Youth Crime, Generation Gaps and Some Notes on America’s Morality


PrisonHistorians look at the youth today with disdain and if they still have the energy, would unrelentingly shake their head towards the state of juvenile delinquency apparent across America. Here, you would hear them say, “the morals of the children are tenfold worse than formerly.”

Formerly, they say, but how many generations have heard this statement before? Antisocial behavior among young people, they say, has reached an unprecedented high. Older generations are lamenting the decay of morals in youth, resulting to higher juvenile delinquency.

Nothing is Ever New

Charlotte Kirkman was quoted as saying, “When I was four or five and twenty my mother would have knocked me down if I had spoken improperly to her.” It was 1843 when Pearsan was four or five. It’s 2015 and contemporary youth, by virtue of the old’s perspective, is getting worse.

While this can be backed by criminal statistics and by criminal defense lawyers, like David A. Nachtigall, this general expression of uncertainty and social change in the youth, in fact recurs with each new generation. The context varies, but it’s all the same uncertainty and societal changes.

In Defense of the Contemporary Youth

Past generations are always very easily convinced that the youth of today were misbehaving more than they had then. Consider the rise of youth crime and how it’s been ingrained by popular culture: the rockers and hippies of the 60s, the punks and skinheads of the 80s, and today, the hoodies.

But, what is seemingly ill considered in the observable context is any talk on morality. The rising ownership of consumer goods and, consequently, opportunities of theft doesn’t necessarily equate to the morality of earlier generations as higher than that the youth today have.

It only probably means that their morality then did not take the form of the theft of consumer goods. More importantly, criminal statistics do not tell the whole story of youth crime. In fact, definitions of criminal behavior change over time, as well as the public perception.