The study of juvenile delinquency in America has taken precedence over the investigation of adult crime. The most outstanding and significant researches have been made in the juvenile field. The greatest amount of expert social work and guidance has been applied to the treatment of young offenders. Moreover, it is now recognized that the beginnings of adult criminal careers have their sources in juvenile difficulties and behavior problems which have accumulated uncorrected from childhood and adolescence. As researches and treatment programs continue to concentrate on unadjusted children, increasing control over this problem is to be expected. More children will be adjusted before they graduate into a career of adult, professional crime.
Almost every educated person has his "pet" theories regarding the causes of and the cures for delinquency. These can be checked against the available facts to see to what extent they are applicable. Usually such theories will apply in part only, unless they are grossly medieval and hereditarian, in which case one must rule against them.
The facts clearly indicate that causation is multiple rather than single. In other words, the causes for delinquency in general or in a given case are compound and complex. The statistics and the cases bear out the contention that delinquent behavior is situational, that is, grows out of the total situation in which the child is a part. The data do not support the conclusion that delinquency is predetermined biologically. Delinquent behavior seems to be predetermined only in so far as the situation in which the child becomes an official problem is predetermined.
Those who expect the authors to produce a list of their proposed causes for delinquency should realize that few sociologists explain social problems by armchair methods of speculation. It is much more important for the student, the practical worker, and the educated layman to understand the principle of multiple causation, to be able to analyze the causes in individual cases . . .