When you think of criminals, you probably think of adults, not children. The fact is, however, that some children, from preschoolers to teenagers, do engage in committing crimes and get caught. Although most every child will at some point show signs of resisting authority or misbehaving, some children take it a step further and become criminals for various reasons.
Sometimes, adults will use children, including their own children, to commit crimes because the penalties for juveniles are usually lighter, even for the same offense. The grownups, in this case, usually the parents, may believe that there is no harm to the children because they will get a clean slate when they reach the age of majority. In reality, though, learning to break the law at a young age sets a pattern that can become normal behavior for many years to come that is difficult to break.
Children who experience neglect or outright abuse at home, school, in the care of a babysitter, or at a neighbor’s or relative’s house are more likely than others to commit non-violent or even violent crimes. This may be because they have learned, through their own experiences, to hurt others or are acting out with bitterness against anyone they feel threatened by. Another possible reason is that they are simply trying to survive, and they haven’t learned a better way.
Child criminals may be more likely than other children to have underdeveloped parts of the brain that account for behavior and emotional regulation. Although children usually lack self-control, children who turn to crime may be even more impulsive than other children their age. When this is the reason for a child’s delinquency, a criminal defense lawyer can sometimes get probation instead of incarceration for child offenders, allowing more time for parents to seek help.
Even when children who have known risk factors don’t commit crimes, they have a higher probability of becoming criminals as adults. The good news is that, when warning signs are spotted early, they can be addressed with family support and professional help, then children can make big leaps in the right direction and have a good and prosperous life.