing a lack of control by the family, a lack of self-control, schooling problems, deficits concerning personality disorders and others (see, e.g., the developmental model of Beelmann and Raabe 2007; see also Losel and Bliesener 2003). The model can be seen as a modern form of a multifactorial approach. An accumulation of risk factors does not necessarily lead to a criminal life style, but in most cases is counteracted by protective factors (resilience) and life events, which prevent becoming a persistent offender. Even those who develop a multi-recidivist carrier regularly stop offending during the third decade of life. In a recent panel study on 13- to 18-years-old pupils, the peak age of involvement in violent delinquency was 14 and for property offences 15 (for both females and males, in the case of females on a lower level, see Boers 2008: 346; Oberwittler 2012: 791 f. with further references).

Bio-psycho-social developmental model of antisocial behavior

Source : Beelmann & Raabe 2007,modified to Losel & Bender 2003.

A few life course-oriented studies have been conducted (see, e.g., Schumann 2003a, b), which demonstrate the difficulties of problematic juveniles to integrate in adult life, in particular professional life. They also confirm the general German juvenile justice policy to avoid negative stigmatization by diverting young offenders from the justice system as far and as long as possible.

In general, German criminology uses the same theories as the Anglo- American literature to explain juvenile delinquency by referring to anomie and structural theories of crime, learning theories, control theories, and rational choice or routine activity concepts (see Oberwittler 2012: 801 ff., 812 ff.). In the last years, more and more integrated theories such as Wikstrom’s situational action theory (see, e.g., Wikstrom 2007) are used for explanation with some similarities to the bio-psycho-social model cited above. But also social inequality and disorganization are important theoretical approaches, in particular for explaining violent crimes (see Oberwittler 2012: 830 ff. with further references).

 
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