Comparison of the self concepts of juvenile offenders as classified by type of offense



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The present study attempted to determine if there are differences in the various aspects of the self concepts of juvenile offenders when classified according to type of offense committed. While many typologies for categorizing and studying delinquent behavior have been formed, few have dealt with the self concept as a significant variable. A review of the literature suggests, however, that a connection between self concept and type of offense committed may exist. The subjects consisted of 60 male youths, aged 11 through 16, charged with offenses ranging from runaway to murder. There were 20 subjects in each of three groups: those charged with crimes against persons, those charged with crimes against property, and runaways (status offenders). The subjects were administered the Tennessee Self Concept Scale (TSCS) and the Cattell Culture Fair Intelligence Test. It was hypothesized that the runaway group would have the lowest self concept, the crimes against persons group the next lowest self concept, and the crimes against property group the highest self concept. Profile analysis by means of a multiple analysis of variance approach indicated no significant differences in the level or shape of the self concept profiles of the three offender groups. However, when plotted graphically, the three profiles were nearly parallel rather than being equal or crossed. The runaway group exhibited the lowest plot while the person offender group exhibited the highest plot. The issue of small sample size and statistical power was discussed in the context of the above results. All groups were well below the means of the TSCS normative group. Self concept scores were not affected by age, IQ, or ethnicity. All three offender groups displayed a willingness for self-criticism, with the crimes against persons group being significantly less critical than the other two groups. The results also revealed differences among the TSCS subscales for the sample as a whole. Regarding the internal frame of reference, the Identity and Behavior scales were significantly lower than the Self Satisfaction scale. For the external frame of reference, the Moral-Ethical Self scale was significantly below the other four scales while the Social Self and the Family Self scales were significantly lower than the Physical Self and Personal Self scales. The possible implications of the research were discussed in regard to rehabilitation efforts and the direction of future research. Innovative programs mentioned in the delinquency literature were pointed out as being consistent with the present study. It was suggested that the causes of delinquent behavior be viewed as complex and dynamic with the self concept being only one facet of the situation.