chapter  26
17 Pages

Delinquency

ByPETER WILSON

Delinquency is a term that has different meanings and usages. Most commonly, a juvenile delinquent is de®ned as someone who has transgressed the law: `a young person who has been prosecuted and found guilty of an offence that would be classi®ed as a crime if committed by an adult' (Graham 1991). This de®nition has the virtue of precision. Its limitation, however, is that it does not take into account the full extent of behaviour or attitude. In psychodynamic terms, delinquency carries a much broader meaning: it relates to a more fundamental concern about responsibility and honesty, both in relation to oneself and to others. The essence of delinquency lies in its failure of duty to meet both the legal and moral requirements of the prevailing social order. The word itself draws its source from the Latin linquere ± to leave, forsake or abandon. The delinquent is unable or unwilling to do that which is owed to the group, community or society. Delinquency is thus not an activity con®ned to a criminal minority, but refers to a tendency that is integral to the development of all social relationships.