AN ANALYTICAL STUDY OF DELINQUENTS T. E. S H A N M U G A M . This paper...
AN ANALYTICAL STUDY OF DELINQUENTS
T. E. S H A N M U G A M .
This paper considers the various social and psychological forces which generate anti-
social behaviour in the adolescent. T h e author points out that any one of the factors con-
sidered singly is not enough to produce delinquency. " T o understand these different
influencing factors requires the skilled co-operation of the therapeutic psychologist, the
sociologically trained social investigator and the education." Therefore with Cyril Burt he
pleads for the establishment of co-operative Child Guidance Clinics which could help the
Juvenile Courts in understanding the psychological factors involved.
Mr. Shanmugam is Research Fellow, Department of Psychology, University of Madras.
T h e aim of this research is to analyse
Age.—Each individual during the inter-
the various sociological factors involved in view was questioned about his age. His age
delinquency. Of course, anyone who is was afterwards compared with the office
familiar with the intricate and complex records. In many cases there were dis-
problems of delinquency will be conscious crepancies. T h e age the individual gave
of t h e fact that mere statistical records are was often more than found in the records.
of little use; especially when one knows T h e difference was sometimes as m u c h as
that the court deals with those delinquents two or three years.
who are apprehended and many serious
The Relationship of Age to a Criminal
offenders are outside the influence of courts Career.—A child is regarded as a delin-
or reformatory schools.
quent when his anti-social tendencies are
T h e present tendency towards the con-
serious enough to draw the attention of
ception of delinquency is to seek primary official action. T h e r e is, however, no clear-
causes of misdemeanors which are to be cut line of demarcation between the delin-
found in the environment. Conditions of quent and the non-delinquent. But for
home, the community and the neighbour-
administrative purposes, age limits are set
hood are counted as important or responsi-
u p . In the eye of the law, a "child" is a
ble for the majority of cases. With this person under 14, a "young person" between
assumption in view I collected data re-
14 and 16, a "juvenile adult" between 16
garding delinquents from one Senior Certi-
and 21, and treatment or punishment differs
fied School and Borstal School in the from stage to stage.
Madras Presidency. To secure detailed in-
For a psychologist, however, these classi-
formation regarding the past history, age, fications appear highly artificial. "These
health, etc., of the delinquents, I consult-
clear-cut lines of chronological cleavage,
ed the records and supplemented these by however convenient for administrative
personal interviews with the offenders needs, can hardly be accepted by the psy-
themselves. T h e data was collected with chologist." For him, it is not a date in the
the following points in view:
calendar, but t h e actual degree of develop-
1. Age.
ment that makes one person a child a second
2. Occupation of boys at the time a juvenile and a third an adult. It is a
of admission.
matter of mental age rather than of chrono-
3. Occupation of parents (Father's logical age. An individual of 14 or 15 may
and Mother's occupation).
have mentality far below that of a normal
4. Broken home conditions.
child of 10 or 12; and to infer that the
1 Burt , Cyril Young Delinquent.

AN ANALYTICAL STUDY OF D E L I N Q U E N T S 177
former must be responsible and the latter from securing an adequate nutrition.
irresponsible simply on the basis of chrono-
Among such factors should be included
logical age would be absurd.
parental ignorance. T h e parents p a m p e r
Leo Page states that there is no sudden the children and allow them to develop
transition from boyhood to manhood ac-
food whims and idiosyncrasies. T h e most
cording to calendar and no abrupt change to important factor perhaps in the cases
be noticed at successive birthdays.
studied is poverty, which makes children go
2 Som e
adolescents are far more precocious at 18 without adequate meals. Bad housing and
than many young men at 23. So, a parti-
poor sleeping conditions also put a great
cular delinquent of 17 may be a person for strain upon the child's mind and body.
whom the atmosphere of the juvenile court
Some years ago, it was a common
for which he is eligible would not do much
belief that a criminal was an adult individual
good. For the purely extraneous reason somewhat middle-aged. During the past
of age the court may to-day be forced to thirty years, his age has been steadily
award a sentence of imprisonment instead of
reducing until at present it is under thirty
industrial training. This is surely illogical. years. This is bad; but it is worse when
T h e age of the defendent must always be one studies the crime statistics and discovers
one of the matters to be considered in the hundreds of thousands of young men enter-
decision as to which institution he should ing upon a career of crime while still in
be sent. But it is wrong that his chronologi-
their teens. T h e reason Averill4 suggests may
cal age should necessarily determine the class be that a career of crime necessitates in
of institution and treatment, as at present these days of swift automobiles for pursuit
is the case.
