Chapter 5 Summary
Developmental Issues: Juvenile Offending
Children under the age of 12 may not be charged with an offense even if they commit
violent acts such as murder. Children‟s behaviour in this age category is governed by
the Child and Family Services Act.
Youth between the ages of 12 and 18 may be charged, but it is understood that this age
category have other developmental needs. Provisions for offenders of this age category
are outlined in the Youth Criminal Justice Act
History of Juvenile Justice in Canada
Diversion – is a decision not to prosecute a young offender, but rather have them
undergo an educational or community service program
Extrajudicial Measures – Community options and less serious alternatives than youth
Juvenile Delinquents Act
In 1908 Canada enacted the Juvenile Delinquents act.
Applied to persons between the ages of 7 and 16
Sanctions included fines, probation, mandatory attendance in an industrial school to
learn a trade and foster care
Criticism of the JDA included the informality of youth court, denial of rights and
representation, denial of appeal, open ended sentences, and the broad definition of
Parents encouraged to participate
Young Offenders Act
Applied to persons from 7 years old to 12 (and up to 18)
In order to be transferred to adult court you must be at least 14
YOA allows young offenders to be diverted and subjected to penalties such as an
absolute discharge, fines, compensation for loss or damaged property, restitution,
prohibition order, community service, probation or secure custody. Custody can be a
community residential facility, group home, childcare, or prison.
YOA was amended several times. Bill C-106 section 16 was introduced to combat the
problem of juveniles pleading guilty to avoid transfer to adult court. Bill C-37 changed
section 16 again to say that 16 and 17 year olds could be tried in adult court if they were
charged with murder, manslaughter, or aggravated sexual assault
Youth Criminal Justice Act
Replaced the YOA in 2003
Objectives are to prevent youth crime, provide meaningful consequences and
encourage responsibility of behaviour as well as to improve rehabilitation and
reintegration of youth into community.
Adult sentence cannot be applied unless the crown informs the court that it will be
seeking an adult sentence
Expanded sentencing options include reprimand, intensive support and supervision
order, attendance order, deferred custody, supervision order, intensive rehabilitative
custody and supervision order
Victims are notified of court proceedings and are given the opportunity to participate
Youth Crime Rates
Legislation may not decrease the number of actual crimes committed by youth but
rather may affect the reporting and recording of crimes.
Custodial sentences are typically reserved for serious violent crimes
Most common sentence for juveniles is probation
Trajectories of Youth Offenders
Child onset juvenile offenders – behavioural problems start very early in childhood dating
back to daycare and preschool. Difficult to soothe as babies. Aggressive with other
children, physically hitting and throwing temper tantrums. This group may have other
challenges such as ADHD, learning disabilities and academic difficulties.
Adolescent-onset juvenile offenders – show behavioural problems in their teen years.
Engage in antisocial acts such as truancy, theft, vandalism. This group is broad as many
youth rebel against authority. Some from this group continue to engage in antisocial acts
Theories to Explain Juvenile Offending
Children who have an antisocial biological father are more likely to engage in antisocial
behaviour even when raised apart from the father.
Antisocial youth have slower heart rates than non-antisocial youth suggesting a higher
threshold for excitability and emotionality
Antisocial youth have less frontal lobe inhibition than youth who do not engage in
antisocial behaviour, thus impulsivity is increased.
Conduct disordered youth demonstrate cognitive deficits and distortions
Conduct disordered youth demonstrate limited problem solving skills, producing few
solutions to problems, often solutions that are aggressive in nature.
Reactive aggression is described as an emotionally aggressive response to a perceived
threat or frustration. These youth are likely to demonstrate deficiencies early in cognitive
process such as focusing on social cues and misattributing hostile intent to ambiguous
Proactive aggression is directed at achieving a goal or receiving positive reinforcers.
These youth are likely to have deficiencies in generating alternate responses and often
choose an aggressive response.
Bandura‟s Social learning theory says children learn through observation of others
Children who have witnessed parents, siblings or grandparents acting aggressively are
likely to engage in similar behaviour
Patterson‟s coercive family process model says that aggressive behaviour among youth
develops from imitation of parents and reinforcement, as well as inadequate parental
supervision and inconsistent discipline.
Both females and males who witness parental violence are more likely to be aggressive
with their romantic partners
Watching violent televison, movies and video games in which actors are rewarded for
aggression also increases children‟s likelihood of acting aggressively
Risk Factors for Juvenile Offending
Risk factor refers to a variable that, if present, poses an increased likelihood of an
undesirable outcome such as delinquency or antisocial behaviour.
Individual risk factors include complications as a fetus leading to behavioural problems in
childhood and potential offending as a juvenile, mothers use of drugs, alcohol and
smoking during pregnancy, hyperactivity, attention problems, impulsivity, risk taking,
substance use, low verbal intelligence and delayed language development. Strongest
individual predictor of offending is the presence of aggressive behaviour before the age
Familial risk factors include poor parental supervision, low parental involvement, parental
conflict, parental aggression, child abuse, neglect and maltreatment, low
socioeconomic status, large family size, parental mental health problems. Children who
do not attach securely to their parents, parental loss and divorce are risk factors for later
School Risk Factors include poor academic performance, low commitment to school,
low educational asperations and truancy
Peer risk factors – A consistent relationship exists between associating with delinquent
peers and engaging in delinquent behaviour. Gang membership is more predictive of
antisocial behaviour than associating with delinquent peers. Peer influence may
compound when parents are uninvolved with their children. Juveniles who are socially
isolated or withdrawn are at an increased risk for delinquency.
Community risk facors are things such as living in a low income neighbourhood.
Neighbourhoods are often subject to more violence, thus youth are given more
opportunities to be influenced by witnessing said violence
Protective factors are variables or factors that, if present, decrease the likelihood of a
negative outcome such as antisocial behaivour and juvenile offending or increase the
likelihood of a positive outcome
Children who are resilient are those with multiple risk factors but who can overcome
them and prevail. Resilience is described as the ability to overcome stress and adversity
Individual Protective Factors include intelligence and commitment to education,
exceptional social skills, child compentencies, confident perceptions, values, attitudes
and beliefs, intolerant attitude towards antisocial behaviour. Being a female and
perception that peers disapprove of antisocial behaviour have also been recognized as
protective factors. Sociability, positive temperament, ability to seek social support and
acting in a reflective (not impulsive) manner. All are protective factors.
Familial Factors include the child having a supportive relationship with an adult, high
levels of parental supervision, secure parent/child attachment
School Factors – commitment to school and achieving academically is a protective
factor for children at risk for juvenile offending.
Peer Factors – associating with prosocial children protects against antisocial behaviour
Community factors – opportunities for organized activities within a community as well as
social cohesion is associated with lower levels of violence.
Gender Similarities and Differences in Risk and Protection