Delinquency in Russian Children and Adolescents

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT. The current situation in Russian society is predictive of a further increase in juvenile delinquency. The crime and drug and alcohol use rates in youth are increasing significantly every year. The causes of antisocial behavior in children have social, family, individual, and environmental roots. Preventive and intervention programs need to be more socially and family oriented.

Socioeconomic Situation

Russian society is undergoing major, rapid changes in which the social disintegration that began in 1988 continues to deepen monthly. Russians are deviating from traditional standards as social norms are in a state of flux. Russia entered a period of crisis in 1988, and the result has been a generalized depression that has swept the nation. In recent years there has been approximately a 250% reduction in industrial production, a number of technical catastrophes such as the accident and shutdown at the Chernobyl nuclear plant, a reduction in the cultivation of arable land, a decrease in the national birth rate, and, over the past 10 years, a 500% to 600% decrease in the standard of living.

The reduced birth rate results from young families-particularly in large cities such as St. Petersburg and Moscow-electing to have no more than one child, a troubling but understandable demographic trend. In addition to the reduced birth rate, there has been a corresponding decrease in life expectancy, with the average life expectancy for men now 54 years and for women 72 years. There has also been a significant deterioration in the overall health status of Russians, with increases in medical problems across most sectors of society. The current level of depression throughout the nation is characterized by a significant growth in the severity and number of main deviance indexes, corruption in state and social structures, and a deterioration of social democratic processes. Not only adults, but also young people are in the midst of those changes.

Increase in Crime Rate

Just as other societal issues have become worse in Russia in recent years, so has crime increased dramatically. Between 1987 and 1997, for example, the number of crimes committed in Russia more than doubled. The rate of juvenile crime has also increased significantly, having gone up more than 30.5% between 1993 and 1997 (Russian Youth, 1998). The increase in the crime rate for juveniles in the United States was 12.5% between 1991 and 1993 and 30.1 % between 1986 and 1995 (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1996). Juvenile arrests for violent crime have increased by about 75% during the past decade in both Russia and the United States.

In Russia many of the crimes that occur go unreported due to the low effectiveness of crime documentation and the fact that many theft victims were themselves holders of illegal property. It is estimated that in Russia fewer than 5% of women, including young ones, report rape to law enforcement agencies, and even fewer manage to convince police to register their reports. Between 1993 and 1996, not a single sexual harassment case went to court in the Russian Federation (Vandenberg, 1997).

There is a significant difference between Russia and the United States when it comes to qualifying a case for a court hearing for a youngster. Minor offenses, such as name-calling, teasing a neighbor's dog, or disobedience, is not considered to be a reason for a court referral in Russian juvenile justice. Instead, the referral must be for more serious offenses such as theft, robbery, assault, rape, or other crimes of a severe nature.

Recently, juvenile gangs have become a serious problem for Russian society, with more than 60% of all juvenile crimes currently committed by members of gang. Another newly occurring trend in juvenile crime in Russia is the significant increase in the number of girls committing crimes: Their current participation in juvenile crimes is estimated to be between 8% and 10%, compared to between 1% and 3% 10 to 15 years ago. …

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