According to the description, Wanda is a 16 year old African American living in a disadvantaged community, probably a ghetto or a slum. She has five siblings and one parent. Chances are all the siblings have no idea who their father is and have been brought up by one parent all their lives. Wanda in this case the eldest child was caught by the authority fighting another girl also from an ethnic minority. This is typical of children being brought up in conditions that are not suitable and therefore they end up creating their own ideals out of life. School is therefore a non issue to these teenage delinquents despite the inherent benefits of having some education. Various social characteristics come up when we think of such teenagers. These characteristics therefore go into describing as to whether these girls will end up within the juvenile justice system or not.
It is well known that the behavior of children is determined by a number of factors as they grow up. These factors include the genetics of the child. This means that the genetics composition of the child could be a factor as to why a child is aggressive or violent amongst other vices. The genetics factor is inherited from the parents of the child. A child born from a family that has a history of violence may prove to be violent. But this is not absolute because genetics do vary as they are designed to eliminate the flaws in human beings or rather the weakness. This however doesn’t mean that children from such families will end up being violent. Chances are that the children may end up being examples in the society. Another factor that influences the behavior of a child is the environment from which he/she is brought up in. The environment where we bring up our children is extremely important. This is because the environment impacts a great deal into our children as they grow up; it is a form of a learning process where the children pick up certain skills and lessons subconsciously. The environment should therefore be positive so as to have a positive impact on our children (Gale & Morrison 2009).
The social factors that impact the lives of our children are perhaps the most important and the most lasting because they tend to over ride a number of the discussed above factors. Within this there are a number of issues that will be discussed at length. They include the family, education and religion, social class, gangs and drugs. These factors are important because they have great impact in a Childs life and despite all the other factors considered these social factors tend to last or rather form the basis of a Childs life. These factors can therefore determine the kind of life the child will have in the future not to mention building of the Childs character as they grow up. But I believe these social characteristics are greatly influenced by a number of issues including the participation of the parent or parents. This is so because bringing up a child takes a lot of courage and stamina; it involves setting examples that last a life time and maintaining discipline despite all the hardships that life throws at us. This paper will therefore focus on the social characteristics that influence a Childs life; in this case we have to put Wanda in mind because she is the focus of the paper, a teenage girl delinquent, living probably in the ghetto with five other siblings with a single parent. The characteristics that we will discuss in this article are therefore the same with those identified among juvenile offenders that have served time within the juvenile system (Krisberg 2005).
Family especially to a teenage is extremely important because, the teenage is at a stage where they need constant guidance and observation. If this lacks from within the family then they are likely to learn or seek attention in other ways that includes delinquency. It is therefore very important to keep a strong family bond especially with your children. This close contact shows that you care as a parent and therefore you matter in their lives. A closely knit family therefore offers a strong support base for children, such a home is a refuge from all the other disruptions and stresses in life. Therefore a lack of such a support is crucial and damaging in a Childs life. According to TYC (2007), the strength of a family is important in a Childs life. This is backed up by the research they conducted that portrayed this importance. A common finding was that children from broken homes tend to turn to delinquency as they grow up. By broken homes here we mean parents that are divorced and therefore constantly fighting and shifting blame. Secondly this may be parents who never married and lastly it may be parents who live together but never get along. According to the findings, over 30% of juvenile delinquencies in the USA come from families where parents never married. In these families there is a lack of family support and the children probably never knew one parent (Tanner 2007).
Education is an important aspect in Childs life as it impacts certain values that shape the Childs life. Without such an impact then the Childs life becomes empty. In the USA research has shown that the number of school dropout among the ethnic communities is relatively higher. This can be compounded to a number of factors. To begin with, the ethnic communities are some what disadvantaged because they lack certain public amenities like schools. But on the other hand the same ethnic communities especially in the ghettos tend to neglect their children because of poor family back ground and a general lack of keen up bringing. The children therefore tend to fall off as they grow up. The lack of solid education therefore puts the child at a disadvantage and sooner or later they turn to delinquencies so as to feel good about themselves. According to the Texas Education Agency, in 2005 the over all dropouts rates among African American and Hispanic students was at 1.2% and 1.4% respectively. On the other hand most of the child delinquencies cases came from the same communities all within the same year. This therefore establishes a relationship between school dropout rates and delinquency (Tanner 2007).
