This study looked at the link between mental illness and adolescent criminality. Many juveniles in Ohio’s juvenile courts suffer from mental problems, which lead to juvenile criminal actions and endeavors. This study included 100 juveniles from Ohio, United States. The sample was drawn from the target population using a random sampling procedure.A number of mental health disorders that included depression, post-traumatic stress, bipolar disorder and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder together with other factors influencing juvenile delinquency such as substance abuse were examined in this study. Analysis of data involved the utilization of statistical software with regard to Pearson’s correlation to show the significant relationship between the variables. The findings of this study displayed that there is a strong link between mental illness and juvenile delinquency. There is the need to conduct early treatment of the mental health problems to minimize juvenile delinquency.
Mental illness refers to the health conditions that involve changes in an individual’s emotion, thinking, and behavior. It is connected to distress and glitches functioning in family, workplace and social activities. It is caused by depression, infections, brain defects, poor nutrition and substance abuse. The number of youths that are involved with the system of juvenile justice has been on the rise over the past decade. The majority of the youth have problems of mental health connected to depression, substance abuse, anxiety and post-traumatic stress (Grisso, 2008). Mental health disorders are prevalent amongst the youth that are in the juvenile justice systems and necessitates immediate responses for identification and early treatment of the disorders. Juvenile delinquency is caused by the social problems, psychological hitches, peer influence, parenting style and economic glitches in a family.
Keywords: Juvenile Delinquency, Mental Illness, Depression, Substance Abuse, Anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress
This study is based on structural-functional Theory that considers the delinquent conduct as the result of strains and breakdown in the social process within the society that generates conformity amongst different individuals (Rice, 2013). The structural and functional theories lay emphasis on the institutions within the society that include the school and family that always socialize different individuals in order to conform their conduct to the standards and values of the society that surround them. It also focuses on the manner in which the institutions may be unsuccessful in carrying out the task of socializing individuals within the society.
The theory mainly focuses on the organization of a society and the association amongst the extensive units particularly the institutions. It permits for key institutions, for example, religion, education, economy and the family to be regarded as the groups in that moulds the behavior of individuals in the society (Rice, 2013). It illuminates on the reason for which the society functions in the manner it does through emphasizing on the associations between the numerous social institutions the form the entire society. The structural functionalism views the whole society as incessantly making efforts to be at equilibrium state that implies that there exists an instinctive drive within the individuals in the society to unite and stick together.
According to Siegel and Welsh (2014), Juvenile delinquency refers to an antisocial conduct that is against the law and carried out constantly by young individuals and may not be handled by the guardian or parent nonetheless necessitates the assistance of the agencies of law enforcement since the act may threaten the societal well-being. There are numerous factors that contribute to juvenile delinquency. The physical condition of a child influences the behavior of the child in many ways that can ultimately translate to the delinquent conducts. The physical concerns, for example, drug abuse, malnutrition, and disabilities greatly contribute to the manner in which the child responds to some situations. The physical condition may be what directly triggers delinquency, and the nature of the condition of the body can lead to abundance energy that can find an outlet in the behavior pertaining to delinquency (Siegel and Welsh, 2014).
Heilbrun, Lee, and Cottle (2005) express that there is increasing evidence that the mental illness is associated with juvenile delinquency and later offending acts even though the association can be direct or result in extra glitches. Juvenile delinquency and the depressive disorders in childhood are connected to the stealing and physical aggression. The aggressive conducts prior to age thirteen have been discovered to be prognostic of the juvenile delinquency. The attention and hyperactivity hitches seem connected to later violent offending behavior and risk taking.
According to Grisso (2008) research studies has provided considerable proof that the youth that has the disruptive conduct disorders show more physically aggressive conduct. Moreover, the comorbidity of attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorder has been associated to the chronic and repeat the offending throughout adolescence (Grisso, 2008). There is considerable evidence for an association between juvenile delinquency and drug use disorders in addition to the persistent aggression into adulthood for the youths that are involved in substance abuse. The co-morbidity or the existence of above one mental illness is very common amongst the adolescents who have the mental disorders, and roughly two-thirds of the youth offenders meet the decisive factor for the two and more illnesses.
Grisso (1999) make a report on three study findings from the U.S that proposes that though delineated, the juvenile delinquents have an occurrence rate of mental health issues approximately forty percent to fifty percent mark with the girls having higher disturbance rate as compared to boys. He expresses that in comparison to the overall population of the adolescent youth delinquents are four times more probable to be diagnosed with the conduct disorder, ten times more probable to have the disorders related to abuse of substance and three times more probable to be diagnosed with affective disorder nonetheless have anxiety disorder at similar rate as the entire population of the adolescents (Grisso, 2008).
Many extensive studies have displayed that there are some kinds of mental illness that are common amongst the juvenile offenders and a significant number of the symptoms augment the youths risks of involving in the aggressive conducts. The risk aggression is augmented for numerous comorbid disorders and particular disorders since the emotional symptoms such as anger and self-regulatory symptoms, for instance, impulsivity have the tendency of increasing the risk. The mental health disorders amongst the youth offenders comprise the psychotic disorders, affective disorders, anxiety disorders, disruptive behavior disorders and disorders related to substance use. The anxiety disorder includes separation anxiety, panic and post-traumatic stress disorder (Siegel and Welsh, 2014).
