Using Delinquency Theories To Explain Delinquent Behavior Among Juveniles

Assignment Instructions

The course materials present a number of criminological, sociological, and developmental theories that endeavor to explain delinquent behavior among juveniles. In this assignment, you will select a real-life, notorious crime committed by a juvenile. This may be a crime perpetrated by a juvenile many years ago, or a case that is still active and in current events. You will argue for one of the particular delinquency theories as the most appropriate explanation for the perpetrator’s actions.

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Examples could include:

  • Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the shooters in the 1999 Columbine High School massacre
  • Lee Boyd Malvo, the juvenile half of the infamous Washington, D.C., snipers in 2002
  • Erik Menendez, age 17, murderer of his parents, assisted by his adult brother, Joseph Menendez, in 1989
  • the juvenile perpetrators (Eric Rivera, Jr., age 17; and Timothy Brown, age 16) involved in the home invasion and murder of Washington Redskins star player Sean Taylor in 2007

other juvenile offenders well-known at either the national or local level may be used with the prior approval of the instructor

Read also Dealing With First-Time Offenders In The Juvenile System

The paper should include the following sections:

  • an introduction presenting an overview of the crime, including BRIEFLY the basic facts of what happened
  • an analysis in which you present how one particular criminological, sociological, or developmental theory best explains the perpetrator’s actions, and why
  • a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of that particular theory. how it is that the theory may fall short in explaining certain aspects of the crime. In light of this, discuss what other theory or combination of theories may better account for those particular aspects of the crime concluding thoughts summarizing your research and analysis
  • All outside sources must adhere to APA citation format for both narrative/content citations and bibliography page.

Routine Activities Theory Delinquency And The Case of Tanaya Lewis who was charged with first-degree premeditated murder in school stabbing incident – Sample Answer


Juvenile delinquency has been a great problem in the United States since the formation of criminal justice system. Today, juvenile are involved in range of crimes with majority being held for simple crimes including petty theft, drug use and truancy. There are also a minimal percentage of juvenile offenders who are convicted or charged with capital crimes such as homicide, robbery with violence and murder.  This case study is based on capital offense involving a juvenile offender. The selected case involves a teenage girl; Tanaya Lewis, who was charged with first-degree premeditated murder in school stabbing incident. Tanaya aged 17 at the time of the crime, stabbed and killed her classmate and ex-friend Danyan Gibson, aged 16, on 12th September 2018 at Fitzgerald High School, situated in Warren Michigan.

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The two girls were said to entangle in a quarrel regarding Tanaya’s boyfriend. This escalated into a fight on the fateful day at a round 8.30 am in the classroom. Tanaya was said to pursue Danyan shouting that she will kill her wile laughing and smiling, as Danyan struggled to free. Tanaya then retrieved a kitchen knife with straight-edged, possibly brought from home, and stabbed Danyan four times; twice in front around the chest and twice at the back. This happened in the presence of about 20 witnesses, who were their classmates. Danyan was rushed to the hospital where she died an hour later due to punctured lung. According to the prosecutor, carrying a knife to school and the fact that the offender ran after the victim around the class shouting her intentions, clearly indicated that this was premeditated murder. The offender was thus held without bond in the county jail and later charged with first degree premeditated murder (Owoseje, 2018). 

Theory Application

The best theory that can be used to explain the above reviewed case study is routine activities theory. This theory postulates that for a crime to take place there have to be a convergence in space and time of a suitable target (victim), an offender that is motivated (a person with great desire to commit a crime), and absence of a capable guardian (anything or anybody who can stop the crime from taking place) (Pizarro, Corsaro & Yu, 2007).

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According to Pizarro, Corsaro and Yu (2007), individuals’ routine activities facilitate space and time convergence of the three ingredients of crime. According to this proposal, one can conclude that people offend or are victimized close to their residence or workplace or their regular or daily visited area since they spend the greatest part of their day or time there. 