and escape, a quickness of reaction, a
T h e age between twelve and thirteen is keenness of sense-organ, and a strength and
known as "Pre-adolescence." Health at this agility of muscle that are possessed typically
stage is ordinarily extremely good and re-
by younger persons. T h e elderly or even
sisting power is distinctly higher than before. the middle-aged crook is forced out of the
T h e boys have voracious appetites
game by the advance in the technique of
and it has been observed that a child of his art and by the advance in the efficiency
twelve needs as much food as an adult who
of police methods. " M o d e r n crime demands
is engaged in moderate labour.3 But many
of its perpetrator, coolness, daring, clever-
factors operate in preventing the individual ness, coldbloodedness and precision."
2Crime and Community, Faber & Faber, Ltd., London, pp . 260-283.
3 T e r m a n and Almack; Hygiene of the School Child, p. 118.
4 Adolescence, George H a r a p & Co., Ltd. , p. 136.
5Senior Certified School (S.C.S.) group consists of boys between 12 and 20 years of age.
6Borstal School (B.S.) group consists of boys between 16 and 23 years of age,

178 T. E. S H A N M U G A M
T h e distribution curve has a significant
In Madras, the secretary of the Madras
peak at the age of 16 in the table referring Children's Aid Society in a study of 100
to the Senior Certified School group. In the young delinquents points out t h a t most of
Borstal School group the distribution has a the offences are committed by boys of 12,
peak at the age of 18, 19 and 20. Evident-
13 and 14 years of a g e . 9
ly, some sort of selective factor or factors are
At this point it is worth while to consider
operative in the age distribution of crime. the theory of "negative phase." Charlotte
If they are governed entirely by chance, Buhler is of the opinion that boys and
the distribution would show a proportion of
girls pass through a "negative" or "anti-
delinquents at each age almost equal to the social" phase between 11 and 13 and there-
proportion of all boys at that age in the fore they are more prone to be delinquents.
population as a whole.
Gardiner M u r p h y 1 0 discusses at length
Comparable statistics are not plentiful in the view about "negative phase" by citing
the literature. However Healy and Bronner
investigations which indicate strongly
7
give a chart showing that they found environmental factors rather t h a n "nega-
a sudden and steep rise in the curve of delin-
tive phase."
quency for boys at the age of 13-14 years
Dr. Fortes 11 is against the theory of
in both their Chicago and Boston figures
"negative phase." His reason is that adole
and subsequent fall after the age scence is a time of changing social roles, of
of 15 in Boston figures. Their in-
contact with new stimuli, of new obliga-
ference is t h a t early adolescence is tions and responsibilities of social demands
the time of greatest increase in juvenile which the child has never experienced. All
crime. Dr. Fortes in his study observed these, coming more or less simultaneously,
a peak at the age of 1 3 . 8
and to many working class boys without
preparation, may well have a disorganising
German and Austrian data relevant to effect on a child's behaviour. He concludes
our enquiry are utilised by Charlotte Buhler. by saying that if we accept Dr. Buhler's in-
She cites unpublished material of Ekenburg terpretation we are doomed to accept the
and Hersfeld giving the percentage of "negative phase" as inevitable, and like
children 9 years of age and over; peak occurs measles, to let it have its way with as little
at 15 with a subsequent fall. Again she damage to the rest of the community as
refers to Miller who finds that in Germany possible. But all boys undergoing this
among all juvenile delinquents between 12 transfer to a new socio-psychological role
and 16 years of age, the highest percentage do not become delinquents. There must
namely 33, is found between 15 and 16 be additional factors of selection.
years. Buhler herself has m a d e a study
of 105 delinquents wherein she has observed
Occupation of Boys at the Time of
two peaks at the age of 12 and 15 respec-
Admission.—In the office records there was
tively.
as a rule some reference to what each boy
7Healy, William, and Bronner, Making and Unmaking of Criminals, pp. 91-92.
