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Are Young Persons Predisposed to more Offending Behaviour than Adults owing to their Rebellious Nature? Essay Example

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Are Young Persons Predisposed to more Offending Behaviour than Adults owing to their Rebellious Nature?

1.0 Introduction

Burfeind & Bartusch (2011, p.77) notes that age is a critical predictor of crime rate. They observe that young people are more likely to engage in crime as compared to adults. Nevertheless, they equally offer a caveat that this proposition is applicable to mischievous forms of offending since opportunities to engage in offences such as fraud and embezzlement of finances increases with age. The question that emerges out of this argument is why young people are more likely to commit a crime as compared to adults. This is best answered through nexus between rebellious tendencies that predispose them to offending behaviour.

The principal focus of this paper is to refute or affirm this claim. To affirm this proposition, the paper examined the link between brain maturity and culpability, responsible roles assumed by adults as deterrence, increase of legal cost with increase of age, change of structure of opportunities to engage in crime and role of party culture enticing young people to criminal behaviour. On the other hand, to refute this perspective, the paper relies on public visibility and group behaviour where the act of young people is likely to attract the attention of police and thus recording higher rates as compared to adults. Based on the various viewpoints offered, the paper affirms that, indeed, young persons are predisposed to more offending behaviour than the adults as result of rebellious nature.

2.0 Definition of Terms

Before engaging in the main discourse, it is imperative to outline the key terms in the thesis statement that the paper will be constantly referring to.

2.1 Young People v. Adults

For the purpose of this paper and as per the perimeters set out in Australia, young people are conceptualised those falling within the juvenile age bracket which is 10-17 in all jurisdiction in Australia apart from Queensland that has pegged hers to a minimum of 10 and maximum of 16. The choice of 10 years is premised on the rationale that below this age one cannot be legally liable for his or her actions (Richards, 2011, p.1). Additionally, those in the bracket of late adolescent which at maximum is pegged on 19 years are considered as young people (Richards, 2011, p.2). Thus, those above 19 of age are treated as adults.

2.2 Predisposed to Offending Behaviour

Being predisposed is best understood from the framework of vulnerability owing to economic, political, environmental and psychosocial factors (Turner, 2006, p.26).Hulme et al (2001) notes that being predisposed is anchored on the fact that one is vulnerable and has inability to cope. In this regard, the inability to cope is related to the decision not to desist from crime as result of the economic, environmental and psychosocial issues that one might be facing. For instance, peer pressure, economic deprivation or use of drugs which is common among youths can predispose them to criminal activities (Burfeind & Bartusch, 2011, p.77).

The paper conceptualises offending behaviour from the perspective of deviance and crime. An offending behaviour can be deviance from social norms/ non conformity to social norms or engagement in criminal activities. Therefore, it is prudent to define what these two concepts entail. Henry and Lanier (2001, p.217) indicates that deviances pertain actions that flouts laws of a country or organisation or an action that violates social norms and has a wide spread disapproval from majority of the population. A deviant behaviour can be criminal in nature, non- criminal or both. On the other hand, Andersen and Taylor (2011) observe that crime is any action that contravenes formal rules/ laws of a country or local authority (p.175).

The basis of this interrogation would be on criminal activities as offending behaviour. Hence, in this regard, the paper conceptualises being predisposed to offending behaviour as being prone to or vulnerable to committing criminal offences as result of various disadvantageous conditions that drives young people or make it easier for them to engage or find themselves in criminal acts.

2.3 Rebellious Nature

The rebellious nature of youth is anchored on deviance or non-conformity behaviour. These occurrences are usually supported under the context of risk taking. According to Steinberg (2008, p.78), risk-taking behaviour increases between childhood and adolescence and these constitutes the bracket of young people. This increased risk taking behaviour is as result of changes in brain’s socio-emotional system during the time of puberty which drives them to engage in reward seeking particularly in the presence of peers. The epicentre of all these changes is the remodelling of the brain’s dopaminergic system.

The above makes young people engage in reckless and risky behaviours such as crime as compared to adults who have higher capacity of self-regulation because of well developed/ advanced cognitive control system and thus avoids rebellious behaviours like drugs and peer influence that predisposes one to crime (Adamson, 2003, p.5). Core to risk-taking and thus rebellious nature is the sensation-seeking. One grapples with sensation-seeking process so as to attain thrill & adventure, experience at first hand, disinhibition and as result of being susceptible to boredom (Popham, Kennison, & Bradley, 2011, p.186).

