Association for Free Research and International Cooperation

Juvenile delinquency : a rising social problem in africa

Article from AFRIC Editorial
Problems relating to society, or people themselves within a society are considered as Social problems, and Juvenile delinquency stands out historically as one of, if not, the most prominent of the social problems and associated with the field of youths and deviant behaviours. In contemporary time, we find youths ranging below 18 years committing crimes that deserve punishment by law, but are treated otherwise than if they were adults, depending on the society and its laws.

Juvenile Delinquency can be understood as behaviour of a child or youth that is so marked by violation of law, persistent mischievousness, antisocial behaviour, disobedience, or intractability as to thwart correction by parents and to constitute a matter for action by the juvenile courts. But because young adolescents and teenagers have less comprehension of the consequences their actions can cause, they are punished differently by the juvenile court system. The punishment juveniles receive when convicted of committing a crime are designed to prevent them from committing another illegal act.

 The number of youths committing violent offences is rapidly increasing in the African society and opinions on the causes underlying this increase are divided, depending on the ideological perspective of the individual or the society in which he or she lives.   


Specific risk factors are associated with certain offenses. For example, a minor who lives below the poverty line and frequently faces food insecurity may be more likely to steal money or food in an effort to survive. A minor who struggles with substance addiction is more likely to be found in possession of an illicit drug than a minor without a substance problem. And a minor who is exposed to violence or difficult family issues is likely to act violently. Nevertheless, the aforementioned points are not guarantors for truancy because other adolescents live and are confronted with similar factors. Yet, they choose the part of reason.


Any type of crime committed by children of all ages is considered juvenile delinquency. And just like there are many recognized social factors that correlate with an adult’s likelihood to offend, there are equally many commonly recognized juvenile delinquency causes. One way to understand the causes of juvenile delinquency is to understand which kinds of crimes juveniles commit the most frequently. Common offenses committed by juveniles include: Low-level theft, such as shoplifting, assault, underage possession of alcohol, truancy, vandalism, Possession of illegal drugs, sexual offenses.  

Domestic violence, living in areas of poverty and high crime rates, peer pressure and influence, drug, social media and technology are some of the major causes of juvenile delinquency. This social problem affects both male and female youths, although the majority of offenders are young men. It equally affects youths in all areas, but occurs primarily in regions dominated by low income levels and where resources for supporting physical and emotional growth are limited.

Domestic violence: Family plays a huge part in the development of an adolescent, both positive and negative. Adolescents learn what is and is not acceptable by the surrounding environments, which is dominated by the family life. For example, if a father disrespects and hits a mother and children, then a son might consider this as acceptable and copy it later in his life. Coming from a broken home through abandonment or divorce can profoundly affect a teen’s perception of life. Sometimes in these situations, a teen can be neglected, punished too harshly or not regularly disciplined. Any of these conditions can cause juvenile delinquency as the teen has missed out on complete moral development and is more used to domestic violence.

Poverty: Statistics show that there is a correlation between poverty and juvenile delinquency, and this is due solely to socio-economic factors. Children who live in poverty are less likely to attend good schools or participate in community programs that encourage them to stay off the streets. Their parents are often uneducated and unable to guide them. Strained home environments fail to provide them with sufficient space in which to unwind.

Peer pressure and influence is a very powerful motivator in a teen’s life. Sometimes a boy or girl will commit a crime because their friends have pressured or dared them to do it. At other times, an adolescent may be jealous of a friend who has more and is motivated to steal so he or she can possess the same materialistic items. Drug use is becoming a widespread crime and concern among adolescents. Alcohol and drug abuse can lead to criminal behaviour as teens lose control or turn dangerous due to the effects these illegal substances have on mood, cognitive thought and personality.

Social media has, and is highly contributing to violent juvenile actions. As much as parents try to protect their children from negative news and non-appropriate media, it is almost impossible. Teens are exposed to everything through social media and computers. Since knowledge is carried around in the palm of their hands, adolescents often have an inflated sense of independence. While it is true they have easier and quicker access to information, they do not understand the true meaning of being independent or are not mature enough to handle it. Girls see women glamourize and commercialize on social media, while boys see men enjoying pleasures they cannot truly comprehend. This endangers both sexes to be either victims or the predators of sexual crimes.


Over the past two decades, concerns about school violence, weapons, drugs, and gangs have eclipsed concern and discussion about school vandalism, its causes, and possible responses. However, even as alarms about student and staff safety from violence have become school administrators’ top priority, vandalism continues to occur regularly and to affect a significant proportion of schools in Africa. The term school vandalism refers to wilful or malicious damage to school grounds and buildings or furnishings and equipment. Specific examples include glass breakage, graffiti, and general property destruction. But nowadays, one is tempted to say this particular social problem is stepping up to becoming campus murder. 

From the early 21 centuries, the incidence of murder, suicide, rape, assault with weapon, fighting and robbery at schools has been increasing. Over one-third of nations’ public schools have reported at least one incident of vandalism. And since 2019, the gravity of the acts keep increasing at an alarming rate, to the point one could tend the see the works of the devil. Countries like South Africa and Cameroon have recorded rampant cases with the proportion fluctuating between 15 and 29 since last year, according to the Youth Risk Behaviour Survey (YRBS). The phenomenon has become too rampant that teachers now live in fear. Almost fifty percent of Africa’s teachers now believe that schools are violent places and even suspect their students and colleagues of being armed. 

Teachers whose job has always been to impart information to learners have now become prey to the transformed predator students. Teachers report the difficulty they face to teach while thinking about defending themselves. What is more worrisome is the fact that as minors, these youths don’t face any serious hit-back from the law to dissuade others from following suit. In Cameroon for example, after consecutive perpetration of such acts by students (student stabbing teacher), a juvenile was given just 3 months jail term. This has fused teachers across the national territory who believe they are no more secure neither on campus nor out, as the students spend time planning revenge and are ready to push through with their plans wherever the opportunity shows up. 

The right of teachers is supposed to be restored. Strict and harder measures need to be taken on recalcitrant youths and students who do not even understand the gravity of their actions. Teenagers need to be taught and reminded the rules, limits, and expectations in their early age to live a healthy, productive life. Consequences and effects of child crime should be passed on to the young generation to have a morally right society.

This includes consistency in disciplining of the youths. Parents must be willing to put forth the effort to learn the skills necessary and appropriately apply these skills to produce a non-delinquent child. Most of the issues with youths today stem from a lack of structure, love, and support. These elements should be not only part of a behavioural management program but also the core of families across the world. A child growing unnoticed and without proper monitoring, might grow to be a problematic person in future, hence leading to juvenile delinquency. Information and detection of difficult performance early on are vital measures to be taken by parents, teachers and government authorities. 

Article from AFRIC Editorial

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