8Fortes, " T h e Social Behaviour of the Child, " Handbook of Child Psychology, Ed. by
C. Murchison, 1931, pp. 415-417.
9 Duraiswamy, Kokila, "A Study of 100 Cases of Juvenile Delinquents in th e City of
Madras," Indian Journal of Social Work, 1940.
10Experimental Psychology, pp . 329-432.
1 1 Op . cit., p. 415-417.

AN ANALYTICAL STUDY OF DELINQUENTS 179
was engaged in before he was sent to the occupation. It is largely a matter of
institution. Study in this direction is im-
chance today whether a young man enters
portant because one of the most precarious a vocation which is congenial and for which
experiences in human life is selecting an he has an aptitude.
III. OCCUPATION OF BOYS AT THE TIME OF ADMISSION
The above table gives the occupational with no proper recreational facilities and
level of the boys at the time of admission. suitable jobs direct their energy towards
Agriculture is the main occupation. 30.1 pet activities which pay them quick returns and
cent in the S. C. S. group and 27.5 pel give them sufficient excitement. It was
cent in the B. S. group are engaged also found in the course of interviews with
in agriculture. Next in order comes the individual delinquents that they took
unemployed; 28.3 per cent in the to particular professions because it was
S. C. S. group and 15.4 per cent in the forced on them by their parents or guardians.
B. S. group were idling away their time. Majority of the individuals expressed their
The number of boys who took to agriculture dislike towards the jobs forced on them.
and the number unemployed put together Consequently they stayed away from the
is 58.4 per cent in the former group and working places and to provide themselves
42.9 per cent in the latter group. In most with money they took to stealing, etc. In
parts of South India agriculture as an the Certified and Borstal Schools, some care
occupation is roughly only for four is taken to provide jobs to suit the boys'
months; the rest of the year is spent in idle aptitudes and tastes and they are happily
gossips. For young boys it is as bad as adjusted to their jobs which is clearly shown
being unemployed. Those who are con-
by their enthusiasm and their turnout.
cerned with the care of adolescents will
support the statement of W. E. H. Lecky
Parents' Occupation.—The occupation
who said: "The main object of human life of the individuals and their parents afford
is the full development of whatever powers a rough indication of the social and econo-
we possess."12 For want of food and mic status and educational facilities of the
for want of excitement the boys shift group. The occupational level of the groups
themselves gradually to nearby cities or investigated is distinctively below the aver-
railway stations and take to pilfering and age for the general population. Almost all
pickpocketing. This indicates clearly that the parents are poor. Their sons remain
the majority of boys resorts to crime by force starved, educationally retarded and socially
of circumstances. Healthy adolescent boys downtrodden.
12 Quoted by W. McDougall in Character and Conduct of Life,

180 T. E. S H A N M U G A M
IV. FATHERS' OCCUPATION AT THE TIME OF ADMISSION
Apart from the low social status, as re-
home, has been looked upon by many social
presented by Table IV there are 9.7 per workers as a factor meriting serious consi-
cent of the fathers unemployed in the deration. It has been pointed out t h a t the
S.C.S. group and 11.9 per cent in the B. S. necessity of mothers going out to work or
group. Agriculture and unemployed p u t placing a good deal of their attention on
together are 30.1 per cent and 34.1 per cent gainful work within the home results in a
respectively. H e r e the investigation clearly parental neglect with the consequence the
shows the reason for the parental neglect of
anti-social tendencies in the children
the children and for the children taking to develop. These views are mainly based
anti-social activities.
upon qualitative estimates, which are in
Mothers' Occupation at the Time of turn largely shaped out by the impression
Admission.—The occupational status of of the social worker.
mothers of delinquent boys i.e., whether
To test the validity of these assertions
the mother is or is not engaged in gainful we have collected data and the results are
occupation, in addition to taking care of the presented in Table V.
