At one time or another most children and adolescents act out or do things that are destructive or troublesome for themselves or others. Only if this persists or continues to occur often is diagnosed by psychiatrists as conduct disorder. This disorder is found to be much more common in boys than in girls. As many as 50 percent of parents of 4- to 6-year-old children report that their children has expressed some form of this behavior, but most of these children show a decrease in antisocial behavior in the next couple years. Those that do not, in whom this behavior still persists, may be referred for psychological help. It is estimated that 5 percent of children show serious conduct problems, being described as impulsive, overactive, and aggressive and engaging in delinquent actions. Some possible explanations as to this behavior are genetic inheritance of a difficult temperament, ineffective parenting, and living in a neighborhood where violence is the norm. There is a lack of consensus on what actually works, despite the considerable efforts made to help children with conduct disorders.

A closely linked behavior is juvenile delinquency. This term refers to actions taken by an adolescent in breaking the law or engaging in illegal behavior. This is a very broad concept that ranges from legal infractions to littering to murder. According to U.S. government statistics, eight of ten cases of juvenile delinquency involve males. However, in the last two decades there has been a greater increase in female delinquency than in male delinquency. This behavior has been proven to vary in different cultures. Delinquency rates among minority groups and lower-socioeconomic-status-youth are especially high in proportion to the overall population of these groups. However, such groups have less influence over the judicial decision-making process in the United States and, therefore, may be judged delinquent more readily than their white, middle-socioeconomic-status counterparts. Many proposed causes of delinquency include heredity, identity problems, community influences, and family experiences. Although delinquency is less exclusively a phenomenon of lower socioeconomic status than it was in the past, some characteristics of lower-class culture might promote delinquency. It is a complex task but psychologists have found a way to predict whether a youth will turn violent or not. Researchers have pieced together some clues and found that violent youth are overwhelmingly male, and many are driven by feelings of powerlessness. A sense of power seems to enthuse youth the most in terms of violence.

AF Sitemap