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War and Violent Crime - Juvenile Delinquency

crimes adult official wars

It is noteworthy that juvenile delinquency may be affected by war in a different way than is adult crime. During World War II studies in England and in the United States found that rates of delinquency increased rather than decreased in the early years of the conflict. The legitimacy of violence produced by war, combined with the absence of fathers who were away in the services, household and school disruptions through evacuation, blackouts, and economic disruptions may have had a different impact on juveniles than on young adults who were integrated into the war effort through their membership in the armed forces or in some other capacity. However, as with the patterns of adult crime, whether these or any other mechanisms actually link war to delinquent behavior is uncertain. In the end, like adult crime, fluctuations in official rates of wartime delinquency may reflect changes in the nature and enforcement of law, or the collection and tabulation of official data, rather than changes in the behavior of juveniles.

In the end, we know that wars affect rates of crime and delinquency, albeit in different ways, and insofar as they are indicated by official records. We also know that when wars occur, so too do war crimes. When viewed more broadly, as crimes against humanity, however, wars are not necessary to generate such offenses, which typically arise from ethnic or class conflict, and the complicity of the state in perpetrating extreme violence on behalf of one category against another. Neither the concentration of power nor the political orientation of the state by itself determines whether such crimes will occur. After a hiatus of almost half a century the United Nations is once again pursuing those who commit crimes against humanity, and this is generating renewed attention from social scientists. Thus, the conditions giving rise to crimes against humanity may yet be more precisely specified.

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