Three categories of Juvenile crime

Last Updated on May 11, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team

Juvenile crime is depicted in one of two ways to the wider public: abhorrent and shocking, or unfortunate and sympathetic. However, one thing that juvenile crime is seen as by all is common.

This isn’t a dig at young people or parenting, but as children, we don’t have a good sense of society’s laws and obligations and a lot of us have our own sense of what is right and what is wrong.

Not only that, but children can be easily influenced by those around them, whereas adults tend to have a bedrock of cynicism and wariness that has been built up over years, meaning children can be led to do something wrong with understanding that it is wrong.

With this being the case, how do you classify juvenile crimes? They still need to be punished, but unlike adults they may not be fully aware of the problems of their actions, or they may not realize the impact of their actions on other people.

Due to this, juvenile crime has been categorized into three different categories rather than the seven categories of adult crime, which we will go through now.

What are the different types of juvenile crime?

As said before, there are three categories of juvenile crime: delinquency, criminal, and status offenses. The reason for the separation of these crimes is due to the severity and nature of the crime.

Normally, all crimes committed by juveniles are seen as crimes by a person under the age of 18, and as such more credence is given over to the causes of the crime, rather than punishing sentences, however a juvenile may still be tried as an adult should the court see fit.


Juvenile delinquency is the most common form of punishable crime for minors to commit. These are crimes that are dealt with by juvenile courts, and their cases are dealt with by specialized versions of the justice system.

Many of these types of crimes are things that are particularly vicious in nature and are often seen as gateway crimes that will lead a child down the wrong path.

Graffiti, chronic stealing, or anti-social behavior are some good examples, they are not targeted at one individual and their effect on the wider public, while irritating or a little harmful, can be resolved fairly easily without great harm to people.


Criminal crimes are far more serious in nature and are dealt with by criminal courts. These are crimes that have a direct effect on people’s lives and are crimes that are just too big to ignore, even if the defendant is a child.

The types of crimes that are dealt with by the criminal justice system are murder, mayhem, or crimes of a sexual nature.

The juvenile in this case will not be given the same privileges that a defendant at a juvenile court would, however there is an awareness that, even with these horrific actions, that this is still a juvenile that the court is dealing with.

As such, many of the sentences handed out are for the juvenile to be sent to a psychiatric center or juvenile detention center, though many of these places can have the same punishments as adult prisons.

Status offenses

Status offenses are a little different from other punishable crimes, as these offenses are only considered criminal because the offender is a juvenile.

If the offender was an adult, these would not be offenses at all, meaning that these are more about correcting what is seen as morally deficient behavior or things that could affect a child’s growth.

These are things like alcohol possession, truancy, or curfew breaking when it has been imposed by the state or local authority.

These kinds of offenses are rarely punished with anything more than a strong telling off and a ride in the police car back to your home for a further telling off by your parents. However, this can change based on your individual police force and how harsh the justice system is in your area.

What causes juvenile crime?

Juvenile crime can be attributed to a little genetics and a lot of environmental factors. These factors can range, but the most prominent reasons considered leading to juvenile crime are parenting style, peer group association, socio-economic status, school – but not necessarily academic – troubles or performance, and peer rejection.

A lot of the reasons have a basis in either a lack of structure and security in their lives, a lack of emotional structure and support from family or friends, or a combination of the two together. Most of the time, raising a child is a balancing act that a parent must do.

Too strict and the child will chaff under the weight, too indulgent and the child may lack the structure to function in society. As such, the best parenting style is considered ‘Authoritative’: being warm and supportive, while also administering discipline.

These base factors can be seen in a lot of the underlying causes of juvenile crime, not just for parenting style. For example, we require support from our peer groups, but these tend to be more conditional than our parental figures.

As such, we end up doing things that help us garner acceptance and support, like graffiti a wall if we are asked to, in order to avoid rejection. Alternatively, peer rejection may lead those who are outcast to do drastic things in order to be noticed or garner attention.

Another example, would be socio-economic status, a child may be bullied or suffering because of poverty and may take steps to fix that, like stealing. On the other hand, a child may have grown up wanting for nothing and may feel entitled to things because of their wealth or their lack of understanding of it, which in turn can lead to things like stealing.

These are extreme examples of outcomes that can happen due to varying factors and due to them often being outside a child’s control, the crimes of children are often seen more emphatically than the crimes of adults.

Final thoughts

There are three categories of juvenile crime, and there are many factors that can lead to children committing crimes. Frequently, these factors are outside their control or their behaviors are easily corrected, however knowing the categories of crime can help us to teach children the ways and rules of the world without ever needing to utilize the juvenile justice system.