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Government policy on juvenile delinquency must often struggle with the appropriate balance of concern over the healthy development of children and adolescents who violate the law and a public desire to punish criminals.This tension between rehabilitation and punishment when dealing with children and adolescents who commit crimes results in an ambivalent orientation toward young offenders.
In recent years, this concern has grown with the dramatic rise in juvenile violence that began in the mid-1980s and peaked in the early 1990s.
Although juvenile crime rates appear to have fallen since the mid-1990s, this decrease has not alleviated the concern.
When experiencing negative emotions, such as anger, jealousy, sadness, people tend to focus on the near term and lose sight of the big picture.
This is particularly relevant for adolescents, who have been found to experience wider and more rapid mood swings than adults (Larson et al., 1980; Larson and Lampman-Petraitis, 1989; Larson and Richards, 1994).
In practice, children younger than age 10 are rarely involved in the juvenile justice system.
Arrests of those younger than 10 years old account for less than 2 percent of all juvenile arrests.
To best answer the questions of how to deal with young offenders requires knowledge of factors in the individual, family, social settings, and community that influence the development of delinquent behavior; of the types of offenses committed by young people; and of the types of interventions that can most efficiently and effectively prevent offending in the first place or prevent its recurrence.
This study reviews literature in all of these areas to provide an objective view of juvenile crime and the juvenile justice system in the United States.
The main response to the most recent spike in violent juvenile crime has been enactment of laws that further blur distinctions between juvenile courts and adult courts.
States continued to toughen their juvenile crime laws in recent years, making sentencing more punitive, expanding allowable transfers to criminal (adult) court, or doing away with some of the confidentiality safeguards of juvenile court.