Understanding Risks Factors Your Child May Be Displaying That Could Lead To Delinquency

By Dr. Susan Feneck


When we think of Juvenile Delinquency, the causes of juvenile delinquency and some of the help available to youth and their families, sometimes it can be so overwhelming that there may seem like there is no hope at all. Some youth are committing bad crimes in schools and in the community and need reform and restructuring to get the help, guidance and professional direction to get back into society successfully. However, then there are the youth who quite honestly are just in the wrong place at the wrong time and wind up in what seems a lifetime struggle to get themselves out of the system. It is imperative for parents to understand some of the warning signs that could indicate your child is headed in the wrong direction.

Have you noticed any warning signs that your child may be displaying depicting he/she may be different than what you normally observe?

Things to look out for may be:

  • Changes in grades
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Change in appetite (weight loss/weight gain)
  • New piercings/tattoos that might be out of character
  • Drastic hair coloring or hair cuts
  • Disconnected from family/pets
  • Changes with friends

Do you know all of the social media sites your child is on? Do you know who they are communicating with on a daily basis? Do you know if your child is in a gang? Some youth would rather join a gang than stay at home with an abusive or neglectful family, yes even those of you who think working 80+ hours a week is providing when it can be provoking…even a gang seems more inviting than absent parents or parental figures. A gang may make them feel empowered and enhance their self-esteem. The percentage of homelessness among teens especially in the juvenile justice system is unfortunately very high and ironically a gang can give youth comfort and give a sense of belonging and give them access to possessions they wouldn’t previously ever had access to.

What Parents can do to help? Be aware of such things as different clothing, especially colors i.e.: the Crips identify with blue or black or a combination of the two, The Bloods often wear red accessories such as caps or bandanas. Black in Heavy Metal Anglo Gangs and Green can mean a drug dealer or a neutral gang member. Be aware of how much your child is spending, perhaps they have a new cash flow and it is apparent of how much they are bringing home or material possessions they might not have otherwise had. Be aware of particular tattoos/markings.

Gangs are particularly difficult to break away from due to several consequences that a youth may endure. Help your child by engaging them in previous hobbies they may have had, sports, and new hobbies. Try to empower your youth into helping them realize their natural born talents. Lastly, and most importantly, know your community…in a sense that you can talk to your pastor, counselors in your home town that may offer free services or especially the faculty and staff of the school your child is attending. Understand the hotlines available for help and also don’t be afraid to reach out to your family and friends, there is no shame in trying to help your child. Being familiar with help within your reach can make a tremendous difference in your child’s life. Don’t be afraid to reach out. There is help and there is hope.

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