JUVENILE DELINQUENCY AND HABIT PATTERNS* B. H. AMATI The present paper...
JUVENILE DELINQUENCY AND HABIT PATTERNS*
B. H. AMATI
The present paper forms a part of the research project entitled "Delinquent Children"
undertaken by the researcher recently. The study relates to 136 juvenile offenders whose ages
range between 7 and 16 years and who were found to be inmates of remand homes at
Dharwad and Hubli during a 20 month period from May 1979 to December 1980. As one
of the background factors the researcher was prompted to find out the habit patterns of
delinquent boys.
Dr. B. H. Amati is Lecturer in the Department of Sociology, Karnatak University,
Dharwad.
The Problem
the kind of results that were expected of it.
On the other hand, answers were so varied
Do the delinquent boys possess any habits and so unrelated to one another that
and pastimes which are normally consider-
the task of classifying the responses
ed as baneful — physically, mentally, moral-
was extremely difficult. Hence, in the place
ly and socially, to growing children? If so, of open-end questions, structured questions
what are they? What are the sources of have been used in the schedule. The sche-
the acquisition of such habits and pastimes? dule is prepared in such a way as to cover
Is there any relationship between such every significant aspect of the research
habits and pastimes and delinquency? These theme.
are some of the searching questions that
necessitate factual investigation about habits Findings and Discussion
and pastimes with reference to juvenile
delinquency. Some of these issues are con-
There seems to be some relationship bet-
sidered in the present paper.
ween what one can term as "recreational
activities" and delinquency. In the early
Research Procedure
career of a delinqent, the various habits
of smoking, drinking alcohol, and gambling
The primary source of information was may be pursued more as a form of personal
136 delinquent boys who were detained in enjoyment rather than as a form of defiance
two remand homes. In this study, the princi-
of parental authority, or for positive mate-
pal instrument of data collection is a struc-
rial gain. But gradually, the motive of
tured interview schedule with the help of material gain supplants what initially began
which each of the subjects was interviewed as a mere recreational activity. Particularly,
within the premises of the remand home.
in gambling, one gradually accepts it as a
Regarding the structure of the schedule, it means of gaining monetary ends. Thus,
was first contemplated to use more of open-
obtaining monetary gain becomes a com-
end questions in order to obtain responses mon factor in specific forms of recreational
from the subjects without the limitations activity. Where the motive of monetary
of structured responses. But this experiment gain becomes dominant in recreational acti-
introduced for the pilot study did not give vities, the distinction between recreation
* The paper presented in the open session on Experimental Paper Reading at the XII Annual
Conference of The Indian Society of Criminology held at Calcutta on February 12, 13,

406
B. H. AMATI
and deviance becomes somewhat blurred. some boys had become so impatient by
Here, for purposes of analysis, a habit is force of habit that they never hesitated to
defined as a settled tendency or practice. A ask the researcher for beedies during the
pastime is treated as an equivalent to re-
course of interview. There are also cases
creation, a sport or game. Recreation is view-
where boys attempted to run away from
ed as a pastime, relaxation or amusement.
the remand home when they could not
Though it could be argued that the habit resist the temptation of smoking.
patterns of the delinquent boys are not
Further, it might be observed that a habit
basically different from the habit patterns does not occur singly, but occurs as a
of adolescents in general, we cannot com-
pattern. For instance, the habit of smoking
pletely discount the fact that the delinquent is accompanied by the habit of drinking
boys are placed in such circumstances that alcohol. Gambling is also often associated
the imbibing of certain habits becomes in-
with drinking alcohol.
evitable. One such habit which we find
There seems to be some association bet-
among the delinquent boys is the habit of ween delinquent career and gambling where
smoking. The data reveal that nearly 70 gambling serves as a kind of pastime. This,
(69.11) per cent of the delinquent boys however, does not mean that every delin-
smoke quite frequently, and another 24 quent resorts to gambling as a pastime.
(24.26) per cent smoke occasionally.
Only about 39 (38.97) per cent of the sampl-
Smoking as a habit grows essentially in ed boys state that they are frequently engaged
a group situation, in the sense that when a in gambling, while nearly 32 (32.35) per
boy strays into the company of delinqent cent of the boys state that they are never
boys, he is more or less inclined to resort in the habit of gambling. Gambling is a
to smoking in order to be accepted as one group activity, and unless one is frequently
of them. This particular habit, and in a involved in peer-group association, such a
similar way, other habits, which are approv-
kind of pastime can never become a habi-
ed by the members of a delinquent gang, tual activity. Moreover, gambling is an un-
are the means by which one can find one's lawful activity and it is necessarily a con-
own identity within a delinquent gang.
cealed activity involving only those who
One thing which needs to be emphasized are closely associated together. Such acti-
here is that the particular habit which we vities tend to strengthen the peer-group
find in the case of a delinquent boy is association.
largely the outcome of his interest in being
Gambling can take many forms. As a
accepted by his peers.
group activity, playing cards seems to be
It is noticed that children, like adult quite popular among those who relish being
smokers, resort to smoking excessively when in a group situation, and also by those who
they are extremely happy. They also smoke consider this form of gambling as a profi-
frequently when life becomes miserable. table one. Playing cards serves initially as
Boys commonly smoke beedies. They also a mere pastime. But gradually it acquires
smoke cigarettes as an item of luxury. a new significance in so far as it becomes
Beedies, from the point of view of cost, a source of monetary gain.
are less expensive and available everywhere.
The data reveal that seventy eight boys
It is also expressed by many delinquent constituting nearly 57(57.35) per cent of the
boys in the present study that a smoke is sampled boys state that they play cards.
really delightful and refreshing. During the These boys play cards in their own groups
period of detention in the remand home as well as outside the group. Most of the