V. MOTHERS' OCCUPATION AT THE TIME OF ADMISSION
T h e perusal of the table clearly shows instance, a boy of low intelligence whose
that the relation between occupational status mother is obliged to work may get into
of working mothers and delinquency is very trouble because he is both dull and does not
slight. It may be, however, one of the get the necessary care and attention from
contributory factors to delinquency, for his mother,

AN ANALYTICAL STUDY OF DELINQUENTS . 181
Broken Home Conditions.—It has been cent respectively in the two groups he
pointed out by Slawson that delinquent studied of parents being alive. T. M. Bridges
children frequently come from 'broken reports 40 per cent. The table gives a
homes."13 In table No. VI 53 7 per cent of
number of cases where absence of father
the cases only have both parents alive.
Healy 14 reports 48 per cent and 55 per and of mother are reported.
V I . STATE O F H O M E R E G A R D I N G P A R E N T S
From the above table we have consider-
both parents were dead in 4 per cent of
able evidence which indicates that juvenile their cases and 16 per cent h a d step-parents.
delinquency may be closely connected with
Slawson 16 compared delinquent and
abnormal family conditions. We have here non-delinquent boys and arrived at the fol-
18.4 per cent in S.C.S. group and 30.8 per lowing figures. Among delinquents studied
cent in B. S. group who have lost their about 32 per cent had last one p a r e n t ; 3
parents at the time of admission to the in-
per cent both the parents. In the non-
stitution. Similarly we have 15.1 per cent delinquent group 15 per cent h a d lost one
and 15.4 per cent in S.C.S. and B. S. groups parent, 0.7 per cent both the parents and 9.1
respectively where loss of mother is reported per cent had step-mother or step-father.
before and after 12 years. 2.5 per cent in the
Cyril B u r t 1 7 states that nearly 60 per
S.C.S. group and 11.1 per cent in B. S. cent of his delinquent group suffered from
group have lost both parents. Consequently defective family relationships. In this group
35.4 per cent in S.C.S. group and 57.3 per 12.2 per cent had step-mothers. In his non-
cent in B.S. group have abnormal family delinquent group he found only 2.2 per cent.
conditions.
T h e Secretary of the Children's Aid
Society,18 Madras, observes t h a t in 22 per
Healy and Bronner15 found the follow-
cent of the cases of her investigation in
ing frequencies of abnormal parental condi-
Madras the father was dead, in 15 per cent
tions among their delinquents. In 27 per the mother was dead and in 12 per cent
cent of their cases, one parent was dead; both the parents were dead.
13Slawson, J., Size of Family and Male Juvenile Delinquency, 1925, pp . 631-640.
14Healy and Bronner, "Youthful Offender," American Journal of Sociology, 1916.
15Delinquents and CriminalsTheir Making and Unmaking, Richard & Co., Badger,
Boston, 1926, pp. 122-162.
16 Op . cit., pp . 354-382.
1 7 Op . cit., pp . 64-65 ; 93-99.
1 8 O p . cit., p p . 48-55.

182 T. E. S H A N M U G A M
Brecknidge and Abbot19 found that out
that is loss of one of the parents
of 584 individual cases studied of boys in or both the parents plays a notable
the Cook County Juvenile Court in the part in the incidence of delinquency.
year 1903-04, 43.3 per cent were found to Another point also merits consideration i.e.,
have parents whose marital relation was the relationship between step-motherhood
abnormal, that is, parents dead or separat-
and delinquents. In the relation between
ed or divorced. In a study made by the step-mother and step-child, there is a lack
Russei Sage Foundation, 42.9 per cent of of fundamental bonds, which in t u r n makes
the parents of 232 boys from New York the child develop a sense of insecurity-
City were found to have abnormal marital T h e r e always exists a state of emotional
relations. William Healy found an in-
tension in the step-children which perhaps
cidence of 49.8 per cent of abnormal mari-
explodes into anti-social tendencies in them.
tal relations of parents among his 1,000
repeaters passing through the Chicago
Size of the Family (Siblings).—Some
Juvenile Court.
investigators have pointed out t h a t the size
T h e above findings of various authors of the family may have relationship to
compare favourably with our findings, delinquency.
