The basic difficulty with all juvenile delinquency is the one-time apparently humane program of forbidding children to labor in any way.
Doubtless it was once a fact that child labor was abused, that children were worked too hard, that their growths were stunted and that they were, in general, used. It is highly doubtful if the infamous Mr. Marx ever saw in America young boys being pulled off machines dead from work and thrown onto dump heaps.
Where there was an abuse of this matter, there was a public outcry against it, and legislation was enacted to prevent children from working. This legislation with all the good intention of the world is, however, directly responsible for juvenile delinquency.
Forbidding children to work, and particularly forbidding teenagers to make their own way in the world and earn their own money, creates a family difficulty so that it becomes almost impossible to raise a family, and creates as well, and particularly, a state of mind in the teenager that the world does not want him, and he has already lost his game before he has begun it. Then with something like universal military training staring him in the face so that he dare not start a career, he is of course thrust into a deep subapathy (state of disinterest below apathy) on the subject of work, and when he at length is faced with the necessity of making his own way in the world, he rises into an apathy and does nothing about it at all.
It is highly supportive of this fact that our greatest citizens worked, usually when they were quite young. In the Anglo-American civilization the highest level of endeavor was achieved by boys who, from the age of twelve, on farms, had their own duties and had a definite place in the world.
Children, in the main, are quite willing to work. A two-, three-, four-year-old child is usually found haunting his father or her mother trying to help out either with tools or dust rags; and the kind parent who is really fond of the children responds in the reasonable and long-ago-normal manner of being patient enough to let the child actually assist. A child so permitted then develops the idea that his presence and activity is desired and he quite calmly sets about a career of accomplishment.
The child who is warped or pressed into some career, but is not permitted to assist in those early years, is convinced that he is not wanted, that the world has no part of him. And later on he will come into very definite difficulties regarding work. However, the child who at three or four wants to work in this modern society is discouraged and is actually prevented from working, and after he is made to be idle until seven, eight or nine, is suddenly saddled with certain chores.
Now, this child is already educated into the fact that he must not work and so the idea of work is a sphere where he “knows he does not belong,” and so he always feels uncomfortable in performing various activities.
Later on in his teens, he is actively prevented from getting the sort of a job which will permit him to buy the clothes and treats for his friends which he feels are demanded of him, and so he begins to feel he is not a part of the society. Not being part of the society, he is then against the society and desires nothing but destructive activities.