Young People and Criminal Behaviour
Young people tend to break the law but most will 'age out' of crime.
Not every person who commits a crime comes to the attention of the Police. Lots of young people engage in illegal behaviour at some stage in their lives. For most, it’s during their mid to late teens and early twenties.
Although legally considered 'criminal' activities, things like fighting, drinking too much, taking drugs, stealing and property damage are actually pretty normal behaviours for young people. This is particularly true for young males. The good news is that most people grow out of it.
As the Prime Minister's Science Advisor explains in 'Improving the Transitions':
"...brain maturation is not complete until well into the third decade of life and the last functions to mature are those of impulse control and judgement. It is therefore inevitable that adolescence is a period of risk-taking and impulsivity. For many children these are basically healthy and transient behaviours..."
We don’t need to be neuroscientists to understand that young people make mistakes and push boundaries. It’s a natural part of being young. The idea that it's just 'today's youth' who are 'troublemakers' is a total myth.
“What is happening to our young people? They disrespect their elders, they disobey their parents. They ignore the law. They riot in the streets inflamed with wild notions. Their morals are decaying. What is to become of them?”
Plato, 4th Century BC
Even when the behaviour of our young people is technically a crime, we don't always get the justice system involved. Only about one third of all crime is reported to the Police. Lots of behaviour that is legally criminal is dealt with informally at a family, neighbourhood and community level.
And that’s exactly how it should be. The evidence tells us that whenever possible, young people need to be kept out of the formal justice system.
New Zealand's Youth Justice System