I paired up with Jasmin Poonia, a student Child and Youth Worker, to learn more about how the social and legal realm intersect for youth. I’d like to thank her for her taking the time to share her personal experiences with myself and help enlighten others about this important issue.
Jasmin Poonia is an ambitious student Child and Youth Worker who works on a one on one basis with marginalized youth that have been in conflict with the law. I asked Ms. Poonia to explain what she believes to be contributing factors to youths being in conflict with the law; she had some very insightful observations to share. She began by outlining what social scientists refer to as the “labelling theory”.
The labelling theory is based on the idea that youth embrace labels that are given to them and then attempt to fulfil the roles. For instance, after being labelled a “bad”, “troubled”, or “dangerous” the youth will embrace the label and behave in a manner to portray that image.
Do you believe that culture, race and ethnicity play a role in delinquency? If so, how?
Answer: I do find that youth belonging to certain cultures have unique challenges in forming an identity and feeling pressured to fit in. In my experience, I found that South Asian youth often find themselves confused due to a conflict in their traditional values and modern perceptions of what youth should be. For instance, I find that Muslim youth find it difficult to voice how they feel about the conflicts between their values and western culture. Some Muslim youth also struggle to form an identity outside of the extensive misrepresentation of their culture in the media.
I have also learned that some black youth find it difficult to form an identity outside of the media perceptions of rappers and hip-hop culture. They struggle to embrace a studious persona as they feel the pressure to be “powerful” and “strong” like black males portrayed in the media. Consequently, many black males feel isolated if they cannot live up to that image. Ms. Poonia went on to explain that many of the black male youths she works with feel targeted by authority figures including police officers and even security guards.
Why do young people become delinquents?
Answer: I find many youths participate in delinquent behaviour due to peer pressure or they observe the behaviour through older siblings. I find young males tend to become delinquent because they want to prove a point – that they’re powerful or cannot be controlled. Males tend to change their behaviour in peer groups and are far less aggressive when separated from their friends. Youth often absorb what they see around them- they observe how individuals around them obey the laws and if they feel remorse for their actions. If individuals around them show no remorse for breaking the law, youth will follow suit. A key component of delinquency is the parent youth relationship; if there is a lack of attachment between the youth and parent then it often results in delinquent behaviour as youth feel a disconnect.
What are some solutions to bridging the barrier between youth and authority?
Answer: It is vital to build a community of trust between youth and authoritative figures. Youth need to be informed of the legal consequences of their actions in a positive light before having to go through the justice system to learn. Since media plays such a large role in the lives of teenagers there should be media deconstruction classes offered in middle schools where students can learn about media distortion. This will allow youth to understand what they are being exposed to. Finally, we need to implement more therapeutic techniques to reach out to the youth such as having reformed “delinquent youths” reach out to the youth that are still in the cycle of delinquency. I believe this will help create a safe community of trust. A positive relationship can change the life of a delinquent child.
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Keep an eye out for Why Youths Should Not Be Tried as Adults Part 3