chapter  2
50 Pages

Explaining youth offending

Individual, socio-structural and systemic causes
ByStephen Case

This chapter explores the socio-historical construction of 'youth offending' and its predecessor 'juvenile delinquency'. It introduces 'individual' explanations of youth offending, starting with a discussion of the earliest explanatory theories in criminology which emerged from classicism. It is a school of criminological thought asserting that individuals offend due to their rational choice, free will and desire to maximise the benefits/rewards of crime and to minimise the costs. The chapter examines the integrated forms of positivist theory that came to prominence from the 1970s to challenge the reductionism and determinism of traditional positivism. Theoretical explanations of youth offending have been generated by academics, intellectuals, politicians and the media ever since juvenile delinquency was first marked out as a distinct category of behaviour. Classical theorists argued that children and young people have the same capacity for free will, rational thought and considered decision-making as do adults.