How do such social factors as gender, racial/ethnic backgrounds and social class relate to juvenile delinquency in Trinidad and Tobago?

Research Paper (postgraduate), 2011

32 Pages, Grade: A+




Juvenile delinquency
Social Class

Gender-delinquency relation

Race/Ethnicity delinquency relation

Social Class delinquency relation

Theorizing the gender-delinquency relationship

Theorizing the race/ethnicity delinquency relationship

Theorizing the social class-delinquency relationship

Analysis/discussion of information on gender-delinquency relation

Analysis/discussion of information on race/ethnicity-delinquency relation

Analysis/discussion of information on social class-delinquency relation





The increase in criminal and deviant behaviour among youths/juveniles in Trinidad and Tobago has been a national concern for some time. Reports on serious crime- murder, attack with weapons, rape, larceny, kidnapping- allegedly committed by youths and is reported in the media. This upsurge has given rise to what are the causal factors for the extent and forms of delinquency. The dynamics of gender, race and social class will be examine to demonstrate how they are related to the upsurge in delinquency and criminal activities in this youth section of the population.


Juvenile delinquency:

Juvenile delinquency is defined in varying ways; according to Siegel and Welsh (2007, 9) it is defined as criminal behaviour engaged in by minors. It refers to the participation in illegal behaviour by a minor who falls under a statutory age limit. Holmes et al., (2001, 185) stated that juvenile delinquency refers to the antisocial behaviour/ illegal behaviour by children or adolescents. He further posits that a juvenile delinquent is one who repeatedly commits crime.

According to Mustapha (2006, 181) juvenile delinquency may be defined as criminal behaviour committed by minors. Minors are individuals who fall under a statutory age limit. He states that individual in this category are tried differently from adults in a court of law, and that the statutory age limit varies from country to country.

Deosaran and Chadee (1997, 168) postulates that “delinquency reflects some kind of deviant behaviour officially prescribed or socially labelled”. They further stated that a “delinquent youth is commonly seen as one who has committed a wrong as defined by law, be it a serious crime or a minor offence”. They argued that the emphasis is placed on age of the offender and not so much on the offending act itself, because when the youth is over 16 and commits a serious crime and put in a ‘juvenile home’ as the case in Trinidad and Tobago, he is still seen as ‘delinquent’ and not so much as a criminal.

Savitz (1967, 15) noted that delinquencies are all actions legally proscribed for a child above the age of culpability and below a certain maximum age (16, 17 or 18). If the child is engaged in proscribed behaviour, the state acting in place of the parent, is obliged to treat (not punish) the child. Savitz further posits that juvenile delinquencies include such offenses as truancy, incorrigibility and running away from home as well as trivial offenses which include obscene language, street corner lounging, visiting gambling places and smoking cigarettes.

The main state that deals with juvenile justice in Trinidad and Tobago is the ‘Children Act’. This statute defines a child as a person under the age of 14 and a young person as a person 14 years or upwards and under the age of 17 years, therefore this author defines juvenile delinquent as someone under the age of 17 years who commits an antisocial deviant act as defined by the law of the land.


Barriteau (1998, 30) defines gender as a “complex systems of personal and social relations of power through which women and men are socially created and maintained through which they gain access to, or are allocated status, power and material resources within society”. Young (1988, 93) stated that gender refers to the way that “our basic social identities as men and as women are socially constructed rather than based on fixed biological characteristics”.

The World Health Organization (1998) posits that the word gender is used to describe the characteristics, roles and responsibilities of women and men, boys and girls, which are socially constructed. Gender is related to how we are perceived and expected to think and act as women and men because of the way society is organized, not because of our biological differences.

Gender according to ‘Health Canada’ (2002) refers to the array of socially constructed roles and relationships, personality traits, attitudes, behaviours, values, relative power and influence that society ascribes to the two sexes on a differential basis. Gender is relational - gender roles and characteristics do not exist in isolation, but are defined in relation to one another and through the relationships between women and men, girls and boys.

It can be established that there are no universal definition of gender however; this author would define gender as a multifaceted series of responsibilities which are socially constructed to distinguish the different between male and female.


According to Mustapha (2007, 224) “a race is a human population that is believed to be distinct in some way from other humans based on real or imagined physical differences. He state that race classifications are rooted in the idea of biological classification of humans according to morphological features such as skin colour or facial characteristics”. Mustapha further state that ethnicity, while related to race, refers not to physical characteristics but social traits that are shared by the human population. The social traits that is used for ethnic classification include; nationality, tribe, religion, language and culture.

When people use race they attach a biological meaning and others see race as socially constructed. The biological construction of race denotes that there exist natural, physical divisions among humans that are hereditary and is reflected in morphology. The social construction of race denotes as a vast group of people who are loosely bound together by historical contingent, socially significant elements of their morphological features and ancestry.

Wahab (2011) said that race has certain type of condition applied; it is not biological but socially constructed. He posits that we can never get beyond race because of the conceptualization of difference. He further said that race is also historically constructed and that self identification is a negation in Trinidad, since our historical legacy is a blue printing of race and ethnicity in terms of colonialism. He gave the example- “I am Indian because I am not African”.

Race therefore according to Du bois (1992), refers to a group of people who perceived themselves and are perceived by others, a different, because of biological inherited characteristics, e.g. hair texture, skin colour etc. Ethnicity on the other hand which is a separate concept from that of race denotes “a group of people with common cultural characteristics, as having the same language, place of origin and values” (Du bois 1992).