Social class is the other social factor to consider. Research has established that juvenile delinquency and social class are related along certain levels. If we consider the types of delinquencies that occur in American then we can come up with a scale from mild to very strong. Social class comes in this way. Children from well to do families or class tend to get involved in mild incidences that tend to fade over time as they grow up but this is not absolute. As the social class drops i.e. we go down wards to families that struggle financially we discover that the cases of delinquency also get stronger i.e. the teenagers get involved in street crimes among others. This eventually leads them to the Juvenile Justice system (Krisberg 2005).
Finally we have Gangs and drugs. I have categorized the two together because they tend to happen together; a child will join a gang and consequently get involved with drugs. Gangs are often associated with delinquent behavior because it involves victimization of certain individuals because of a number of reasons. Drugs and drugs abuse in the same thought is a delinquent behavior and in general can lead to other delinquent behavior because it creates dependency. According to Tanner (2007) the relationship between the two is established because of the fact that some delinquents join groups and gangs so that they can access the drugs more easily. Among the most abuse drugs include alcohol and marijuana. This characteristic is the same among many of the delinquents who end up in the justice system because to begin with gangs and drug abuse is illegal in the USA. Secondly gangs lead to victimization and people end getting hurt or worse still children end up abuse or worse still dead. This is because gangs are associated with violence and in this stage in a Childs life the effects of being in a gang or being attacked by a gang can be quite damaging both physically and psychologically (Tanner 2007, Gale and Morrison 2009, Krisberg 2005).
Wanda was our focus in this article. She at 16 is therefore at a crucial stage in her life and aspects such as family are clearly lacking considering that she is the eldest and has five other siblings. Her character shows neglect on the side of family because she was caught fighting with another girl. The fact that she was fighting indicates that she might be in a gang and if it is true then chances are that she might be abusing drugs i.e. alcohol. All this therefore indicate that she might soon be involved in the Juvenile Justice System unless she changes her attitude but hat is highly unlikely because she lacks a stable family support system which is very crucial if any change is to occur. Family in this case comes in to reassure her value as a human being and if that lacks then she will seek attention from her gang probably and eventually she will end up in a juvenile prison for lack of a better word.
In conclusion, Juvenile delinquency is common problems in the USA with over 110,000 juvenile cases having passed the Juvenile Justice System in 2002 alone (TYC). This can be attributed mainly to the collapse of the family values in the USA and the world in general; this can be seen by the number of divorces occurring every year in the USA alone. This means that the children of these divorcees could turn to delinquency further aggravating the problem social characteristics that are common among juvenile delinquents include a lack of a strong family back ground. This therefore means that the juvenile delinquent will seek attention else where so as to feel important about themselves. Consequently this may lead to them joining a gang and eventually abusing all sots of drugs so as to be included in the gang and to alleviate the pain they feel within. Secondly children who have been abused within the family setting tend to turn to delinquent acts such as violence if they are constantly beaten at home. This in turn can be seem as a mirror effect because they simply portray what they see at home else where. Education is the other characteristic displayed among juvenile delinquents or rather the lack of education either because they have served a great amount of time within the system or because they dropped out due to a number of reasons including social class. Such children tend to drop out of school because within school they have to follow a certain order and them being rebels feel that they must violate that order so as to either seek attention or to rebel against the set rules of that establishment. All in all the juvenile system is there to ensure such cases are taken care off in a humane and approved manner so that to initiate rehabilitation of such children into better human beings.