Juvenile delinquency refers to the violation of a criminal law by a juvenile. In most states a juvenile is anyone under age eighteen, but in some states a person is considered an adult at age sixteen or seventeen. If a juvenile has committed an act that would be a crime if committed by an adult, then the juvenile has committed juvenile delinquency. Moreover, juvenile delinquency includes acts that are legal for adults. These acts are called status offenses because they are illegal only for people with the status of being a juvenile. Whereas crimes consist of such acts as murder and rape (which are illegal for both juveniles and adults), examples of status offenses are running away from home and truancy (which are illegal only for juveniles). Juvenile courts, as opposed to criminal courts, generally have jurisdiction over the crimes and status offenses committed by juveniles.
Empey, LaMar T., Mark C. Stafford, and Carter H. Hay. American Delinquency: Its Meaning and Construction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1999.
Jensen, Gary F., and Dean G. Rojek. Delinquency and Youth Crime. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1998.
Mark C. Stafford