Social Class

Social class also termed socio-economic status refers to the economic or cultural arrangement of groups in society. The term "social class"-often shortened to "class" is used by sociologists to refer to the stratification of a population. Within this general delimitation the concept of class has no precise, agreed-upon meaning but is used either as an omnibus term,' to designate differences based on wealth, income, occupation, status, group identification, level of consumption, and family background, or by some particular researcher or theorist as resting specifically on some one of these enumerated factors(Gordon, 1949; Fairchild, 1944).

Although the term ‘socioeconomic status’ is used frequently, there is no general consensus regarding how to define and measure this construct.In general, Sawarski and Boesel (1988) stated that socioeconomic status is considered as an indicator of economic and social position. Socio-economic status according Houghton (2005) refers to “an individual's or group's position within a hierarchical social structure. Socioeconomic status depends on a combination of variables, including occupation, education, income, wealth, and place of residence.

In Marxist theory, social classes are defined and based on three premises: 1) who owns property and the means of production and who performs the work in the production process, 2) the social relationships involved in work and labour and 3) who produces and who controls the surplus value labour. There are two main classes in capitalism in the Marxist tradition, the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Marxism holds that a person's social class is determined not by the amount of his wealth, but by the source of his income as determined by his relation to labour and to the means of production. To Marxists, the class to which a person belongs is determined by objective reality, not by someone's opinion.

In Weber’s conception, social class is just one of the features which can influence social stratification. According to Weber, an individual would be stratified (assigned a position within the social hierarchy) based on three factors: class, status or party. He defined social class as a group of people who share a similar position in a market economy and by virtue of that fact receive similar economic rewards. For Weber class position was not tied to one’s relation to the means of production in the strictest Marxist. According to him, one’s social class position was determined by one’s relation to the market (Haralambos and Holborn 2008, 45). In a strictly Weberian sense those who possess wealth tend to be the highest income earners and so comprise the highest social class. They are followed by those who do not own wealth but are high income earners (the middle class/petty bourgeoisie) which are then followed by the manual working class who are the smallest income earners and so form the lowest class.

In relation to Trinidad and Tobago, according to Mustapha (2007, 233) it has been established that three classes exist within the social strata which include upper class, middle class and the lower/working class. Sociologists often use social class/ socioeconomic status as a means of predicting behaviour/ and for the purpose of this essay it is used as predicting delinquency behaviour”. There seem exist a symbiotic relationship among gender, racial/ethnic backgrounds, social class and juvenile delinquency. For the purpose of this paper an analysis will be give to demonstrate the relationship on how does gender, race and social class relate to delinquency in Trinidad and Tobago.

An important aspect of delinquency is the relation of personal traits and social characteristics associated with adolescent misconduct. There exist varying contributing factors to delinquent antisocial behaviour, but this essay seeks to only show how gender, race/ethnicity and social class relates to juvenile delinquency.

Gender-delinquency relation

According to Mustapha (2006, 177) both official statistics and self report data indicate that males commit more crimes than females. The reasons for this trend include men/boys, partly because of more aggressive socialization experience, which make them more likely to commit violent delinquent crime. Siegel and Welsh (2007, 39) posits that official statistics, victims data and self reports indicate that males are significantly more criminal/deviant than females. The juvenile gender ratio for serious violent crimes is approximately 6male to one female. However one relationship reverses this general pattern; girls (58%) are more likely than boys (42%) to be arrested as runaway and there are two possible explanations that Siegal and Welsh put fort for this which include; girls could be more likely than boys to run away from home, or the police may view the female runaway as the more serious problem and therefore be more likely to process females through official justice channels.

Deosaran (2007, 90) stated that if gender makes a significant difference with crime and delinquency, then it will affect the feminists’ argument, over the role which differential association makes with gender. He gave the example that the risk-taking values and expectations imposed on male adolescents contribute to higher male delinquency. Liu and Kaplan (1999, 195) concluded that there is a gender difference which has been observed using self report methods and arrest statistics which found that there male students commit more serious acts of delinquency than females, especially in violent and property offences. They stated that females do commit serious crimes but less often than males. On the contrary however, Heiman and DeCoster (1999, 278) argued that from self report studies, the ratio of females to male delinquency is higher than it is commonly perceived.

Heiman and DeCoster (1999, 306) further argued that the concepts driving the study of violence and delinquency are itself gender biased. In conducting a study in the United States to prove the validity of gender bias there findings concluded that boys are more violent than girls largely because they are taught more definitions favouring such delinquent behaviour, girls on the other hand they found are less violent than boys because they are controlled through subtle mechanisms, which include learning that violence is incompatible with the meaning of gender for them and being restrained by the emotional bonds of the family. Austine (1993, 52) revealed that there is a convergence in delinquency between male and female offenders, that is males do commit more offences but over the years females seem to be committing similar offences in growing numbers. Furthermore Austine found this to be consistent for delinquents especially males commit more serious delinquency than younger ones.

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How do such social factors as gender, racial/ethnic backgrounds and social class relate to juvenile delinquency in Trinidad and Tobago?
The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine
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trinidad, tobago, Juvenile Delinquency
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MSc Criminology and Criminal Justice Stacy Ramdhan (Author), 2011, How do such social factors as gender, racial/ethnic backgrounds and social class relate to juvenile delinquency in Trinidad and Tobago?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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