V I I . SIZE O F T H E F A M I L Y
T h e above table which presents the size intelligent or well-equipped, either physically
of the family along with Table V wherein or mentally, who under pressure of poverty,
we have discussed the occupational status loss of employment, severe weather, sickness
of the parents, clearly shows the poverty-
at home, or other unfavourable circumstance
stricken state of the family of the delinquents.
cannot or do not resist the temptation to
As Harry 20 points out poverty may by no pilfer and get convicted even many times,
means necessarily be associated with crime. who yet do not belong to the criminal."21
Nevertheless some of the concomitants
Major Cadogen 22 who agrees with Cyril
of poverty have much to do with delin-
Burt in putting defective family relations
quency whose frequency depends on the high amongst the causes of juvenile delin-
conditions of life and is greatest among quency points out as other causes poverty
the lowest strata of society. Where people and overcrowding with a consequent lack
are badly housed, fed, clothed and educated, of all wholesome recreations and exercise.
where they are living in an tinwholesome Individual disabilities either mental or phy-
or immoral environment, there are many sical may not infrequently lead to the
delinquents.
commission of offences, by making it impos-
Sir Anderson says "there are many sible or unduly difficult for t h e child to
people of low morale, very poor, not very take any part in lawful games and pastimes.
1 9 Quote d from the Delinquent Boy, Slawson, pp . 354-382.
20Poverty and its Vicious Circle, p. 101.
21 Criminal and Crime, p. 34.
22 The Roots of Evil, p. 268.

AN ANALYTICAL STUDY OF DELINQUENTS 183
In any enquiry into juvenile offences,
3. Investigation regarding parents' occu-
therefore, the degree of poverty or want pation and delinquency goes to show that
in the home of the offender is of importance. almost all the boys come from poor homes,
But it is of secondary importance in compa-
where both father and mother had to work
rison with knowledge of mental conditions. to maintain the household. Though evidence
Such matters as relations of a child with its regarding the working mother and delin-
parents, the relationship between the quency is very slight, the fact that boys in
parents, etc. how far they affect the mind their early childhood at least need sympathy,
must be taken into consideration. In a love and protection, which they lack when
word, psychological factors are of supreme the mother is engaged in gainful occupa-
consequence. Of course, it is by no means tion, should not be overlooked.
easy to discover them. Child Guidance
Clinics will be of great value to the courts
4. The broken home conditions have a
in this work.
demoralising effect on the individual. The
fact that a boy coming from a disintegrated
Summary and Conclusion.—Although home is much more apt to become delin-
definite ascertainment of the relative con-
quent than one who comes from a home
tributory strength of the various factors con-
where harmony prevails is evidenced by
sidered in this study of delinquents is not our findings. The amelioration of the con-
possible, the study reveals the direction ditions of the 'broken home' will be an
towards which any scheme of social reform effective step towards delinquency pre-
must be guided.
vention.
1. The association which we found to
Lastly, the economic condition of the
exist between age and criminal career is family of the delinquent must be taken into
a fact which deserves serious consideration consideration. Though writers like J. B.
in any programme of delinquency preven-
Harry are of the opinion that poverty is
tion. Most of the boys studied come by no means necessarily associated with
between the ages of 15 and 20. This is the crime, it should be noted that if not poverty
period of adolescence and adolescence as the concomitants of poverty have much to
already stated is a critical period in the life do with delinquency and crime. When boys
of the boys.
live in the midst of poverty one cannot
expect a normal social life from them.
2. Next in importance is the occupation Crowded household with small income
of boys. It is largely a matter of chance in definitely produces more delinquents.
these days that young men enter vocations
which suit their aptitude. My personal cont-
However it should be noted that there
act with the boys has helped me to bring out seems to be little, if any relation between
the fact that most of the boys were unsuit-
delinquency and any one of the factors
able for their jobs, whilst most of them singly considered. Our findings clearly
expressed their distaste for the work. No illustrate how delicately balanced is the
wonder, the interest one cannot have in system of social and psychological forces
one's job, is" directed in different channels, which generate anti-social behaviour. They
e.g., playing truancy in school, absenting constitute an inter-connected hierarchv
themselves from workshops or from other ranging from simple social conditions to
working places.
complex mental make-up of the individuals.

184 T. E. SHANMUGAM
To understand these different influencing by Cyril Burt in the appendix to the book
factors requires the skilled co-operation of Young Delinquent where he pleads for the
the therapeutic psychologist, the sociological-
establishment of co-operative Child Guidance
ly trained social investigator and the edu-
Clinics to cope with the problems of juvenile
cationist. This has been well brought out delinquency.