3.0 Perspectives and Viewpoints

The first point for substantiating this contention would be to look at the statistics in relation to criminal activities committed by young individuals and those committed by the adults. According to Richards (2011, p.1), “it is widely accepted that crime is committed disproportionately by young people. Persons aged 15 to 19 years are more likely to be processed by police for the commission of a crime than are members of any other population group”. For instance in Australian context, he note that in 2007/ 08 those aged 15-19 had offending rate that was four times higher than those aged above 19. In exact figures, those aged 15-19 accounted for 6,387 per 100, 000 population as compared to those aged over 19 who accounted for 1, 818 per 100, 000 people. The figures equally state that crime rate is lowest among those aged 25 and above. His actual observation is that the trend actually peaks at the later stage of adolescence which is 18-19 years (p.2).

Figure 1 below equally highlights this line of thinking whereby in the curve, most crimes are committed by those aged 18-19. According to Farrington (1986 cited in Weatherburn, 2001, p.3), “The prevalence of involvement in crime typically rises from late adolescence, reaches a peak in the late teenage years and then begins to decline.”

Figure 1: an example of an age-crime curve

Are Young Persons Predisposed to more Offending Behaviour than Adults owing to their Rebellious Nature?

Source: Ferrington 1986 cited in Richards 2011, p.2

3.1 Supporting Viewpoints

One reason that has been fronted of how rebellious tendencies predispose young people to commit crime as compared to adults is based on the fact that risk taking increases between childhood and adolescence as result of remodelling of the brain (prefrontal cortex) in regard to socio-emotional system where they seek to engage in reward-seeking activities in the presence of their peers. As such they are vulnerable to committing risky and reckless behaviour such criminal activities. This is the total contrast in the stage between adolescence and adulthood because changes in the ‘brain’s cognitive control system’ enhances ‘individual’s capacity for self-regulation’ (Steinberg, 2008, p.78).

Steiberg (2005, p.69-70 cited in Richards, 2011, p.4) opines that “changes in arousal and motivation brought on by pubertal maturation precede the development of regulatory competence in a manner that creates a disjunction between the adolescent’s affective experience and his or her ability to regulate arousal and motivation.” It is the absence of self regulation or the existence of such gap that will make that individual to rebellious behaviour not because of his or her wanting and thus, finds himself in criminal activities as result of peer influence, gang thinking/ group mentality and engagement in risky behaviours such as consumption of illicit drugs (Weatherburn, 2001, p.4). the same is corroborated by Great Britain Parliament, House of Commons, Justice Committee (2011) who observes that brain development proceeds up to adulthood and thus, it implies that young individuals faces myriad of challenges in managing their behaviour making it difficult for them to plan for the future and prone to risky behaviours because of their immaturity (p.28).

Of concern is how this immaturity can be exploited by the peer group so as to influence a young individual to engage in criminal activity. Such trend or tendencies can be contextualised through attachment theory. Hardy and Prior (2000, p.54) observes that at adolescent stage children navigates away their attachment from parents to other care givers such as peer groups. Such transition can leave an individual feeling lonely and hence resolve to share interest, support, understanding and contributions to peer groups so as to gain sense of security. It is this vacuum that makes one vulnerable to engaging in criminal activities.

In contrast, this is the exact opposite that the adults experience. Owing to their brain maturity, they are not into rebellious behaviours as compared to young people because at this stage, the society as bequeathed various responsibility upon them such as employment, college and family that if they are found culpable to criminal activities the punishment in terms of losses are higher as compared to the reward. Thus, they have higher affinity to conform to expectations than participate in risky engagements that are negative in nature (Burfeind & Bartusch, 2011, p.77).

Closely related to the above is the structure to engage in rebellious behaviours that lead to criminal activities. The commitments and time that accompanies adulthood does not allow him to engage in mischievous criminal activities which are the most common as compared to young people who have all the time to conduct these activities. Moreover, the young people have that extra physical energy to commit crimes. Moreover, the peer structure of young people encourages activities such as ‘party culture’ which often reinforces or tolerates acts such as criminal activities as they are seen as heroic deeds and thus, they likely to engage in criminal activities as compared to adults (Burfeind & Bartusch, 2011, p.77).

