Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Faculty of Science

First Advisor

Frederick R. Binding

Advisor Role

Thesis Supervisor


The juvenile justice system has come under increasing criticism for its traditionally paternalistic and protective posture. The literature surveyed reviews some of the major occurrences, such as the Gault decision, which have led to a new direction in legislation. It is demonstrated that while juveniles are being awarded more due process rights, they are also being held more accountable for their actions. The paternalistic versus legalistic, or protective versus permissive, dichotomy clearly emerges during the examination of the literature. It is clearly extracted and analyzed in two papers, one by Dootjes (1972) and one by Leon (1979). Leon’s is a review paper and he cites little data. Dootjes’ paper concentrates on lawyers’ attitudes and is subject to many limitations when viewed as a piece of research. This study examined the attitudes of juveniles, as subjects of changing legislation, toward the dichotomy. The variables of age and gender were considered and a bi-polar attitude measure, in the form of a Likert scale, was constructed. The self-administered 20-item instrument was composed of statements extracted from the literature which have traditionally reflected the permissive or the protective dimension. It was administered to 109 Northern Ontario school students respondents ranging in age from 12 to 18 years. It was found that as a respondent’s age increased he tended to view himself as being a more appropriate candidate for a more legalistic or permissive system. The strength of the relationship between age and attitude was only moderate however (r = .41) and it did not survive the categorization of ages required for one way analysis of variance. The gender of the subject appeared to play no significant role in determining attitude. Self-report data concerning delinquent behaviour was also collected and revealed a large degree of undetected delinquency on the part of both male and female respondents. The difficulty in drawing conclusions about the nature of the sample due to the manner in which Canadian crime statistics are compiled is discussed. This paper concluded with a critical analysis of this Likert scale and serious doubts about its validity, and the validity of a number of the assumptions concerning the protective-permissive dichotomy, are raised. Directions for further research are suggested and recommendations for research of this nature to precede legislative decisions, such as those concerning the establishment of an age of criminal responsibility, are made.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season