JUVENILE DELINQUENCY AND HABIT PATTERNS
407
boys confess that they know more than one In fact, over fifty (55.88) per cent of the boys
game of cards. Some of them always carry state that their parents never object even
a pack of cards with them as the necessity when they know that they are actively
for its use may arise any time.
associated with their peers.
Regarding the places of gambling, usually
It is significant that a fairly low percen-
the hang-outs differ with the nature of tage of the sampled boys are addicted to
gambling. The boys find gardens and fields alcohol. Only 22 boys, constituting about
in the outskirts of the towns, cities, the 16 (16.17) per cent of the sampled boys,
space below the over-bridge, as well as state that they drink alcohol frequently.
crumbled and deteriorated houses inside Drinking alcohol can be rather expensive
the city or town as suitable places for play-
and, even in the case of country liquor, the
ing cards. It is also found that habitual expenditure can be quite high which the boys
gamblers generally have the profit motive cannot afford on a sustained basis. How-
and play for monetary gain. The loser is ever, on the basis of availability of funds,
usually forced to gamble in the expectation the boys would buy liquor from licensed
of getting back the money that is lost. This shops, or even take to illicit liquor which
is how the gambling continues though places is relatively cheaper. Also, occasional use
of gambling are raided from time to time.
of alcohol may be observed when the 'earn-
As a pastime, gambling, especially play-
ings' from unlawful activities are fairly
ing cards, keeps the delinquent boys busy high. In fact, nearly 35 (35.29) per cent of
during such times when they are not actually the boys state that they do drink alcohol
engaged in delinquent activities. And for occasionally. Nearly 50 (48.52) per cent of
those who are consistently engaged in the boys state that they never take alcoholic
gambling activities, it provides an expecta-
drinks. Inspite of the fact that drinking
tion of monetary gain. Even in the absence alcohol is also a group activity, it has not
of actual monetary gain, gambling provides developed into a confirmed habit in the case
the much desired thrill and excitement.
of a large number of youthful offenders
Gambling can take a more individualized covered by the study.
form in the "Matka"* form of gambling.
One of the ways in which the adolescents
Here also the pecuniary considerations may may be drawn to the habit of drinking
prevail in resorting to this form of gambling. alcohol is when they serve as carriers of
The element of thrill and expectation is illicit liquor. In such cases the impetus to
more intense in this form of gambling than cultivate the habit of drinking alcohol may
in other forms. Forty-one boys, constituting largely be derived through association with
nearly 30 (30.14) per cent of the sampled adult offenders who are the prime movers
boys, state that they play Matka.
in illicit liquor trade. Moreover it is noticed
One way of looking at some of the habits in the present study that drinking among boys
of the boys is to consider them as a way is a group phenomenon and hence boys
of the delinquent's expression of resentment usually drink in a group. Moreover it is the
of institutional authority. Very often such group that induces boys to drink. Regarding
activities are concealed, and they may be-
the use of intoxicants boys expressed that
come more open when the delinquent is it provides recreation, excitement and rel-
inclined to show open opposition to any axation from monotony. Some senior delin-
kind of restrictions placed on his behaviour. quent boys stated that the use of alcohol
* Matka, a number game, is a popular form of gambling.

408
B. H. AMATI
makes them bold and courageous and raises Conclusion
their stamina in crime and gambling.
According to these boys, it enhances their
The foregoing analysis reveals that delin-
capacity for betting in gamblmg — a quality quent boys also develop habits and pastimes
that is highly appreciated by the delinquents such as smoking, gambling, drinking alcohol
in general.
etc., that tell upon their health, character
Delinquent boys not only take alcoholic and psychology. The habits that the boys
drinks but also smoke ganja and consume develop are almost a group phenomenon.
opium and charas which provide intoxica-
Boys acquire these habits in the group and
tion. Boys who normally associate with they can enjoy them to the fullest extent
adult criminals are initiated into such habits. only in the company of other individuals —
It is noticed in the present study that 14 juveniles as well as adults. In the case of
boys consume opium and charas and 18 delinquent boys these activities such as
boys smoke ganja.
smoking, gambling, drinking alcohol etc.,
Visiting movies is another common prac-
are recreational too. That means the delin-
tice found among the delinquent boys. Data quent boys resort to these activities for
reveal that nearly 73 (72.78) per cent of the recreation. And when he finds that delin-
sampled boys have much craving for seeing quent activities are also recreational, he
motion pictures. It is a pastime which pro-
indulges in it and soon accepts it as a career.
vides thrill and enjoyment to teen age boys.
Hence, it has almost come to mean that
It is also noticed that some boys have tried activities that are delinquent in nature are
to conduct their gang activities on the lines accompanied by bad habits and pasti-
observed on the screen. Thus the movie mes. This fact requires the attention of all
visits partially provide guidelines to delin-
those persons who deal with delinquent
quent activities.
children — institutionally or otherwise.
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