If taken from the perspective of reward and punishment, juveniles are normally handled in children’s court while cases involving adults are handled in high court. The children’s courts are fairly lenient as compared to the adult’s court which seeks maximum punishment as deterrence (Richards, 2011, p.3). It is in this regard that Burfeind & Bartusch (2011, p.77) notes that the legal cost of engaging in crime increases with age and thus adults would desist from such acts. Therefore, young adults have to an extent a room to engage in rebellious acts which leads to crime as compared to adults and thus, the higher possibility.

On the other hand, other literatures have advanced and countered arguments that support the rationale that young people are like to engage in crime as compared to adults owing to their rebellious nature. Cunneen & White, 1995; Loeber & Farrington, 1998; Cunneen & White, 2007 cited in Tienda & Wilson (2002, p.142); Richards (2011, p.3) disputes these facts. Cunneen & White (2007 cited in Richards, 2011, p.3) notes that young people tend to register higher numbers in criminal activities as compared to adults because “ they are less experienced at committing offences; commit offences in groups; commit offences in public areas; commit offences close to where they live; commit offences that are: attention-seeking, public and gregarious; episodic, unplanned and opportunistic.”

The key to this counter position is how young people utilise public spaces such shopping centres. Most young people like hanging out in groups and it is in these groups where crime are committed. The argument is public grouping makes these young people more visible as compared to adults. For instance, crimes like homicide are rare among young people as compared to adults (Tienda & Wilson, 2002, p.142; Muncie & Goldson, 2006, p.98). Additionally, young people are known to mostly indulge in mischievous crimes as compared to adults (Richards, 2011, p.3).

The only factor that depicts them as being engaged in more criminal activities is that they are subjected to routine scrutiny (Tienda & Wilson, 2002, p.142; Muncie & Goldson, 2006, p.98). Moreover, the tendency to congregate in groups implies that one group or gang has higher chances of meeting the other and since these groups are diverse, this is where there interest are likely to clash leading to flare ups, assault and interruption of public order (Tienda & Wilson, 2002, p.143). Muncie & Goldson (2006, p.98) sums this by noting that “the very presence of young people, much less what they are actually doing can be perceived as unsettling and problematic.”

4.0 Conclusion

The aim of the essay was to interrogate and establish if it is true or false that young individuals are predisposed to more offending behaviour than adults as result of their rebellious behaviour. the paper supports this argument by noting that young people are still developing and thus are prone to risky behaviours like criminal activities as compared to adults who have reputation to protects, have responsibilities to attend and are subjected to harsher punishments and thus, avoid such trajectories. Nevertheless, there is validity in the claim that young people might not be as depicted with the only problem being their tendency to hang out in public spaces and groups.


Muncie, J. & Goldson, B. (2006). Comparative youth justice. London: Sage Publications.

Tienda, M. & Wilson, W. J. (2002). Youth in cities: a cross national perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Burfeind, J. W. & Bartusch, D. J. (2011). Juvenile delinquency: an integrated approach. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Andersen, M. L. and Taylor, H. F. (2011). Sociology: The Essentials, 6thedn. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

Henry, S. and Lainer, M. M. (2001). What is Crime? Controversies over the nature of crime and what to do about it. Lanham, Maryland: Rowan & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Turner, B. S. (2006). Vulnerability and human rights. Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press .

Hulme, D., Moore, K.. & Shepherd, A. (2001). Chronic poverty: meanings and analytical frameworks. CPRC Working Paper 2, Institute for Development Policy and Management,University of Manchester. Available at: www.chronicpoverty.org.

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Richards, K. (2011). What makes juvenile offenders different from adult offenders? (Vol. 7). Australian Institute of Criminology.

Hardy, C. and Prior, K. (2000). Attachment theory in Lesley Lougher (eds). Occupational therapy for child and adolescent mental health. Edinburgh: Churchil Livingstone.

Weatherburn, D. (2001). What causes crime?. Sydney: NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research.

Adamson, S. (2003). Diversionary Approaches to Reduction. Available at: http://extra.shu.ac.uk/ndc/downloads/reports/RR5.pdf.

Great Britain Parliament, House of Commons, Justice Committee (2011). Draft sentencing guideline: drugs and burglar- seventh report of session 2010-12.

Popham, L. E., Kennison, S. M., & Bradley, K. I. (2011). Ageism, sensation-seeking, and risk- taking behaviour in young adults. Current Psychology, 30(2): 184-193.