NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Child Abuse And Neglect

July 31, 1996

Some toughminded criminologists question whether juvenile offenders should be locked up with hardened criminal adults. They argue that such an approach would not solve the problem of rising juvenile crime and would be a step in the wrong direction.

But they do not deny that there is a vast and growing teen-criminal problem.

  • Of the 2.7 million juveniles arrested in 1994, more than one-third were under 15 years old.
  • Juvenile offenders were responsible for 14 percent of all violent crimes and one-quarter of all property crimes.
  • Black males 14 to 24 years old made up only 8 percent of the population in 1992, but they were 17 percent of the homicide victims that year and 30 percent of the offenders.
  • While five juveniles were murdered per day in 1980, the rate was seven per day by 1994 -- most of whom were 15 to 17 years old.

Experts predict that the number of juveniles arrested for murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault will more than double by 2010.

The key is to identify at-risk children before they enter criminal activities and become, in the words of one researcher, "youngsters who afterwards show us the blank, unremorseful stare of a feral, presocial being."

  • The evidence shows that anti-social and delinquent tendencies emerge early in the lives of neglected, abused and unloved youngsters -- often by age nine.
  • They are less likely to commit violent crimes if they have responsible adults in their lives -- parents, teachers, coaches or the clergy -- to protect and guide them.
  • A study by the National Institute of Justice found that a child who suffers from abuse and neglect is 40 percent more likely to become delinquent.
  • About half of those in juvenile jails have at least one family member who was incarcerated.

The organization Public/Private Ventures, which studies and develops programs for youth, showed in a recent study that at-risk, low-income children who meet with a Big Brother or Big Sister three times a month for four hours each time were 46 percent less likely than their peers to start using illegal drugs and one-third less likely to assault someone.

Source: John J. DiIulio, Jr., "Stop Crime Where It Starts," New York Times, July 31, 1996.


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