Reference Work Entry

Encyclopedia of Child Behavior and Development

pp 479-481


  • Gretchen SchoenfieldAffiliated withSpecial Education, Rehabilitation and School Psychology, University of Arizona


Juvenile crime; Juvenile delinquency


“Delinquency” refers to violations of law conducted by individuals who are found guilty of such acts and are legally defined as a juvenile.


A juvenile is adjudicated “delinquent” when he or she has been found guilty of a crime. Violations under the juvenile justice system fall into two categories: criminal and status offenses. State and federal policies both guide the ways in which these violations are processed, though approaches vary across jurisdictions.

Delinquency has often been treated synonymously to terms such as rule-breaking behavior, antisocial behavior, and conduct disorder. The commonality among these concepts is deviant behavior; however, there are important distinguishing features. Rule-breaking behavior is a non-diagnostic, non-legal term that encompasses a broad spectrum of behavior, ranging from developmentally appropriate to serious violations of the law. Conduct disorder is a ...

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