The Topic

The topic I have chosen for my research is juvenile delinquency.

Conceptual Framework for the topic selected:

The conceptual framework through which this topic will be studied involves an understanding of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Maslow divided human needs into a pyramid of multi-stores. At the base existed the basic needs which are urgent such as the need for food, water and shelter. At the top existed the upper needs of psychological well being such as self-realization and self-actualization. According to this theory of motivation, Maslow clamed that an individual was motivated in such a way that he would not seek the satisfaction of needs in an upper level until his needs in lower levels were fully satisfied. Hence, a person would not try to satisfy his social needs until he had satisfied his basic needs.

Maslow’s theory was criticized on two bases. First of all, many scientists argued that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs could not stand as a universal representation of needs, since there could be other ways of which dividing and classifying needs. Secondly, it was argued that individuals might try to satisfy higher needs while ignoring needs at lower levels that remained unsatisfied. Despite this, Maslow’s theory remains one of the basic theories in psychology and sociology through which we study and understand needs and motivation in human behavior.

The goal of this study was to determine some of the major causes pertaining to the development of delinquent behavior in juveniles. The methodology depended on interviewing seven delinquent subjects in detail, and each individually.

Literature Review

According to the US Department of Justice (1992), the fact that juvenile crimes are declining does not necessarily mean that society is better off today than it used to be a few years ago. Rather, it is the decreasing population of teenagers that has mostly contributed to this decline. Haghighi & Lopez (1998) reported that juvenile delinquents could be better adjusted if their prosocial behaviors were paid more attention before they were discharged from jail. They also reported that Group Home Treatment Programs in which the juvenile delinquent can go home on weekends have been effective in 63% of the cases in reforming the delinquent juveniles and in rehabilitating them into society. Juveniles were also found to turn delinquent particularly when they lacked a good example at home, that is, a parent who could provide the juvenile with guidance and support. It was also found that juveniles were more likely to become delinquent in homes inflicted with divorce or when the juvenile lived with a stepparent.

A study on juvenile delinquents in Lebanon, Daher found out that juvenile delinquents who were provided with psychological and social support during the period they spent in jail helped in speeding up the process of rehabilitation and reform. At the same time, however, the study pointed out that juvenile delinquents were more likely to become more alienated and to suffer from symptoms of withdrawal, aggressiveness and isolation in jail.

Another study by Fayyad (1998) found out that poverty and lack of understanding at home between the juvenile and parents were the two most important causes of delinquency. The study also reported that the majority of juvenile delinquents suffered from low self-esteem in addition to developing a feeling of shyness and shame as a result of their conviction, not to mention the fact that they spent time in jail.


Description of Subjects

The seven juveniles I encountered in this study are listed below. All names have been changed.

¾Mazen: a 16-year old male; father cab driver, mother housewife; third among three boys and two girls; resides in Borj Hammoud. Both parents illiterate; quit school at the age of eight. His father is a Shiite and the mother is Armenian. Serving six months in Roumieh on account of theft.

¾Ayman: 14 years old male, but tall and big. His father died during the war and he lives with his mother, stepfather, and two step-brothers. He is serving a one-year sentence for involving in theft with a robbery gang. He does not believe in God.

¾Wissam: 17 years old male. His father is an unemployed carpenter. His mother works in cleaning houses. He has one brother in Germany and three sisters; one of them is married. He already served short sentences twice for theft. He is from a Sunni family in Tripoli.

¾Rafi: 15 years old male. Armenian, both parents died long ago; lives with his poor grandmother in Zalqa; left school at the age of ten and works at a roastery. Serving eight months for robbery.

¾Ibrahim: 16 years old, male, Palestinian, father unemployed, mother divorced, lives in Ein Helwi Camp in Saida, five brothers and two sisters, Muslim Sunni. Serving a year for various thefts.

¾Imad: 16 years old, male, Muslim Shiite, homeless. Family resides in South Lebanon but he had left home a year ago. Serving two years for armed robbery.

Nadim: 17 years old, male, Catholic, from Ashrafiyyeh. Has two brothers and a sister. Father is heavy drinker and mother illiterate. About to complete sentence for stabbing a peer.


Discussion of Findings

All the juveniles were interviewed in Roumieh Prison for juvenile delinquents. The findings show a number of common factors among the boys. First of all, poverty and lack of income were the two main common problems related to be directly responsible for delinquency. Four of the seven boys reported that they did what they did under the influence of their peers, particularly when their peers were either spending lavishly in front of them, or when they were delinquents themselves. Only Ayman blamed the government and said that it ought to do something about them such as feeding their families and helping them get jobs.

Apparently, the boys have witnessed the major developments introduced in the services of the prison during the past twelve months. They are also engaged in a number of productive activities, particularly the carpenter program which is offered as a training program. Six of the boys said that they were getting along and that the prison was teaching them how to be self-confident to start a new life again. Ayman, however, reported that he could not wait until he got out because he did not like to be kept behind bars. I noticed that the boys showed positive reaction to jail, but this is probably because they received warnings from the warders.

Five of the boys said that they reflected deep remorse for what they have done. Nadim, however, said that he would not hesitate to stab anyone who would get near his sister, now or in the future. Although calm most of the time, he sounded violent and sensitive over that, but he reflected feeling guilty for having acted so fast. Imad said that it was like his foot


After leaving prison, Ayman said that he was going to get a job that would keep him away from home and his stepfather. The other boys also wanted to get jobs, except for Rafi who said that he wanted to return to school if he could. Imad did not know whether he was going to return home, but he would have to do so since the prison administration will make sure that his parents collect him at the end of his sentence.

About the way they expected to be received, the boys had different perspectives. Wissam ironically said that they will treat him as a hero. Ayman did not think that anyone would come at all to see him out. Imad said that he would try to stay at work all the time so that he does not see anyone or be seen by anyone. The others said that they were not sure.


Comparing Findings to Literature Review

It was not possible to compare any results related to Home Treatment programs because there were no such programs conducted in reforming and rehabilitating juvenile delinquents in Lebanon. However, the findings were consistent with the findings, particularly in relation to the fact that poverty, lack of parental guidance, negative peer effect and finally, weak family relations were among the major causes responsible for the stimulation of delinquent behaviors among juveniles.

Findings of both the literature review and the research put poverty as the major cause of delinquency, but this does not necessarily fit into Maslow’s theory of needs. Poverty had to be accompanied with other factors that helped stimulate delinquency such as the lack of parental guidance and weak family relations at home, such as the presence of a stepparent in the family. From the files, it was found that almost all the boys were involved in delinquent behaviors as part of a group activity. This means that peer group had a negative influence on the way the boy behaved in society.

I suggest that in the future more research is need on the subject of juvenile delinquency. We need to know whether it is possible to introduce new programs such as Home Treatment Programs where the juvenile is treated both in the reform institution and at home. The recent developments in the Roumieh Prison for delinquent juveniles should be acknowledged, but these remain from the needed and essential standards that are required in order to rehabilitate these adolescents.