Theories of Delinquency and Juvenile Offending

Posted on: 10th May 2023


I need a 2 page summary of theories of delinquency and juvenile offending. For example, Rational Choice Theory, Psychological Theories, Personality and Trait, Cognitive, Learning, Sociological, etc., and how these theories can apply to juvenile offending. I need a title page and reference page with the 2-page paper.

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Theories of Delinquency and Juvenile Offending

Theories of delinquency and juvenile offending have been an integral part of the development of criminology. Many different theories consider factors such as; personality characteristics, social learning, strain, differential association, subcultural and control. Theories of delinquency are based on the belief that crime is learned behavior and that certain environments and experiences produce different types of criminals (Baglivio, Wolff, DeLisi, and Jackowski, 2020). This essay will examine the theories of delinquency and juvenile offending concerning their relevance to juvenile offending.

The Social Learning Theory

Individuals acquire antisocial conduct from others through observation and imitation, according to social learning theory. To put it another way, delinquent actions are learnt rather than being a natural element of being a criminal. A central tenet of social learning theory is the "Broken Windows" effect; the notion that if a neighborhood looks run-down and unkempt, with broken windows and graffiti prominently displayed on buildings, then people in that neighborhood will be more likely to engage in delinquent acts than would otherwise be the case (Baglivio, Wolff, DeLisi, and Jackowski, 2020). The reasoning behind this is that such vandalism indicates that "no one cares." This theory suggests that such disrepair will lead to further antisocial acts if left unchecked.

Rational Choice Theory

Rational choice theory suggests that delinquency is determined by rational and conscious behavior. This theory suggests that crime results from a rational decision to commit the act because it is an efficient way to achieve a goal. For example, if a child believes that he or she will receive benefits from delinquent behavior, then he or she will engage in such behavior (Hoffmann and Dufur, 2018). A benefit could be gaining money or goods due to stealing or participating in illegal drug sales.

Psychological Theories

Psychological theories of delinquency have been a major force in criminology for the past thirty years. These theories hold that delinquency is a learned behavior, and therefore, it is possible to either prevent it or treat it. These theories refer to how offenders develop delinquent behavior due to psychological disorders such as substance abuse, mental retardation, juvenile delinquents and personality disorders (Hoffmann and Dufur, 2018). For example, environmental factors could influence a child's mental state, increasing his or her likelihood of committing a delinquent act.

Personality and Trait Theory

The personality trait theory suggests that certain personality traits present in offenders increase the likelihood of offending. For example, low self-control and an inability to delay gratification may lead them to commit a crime to obtain instant rewards when they otherwise would not be able to do so (Buchanan, Castro, Kushner, and Krohn, 2020). Personality trait theory also suggests that there are three types of child offenders:

1) the frequently offending child who commits many delinquent acts;

2) the moderately frequent offending child who commits a smaller number of delinquent acts; and

3) the infrequent offending child who commits only occasional delinquent acts

Cognitive theory

This theory focuses on how offenders form attitudes about crime and how those attitudes determine their decisions to engage in criminal behavior. The basic premise of cognitive theory is that when an individual makes a behavior to an object or event and produces a consequence, they come to know this relationship between their behavior and its consequences. The cognitive theory has effectively explained several criminological phenomena (Baglivio, Wolff, DeLisi, and Jackowski, 2020).  Firstly, it can explain criminal behavior. It has been used to explain how individuals develop antisocial traits and then engage in criminal acts that lead to imprisonment or death.

Conclusively, this paper has discussed the delinquency and juvenile theories of offending, which include: Rational Choice Theory, Psychological Theories, Personality and Trait, Cognitive, Learning, and Sociological. Delinquency has become a major problem in many societies. Despite several research and prevention efforts, delinquency rates remain high. This is particularly true for juvenile delinquency, a pressing social issue because of the long-term negative consequences of criminal activities that often begin during childhood and adolescence.



Baglivio, M. T., Wolff, K. T., DeLisi, M., & Jackowski, K. (2020). Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and psychopathic features affect juvenile offending criminal careers to age 18. Youth violence and juvenile justice, 18(4), 337-364.

Buchanan, M., Castro, E. D., Kushner, M., & Krohn, M. D. (2020). It’s F** ing Chaos: COVID-19’s impact on juvenile delinquency and juvenile justice. American journal of criminal justice, 45(4), 578-600.

Hoffmann, J. P., & Dufur, M. J. (2018). Family social capital, family social bonds, and juvenile delinquency. American Behavioral Scientist, 62(11), 1525-1544.

Peter Seiyanoi

Peter Seiyanoi

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