Primary data in this study was collected from the 100 juveniles in the systems of juvenile justice in Ohio. The collection of data also involved the use of the existing case records related to every youth in this study. Secondary data also involved the use of academic journals, textbooks, and publications that relate to the connection between mental illness and juvenile delinquency. The influence of anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, conduct disorder, post-traumatic stress, oppositional defiant and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder on juvenile delinquency was measured in this study. The analysis of data involved the use Pearson correlation in which a p-value less than 0.01 indicated a significant association between mental illness and juvenile delinquency.
Results and Findings
A study was carried out on the connection between mental illness and juvenile delinquency in Ohio in U.S. Data utilized in this study was gathered from 100 juveniles in the juvenile justice systems in Ohio. It also involved the use of the case records linked to each youth in the sample of the study. The state’s juvenile court provided the files having the official juvenile court records and the assessments of the mental health of the sample that was selected. The respondents were youths who had committed some juvenile acts for the last six months before the study.
The study revealed that mental health disorders are highly linked to the juvenile acts. The mental health disorders included anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, substance abuse, conduct disorder, post-traumatic stress, oppositional defiant and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder. The result indicates that majority of the youths who involve in juvenile delinquency had a mental illness. Numerous juvenile delinquency cases were associated with depression, post-traumatic disorders, bipolar disorder, anxiety and attention-deficit and hyperactivity disorder. On the other hand, few juvenile delinquency cases were related to substance abuse, oppositional defiant and conduct disorder. This displays that there is a strong positive association between mental illness and juvenile delinquency. Therefore, anxiety, depression, bipolar, post traumatic stress and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders greatly influence juvenile delinquency.
The symptoms of bipolar disorder are considerable greater in youth as compared to the adults. The personalities of the youth are vulnerable to the peer pressure and more impulsive and not much responsible for making decisions (Grisso, 2008). There exist distinctions in brain development between the adult and juvenile that makes dealing with the symptoms very difficult and can partly clarify why the youths are committing personal crimes. This behavior can be decreased through early detection and the implementation of preventive measures.
The educational failure and attendant impulsivity relate to juvenile delinquent conducts. The biological susceptibility, for example, the attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder intersect with the ecological vicissitudes causing a diathesis which sensitizes the youth to carry out behaviors that are maladaptive (Heilbrun et al., 2005).
The young individuals are subject to trauma through the discreet acts, for instance, accidents and assaults nonetheless also a function of child abuse and poor practices of parenting. According to Ruchkin et al. (2002), post-traumatic stress is common amongst the adjudicated youth delinquents. Both anxiety and trauma can be specifically implicated in the juvenile delinquency through threat evaluation preference and hypervigilance that are linked to the conditions.
Dependency and substance abuse are regarded as behavioral disorders and are frequently connected to the criminal and delinquency acts. The youths have the possibility of experiencing mood, conduct, substance abuse and anxiety disorders that put them at risk for delinquent acts and troublesome conducts. The occurrence of emotional disorders happens due to the impairment of the ability of the child to function by depression and anxiety. The depression occurrence amongst the youth offenders is considerably greater in comparison to other young individuals within the society (Siegel and Welsh, 2014). The post-traumatic stress is prevalent amongst the youth offenders specifically the girl child. The disruptive behavior disorder is very common amongst the juveniles in the juvenile courts and approximated to range between thirty percent and fifty percent.
There is the need for continuity amongst the points of contact and placements in the mental health and criminal justice system. It can comprise agreements on information sharing and specialized aftercare planning. The community-centered treatment and diversion need to be utilized with all the juvenile delinquents, and other criminal offenders were possible to deter them from criminal activities. Nevertheless, it can be particularly essential with the mentally ill offender owing to the specifically undesirable impacts of prison and jail on the seriously mentally ill juvenile delinquents. There is the need for treatment that focuses on the criminogenic needs that have the ability to minimize the risk of imminent criminal conducts within the society. There is a necessity for further studies on the connection between juvenile delinquency and mental illness as few studies have been conducted in this area. The implementation of a validated, gender responsive and culturally competent mental health screening and apparatus for assessment is essential in curbing juvenile delinquency.
There is a strong positive association between mental illness and juvenile delinquency. It is evident from the study that numerous youths who were involved with the juvenile courts in Ohio and specifically the ones sentenced to the incarceration and detention facilities have a mental illness. There is the need to redefine the roles of education, mental health, juvenile justice system and the systems related to child protection to become a collaborative and systematic care unit that can effectively assist in the rehabilitation of the juvenile delinquents.
Grisso, T. (2008). Adolescent offenders with mental disorders. The future of children, 18(2), 143-164.
Heilbrun, K., Lee, R., & Cottle, C. C. (2005). Risk factors and intervention outcomes. Juvenile delinquency: Prevention, assessment, and intervention, 111-133.
Rice, K. E. (2013). Structural Functionalism. Integrated SocioPhychology, viewed, 17, 06-13.
Ruchkin, V. V., Schwab-Stone, M., Koposov, R., Vermeiren, R., & Steiner, H. (2002). Violence exposure, posttraumatic stress, and personality in juvenile delinquents. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 41(3), 322-329.
Siegel, L. J., & Welsh, B. C. (2014). Juvenile delinquency: Theory, practice, and law. Cengage Learning.