Juvenile Delinquent


Dr. (Mrs.) Ijarogbe. T.G. - Consultant Psychiatrist


Stubborn, wicked, callous, disobedient, thief, unruly, disrespectful, cunning, disorderly, cruel, extravagant, destructive, temperamental, troublesome, inconsiderate, selfish, lawless, obstinate, cheats, vandal, promiscuous are a few of the terms used to describe the delinquent child. Most of these children are boys rather than girls and abnormal trends of manipulative behaviors would have been noticed in these children as early as 3-4 years of age and could become distinctly obvious by about 8 years of age.


Initially, most of the disturbances from such a child are within the family circle towards parents, siblings, etc but as the child grows older and attains schooling and goes out of the home he begins to offends other individuals outside the family setting his/her peers, teachers and authority figures, in worship centres, neighbors and sometimes even law enforcement officers. This pattern of disturbing behaviors is usually persistent and parents tend to get varied complaints from all the aforementioned people outside his home.


Incidentally, though all the authority figures both within and outside the home should help to modify and configure the child’s character, unlike other children, these authority figures would have noted that the delinquent child has a been particularly evasive and uninhibited by “correction”.


Rather he is un-daunting or unflinching pattern of behavior that is resistive to correction.


Possible causes of juvenile delinquency

  • Parental reinforcement of bad behaviors
  • Inadequate parenting skills
  • Lack of authoritative instructions to the child
  • Family disruption like divorce, parental separation etc.
  • Lack of time by authority figures for adequate child supervision
  • Bad peer pressure and influence
  • Criminal behaviors by older family members
  • Child role models e.g. parents or caregivers have bad character.
  • Economic setback or poor living conditions in family
  • Environmental influences, like living in slums, where most of the child’s peer group are touts
  • Sending child on criminal errands
  • Childhood losses like death of a parent, sibling or a strong attachment figure to child
  • Childhood diseases especially the immunizable diseases, brain infections, major illnesses or surgery in childhood
  • Birth problems or complications when child was born or illness in the mother when pregnant with child
  • Mental illness of any type.

How do you recognize the delinquent child at home

  • Child usually disobeys household rules
  • Child could be very wicked and destructive for no reasonable reason.
  • Child is never remorseful for any misdeeds
  • Child blames other people for his own misdeed and always refuses to act responsibly
  • He is constantly at war with the school or any other authority figure that has to do with him and lacks minimum respect for these constituted authority figures
  • He is always  cunning and manipulative to ensure gain on his side also steals.
  • He has careless disregard for the consequences of his bad behaviors
  • He engages in behaviors forbidden for children who are his own age
  • Child lies and cheats others with ease and finds nothing wrong in it
  • He uses hard drugs and other substances
  • He keeps the company of other children/adults who are known of bad influence
  • Child has a preference for criminal company
  • Child has an increasing tendency to resist correction or any punitive measure after erring
  • Child engages in criminal behaviors like murder, arson, fire or other acts for which an adult could have been jailed.


How do you cope with the delinquent child.

This is very difficult and challenging for the family involved. An approach of systematic management of child’s behaviors may be professional psychiatric services who would be able to diagnose the child and treat any other treatable condition in the child. It is very dangerous to take it for granted that child will eventually grow out of it.

Management will have to address the social, interpersonal, educational, legal, ethical and family problems in a multi-modal fashion . professional intervention will be in form of drug treatment, family enlightenment, training, education, care and control as well as correction of bodily problems. Integrative planning by all stakeholders is crucial if any success is to be achieved.


Possible prevention may still best cure

  • Recognize the delinquent child early enough
  • Seek for professional help early enough
  • Reinforce moral and spiritual values within the home setting early in life
  • Monitor the child’s activity closely and do not hesitate to challenge any inconsistent or suspicious activity.
  • Be persistent in punitive measures towards any adverse behaviors in child. Do not shift the goal past.
  • Also, do not hesitate to reward any good behaviors noted in child
  • Encourage only good peer association. Discourage the child from associating with bad company.
  • Occupy child’s time with enough good and rewarding activities within and outside the home setting and ensure that schedules are adhered to.
  • Though difficult, make sure that child is in the society figures when he/she is away from home.
  • Talk and counsel child often, make him realize the consequences of his bad behaviors.
  • Child should be taught to respect other people in person, respect other views and control his urge for outburst/violence when his views are side-stepped.
  • Supervision is important. Do not just scold the child for doing wrong and walk away. Take time to explain why the action is wrong and why the punitive measure is deserved.


Remember that you are the child’s greatest role model. Be around the child long enough for him to role model you. The houseboy or girl could be the role model if you replaced your attention with theirs.

Emotional separation could be present if you are in the house but distant from the child. Plan activities that encourage active interaction between you and the child. this fosters trust and gives room for the child to learn.


Where the active intervention of your psychiatrist has been sought and recommended, do not fail to attend the clinic sessions personally with the child as a parent. It is important to adhere to all the instructions given at these sessions and to consistently give a feedback to the mental Health team.


“Change” does not come is a day, but management of the difficult child using several modalities over several months may produce the desired attitudinal and behavioral changes.

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