Oftentimes, there are social, economic, and political underpinnings when practices or policies are set in place. Whether a phenomenon is constructed in a new light as a social problem, an economic turn places demands on society, or there is an ideological shift within politics, these factors – together – frequently play a vital role in policy. That is, the rhetoric we employ – the way in which we discuss trends – helps dictate how issues are dealt with. This post will explore how cultural constructions of childhood helped create the juvenile justice system and the larger changes to the system that have occurred since its creation.
Perhaps it is best to start with the social construction of youth with contemporary society. The perception of youth today holds – perhaps – the same way it did some time ago; with the catchphrase “today’s youth are so bad” continuing forward with every generation. This sense of nostalgia, the fondness toward the past has not been divorced from how the youth today are constructed. Making evening news headlines and front pages are perceptions of the “monster child” – the ever worsening condition of the younger population. On the one hand, as a risky population, youth have become something to be protected from. On the other hand, however, the youth also need to be protected – they are often defenseless, ignorant to larger societal ills, and require protection. (more…)