Theory Strengths

The main strength of this theory is that its three key aspects can be used to explain the situation surrounding this case. The theory choice can be justified in this case since the crime took place at school and in a class where both the victim and the offender met on daily basis in their daily routine of attending classes. The school routine meeting offered Tanaya, the offender,  a great chance or space to meet the victim and apple time to select the best time to commit the crime where she was sure there would be no a lot of supervision and hence no much obstruction into pursuing her mission. The space was in classroom where both the offender and the victim would definitely meet and suitable time was during preps where the teacher was unlikely to in the class.

The offender was also highly motivated by jealously and other feelings associated with love and possibilities of losing that love to another person. She may have also been motivated by a feeling of betrayal since the victim, who she suspected was after her boyfriend was also her friend before boyfriend related suspicions and quarrels started. So the offender must have been motivated by a lot of emotional feelings which could include great romantic love for the boyfriend which she was not ready to let go, hatred for her ex-friend for trying to ‘steal’ her boyfriend, fear of being teased by her classmates for losing her boyfriend to her friend, jealously for imagining or seeing her boyfriend with another woman, and fear on failing to fit-in her peers and social trends at her class or circle without a boyfriend or after losing a boyfriend. All these aspect were possible to motivate the offender to committing the crime.

The case also demonstrates lack of capable guardian to prevent the crime at very many levels. The first level is at home where Tanaya seems to be less supervised and hence, she can freely manage to pick a knife from the kitchen and put it in her bag without being noticed. The parents also seemed to know nothing about their daughter social life. She does not seem to share with them about possible break-up and a friend taking over. Thus the girl lacked necessary guidance that would help her cope and move on citing future better opportunities in love. The school which was expected to be more alert on security routine, following many shooting and attack cases in schools in United States seemed to fail in assessing items that students carry to schools. A thorough gate scanning for metals or other possible weapons that could be used in normal bullying or extreme violence cases could have prevented the incident. Other than that, lack of a teacher in class at the time of crime also demonstrated an opportunity for the offender to commit the crime at that very time since she was sure no student would dare intervene. Thus with not capable guardian, Tanaya was sure that she just needed get hold of Danyan to complete her mission without much resistance.

Theory Weakness

One of the weaknesses of the selected theory is that it fails to demonstrate the society pressure in pushing an offender into committing a crime. Although the theory shows peer pressure could have been a motivational factor, it does not clearly demonstrates that society expectation which can also be in the form of peer expectation of those in their circle of friends could have initiated the urge to commit the crime. When peers expect that you must have a boyfriend to fit it, then inability to maintain yours would create the chances of being odd in the society and hence a reason for gossip, isolation and rejection. This societal expectation and individual desire to fit in societal norms can also be used to explain Tanaya’s action after a threat of losing her boyfriend to her friend. Moreover, at this age, teenagers’ dream of being married which is a societal norm and majorities have an illusion of spending the rest of their life with their teenage partners. Losing of a boyfriend may thus be perceived as a possible death to their marriage dream. This future society normal which expect youths to be in a state of searching future life partner could also have motivated the offender to act as she did.

Alternative Theory

The other theory that can thus be applied in this case is the strain theory; a criminology and sociology theory. Strain theory postulate that certain stressors or strains result to negative emotions that generate pressure for corrective action. The theory proposes crime as a single probable response, particularly when individuals lack the aptitude to cope in a lawful manner (Jang & Agnew, 2015). The inability to attain conventional goals success is what motivates one to committing a crime. To Tanaya, having a boyfriend was a great achievement that the society especially peers needed him to accomplish. This may have made it hard for her to consider consequences. Alternatively, she may have considered it hard and expensive to let the boyfriend go than serving a jail term. Based on teenage partial brain development and lack of rational thinking, this could have been the only other best was to handle the situation to fit in the society.


The involvement of juvenile offender in capital crime can be influence by a number of factors. Some of these factors include peer pressure, environment in which a child is brought up, subjection into traumatic life situation that include abuse, family instability, or even pressure from poor socioeconomic. Sometimes, this may be caused by juvenile inability to make rational decision due to lack of cognitive maturity, or due to impulse thinking.

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For a teenager who is brought up in a normal family set up and with opportunity to go to school like Tanaya, this can be a case of irrational thinking where having a boyfriend dominate the mind, making her to fail in doing proper assessment on the consequences of an action, and hence committing a capital crime that makes them regret later when the reality of the consequences awake them.

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