Joint Project Studies Juvenile Delinquency in China

With crime on the rise in China along with its economic growth and social change, SHSU’s College of Criminal Justice collaborated on a joint study with a Chinese institute to examine juvenile delinquency in that country.

Drs. Ling Ren, Jihong (Solomon) Zhao and Vincent Webb at the College of Criminal Justice conducted a pilot study to examine the self-reported juvenile delinquency in Hangzhou, China, a city with a population of six million. The project is a joint research endeavor with Zhejiang Provincial Juvenile Delinquency Institute in China.

China has experienced an upward trend in juvenile crime in recent years, but there is a lack of research on prevalence and incidence of juvenile delinquency and factors associated with the problem in that country. Dr. Ling Ren
The project used a customized self-report instrument to assess the issue in China, to describe the incidents of juvenile delinquency and victimization among 7th to 9th grade students in different school settings and to understand the importance of individual characteristics, schools and neighborhoods on the behaviors.

"China has the second largest economy in the world, but little is known about self-reporting of juvenile delinquency," Dr. Ren said.

As the capital city of Zhejiang province, Hangzhou has experienced rapid growth over the past three decades. In fact, the city is a vivid reflection of the social and demographic changes in the coastal area in China where the economic boom has been the most noticeable.

Similar to the demographics of the city, the student population in Hangzhou is noticeably diversified. To research the issue, the team used a survey instrument widely used in Europe and the United States for self-reporting of delinquent behaviors. The instrument was translated into Chinese and pre-tested among 16 Chinese exchange students at SHSU in October 2009. Changes were made to better fit the Chinese social, cultural, and language context.

The Chinese students surveyed were from five public schools, three private schools, and a special school for the children of migrant workers. A total of 1,043 students completed the survey.

The study found that the prevalence of juvenile delinquency among Chinese students in only a fraction of that among American students and that the risk of offending is comparatively low. Victimization rates among Chinese students, however, were only slightly lower than their American counterparts.

"The prevalence and incidents of juvenile delinquency reported in our study were very low," said Dr. Ren.

The study found there were significantly lower levels of school crime and pro-violence attitude, and higher levels of self-control among Chinese students compared to U.S. students. Attachments to school, family and neighborhoods were higher among Chinese students. Dr. Solomon Zhao

Dr. Zhao said China is unique in its social control, with the culture using more informal methods such as strong family bonding and social network, rather than formal methods like punishment. Their connections to family and school are much more prevalent than the United States.

"The parents and school work keep them occupied," said Dr. Zhao. "They are under the radar screen of their parents."

The results of the research were presented to the European Society of Criminology in Liege, Belgium in September and to the American Society of Criminology in San Francisco in November.

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