What are some facts about teenage years

Fact check juvenile delinquency

“13-year-old threatens 12-year-olds”, “young people riot and abuse passers-by”, “17-year-old throws bottle at police officers” - headlines like this reach us almost every day and seem to suggest that young people are becoming increasingly violent. In fact, young people commit more crimes than adults. But contrary to popular perception of threat, today's teenagers are more law-abiding than previous generations. It is therefore worth looking at the facts and figures behind the headlines.

How criminal are young people?

Juvenile delinquency is a widespread phenomenon because young people are more active than adults and between the ages of 12 and 17, many people want to push their boundaries. In a nationwide representative student survey among ninth graders from 2007/2008, 44 percent of the male and 24 percent of the female respondents stated that they had violated the law in the last 12 months. Serious offenses are rare, the majority committing crimes such as shoplifting, vandalism or selling pirated copies. But there are also a few perpetrators, mainly young men, who often become violent and do not shy away from severe violence.

Is the violence increasing?

No, on the contrary: In Germany, the number of young suspects fell by 40 percent between 2006 and 2015 - and not just because of demographic change. The so-called suspect burden number, the number of suspects per 100,000 inhabitants of the same age group, has also decreased by almost a third during this period. A similar trend can be observed internationally. Crime committed by juveniles has also decreased significantly in the USA, Canada, New Zealand, Great Britain and the Netherlands.

A current study has found several possible causes that can be observed internationally and that could be responsible for this: First and foremost, there is a change in leisure behavior due to smartphones and online games. When young people sit in front of a screen or touchscreen instead of meeting their peers and being out on the street, it is obvious that they will be less likely to commit criminal offenses.

As further factors, the study identified greater satisfaction with one's own situation, lower acceptance of crime, lower alcohol consumption and higher security measures, for example to protect against shoplifting and car theft, than before. However, it cannot be clearly demonstrated which factors are actually decisive for the development.

Do the data match the reality?

The so-called dark field, i.e. offenses that are not even reported and registered, is fundamentally a problem for crime statistics. It is particularly difficult to determine the development of some offenses because it is unclear whether more crimes have actually occurred or whether more crimes are simply reported. In the area of ​​juvenile delinquency, the number of reported acts of violence increased significantly in the 1990s. Student surveys, which are the best way to shed light on the darkness, showed, however, that the young people did not become more violent during this period. Instead, it was found that young people tolerate violence less and their willingness to report such acts to the police has increased.

The development of the last ten years, in which juvenile delinquency has fallen significantly, should, however, be in line with reality. On the one hand, the willingness to report criminal offenses remains high. On the other hand, the parallel development in several countries suggests that this is a general broad trend.

Are young people from foreign families more violent?

We know from periods of immigration in the past that the first generation of immigrants in the host country does not attract attention through acts of violence. Crime is more of a problem for the second and third generation of migrants. Survey studies and studies from other European countries have shown that young people with a migration background are at greater risk of becoming violent than local young people. This applies to all larger groups of origin, so it is not related to a specific ethnic origin or religious affiliation. However, if one considers additional risk factors such as lower schooling, personal experience of violence or the dependence on state transfer payments, then young people from German and foreign families no longer differ significantly when it comes to violence.

Overall, the number of acts of violence among young people with a migration background has also decreased significantly. Studies from Hanover and Duisburg - cities with many migrants - have shown that when young migrants get educational opportunities that are equal to those of German youth, the differences in violence also decrease.

Is juvenile delinquency the starting point for a criminal career?

Even if many young people break the law, this behavior usually grows on its own. The peak is usually reached at the age of 14 or 15, after which the tendency to cross legal boundaries decreases significantly. This even applies to most of the so-called multiple and intensive offenders, i.e. young people who often commit crimes or are very violent. A long-term survey among Duisburg schoolchildren has shown that around six percent of 14 and 15-year-olds can be classified as particularly criminal. Among the 20-year-olds there were only 1.5 percent of such intensive offenders.