The Effects of Family Structure and Values on Juvenile Delinquency Christina M. Bracey 201240 Fall 2012 CJUS 230-B02 LUO Professor DeBoer Liberty University Online October 12, 2012 Abstract The changes in family values and structure in the United States has helped contribute to juvenile delinquency today. Society needs to recognize problems within the home before trying to find solutions to problems for todays at risk youth in America. Major structural changes inside of the home could adversely affect the raising of juveniles leading to delinquency.
Some of the issues I will discuss in my paper are divorce, child abuse, mothers working outside of the home, and single-parent homes. Ineffectively raising a child can cause low self-control and low self-esteem while increasing the risks of delinquency as well. I will argue that with proper supervision, counseling, and monitoring of the behavior of the juvenile, it is possible that society can help eliminate some of the crimes committed by juvenile delinquents. Thesis The changes in family values and structure in the United States has helped contribute to juvenile delinquency today Introduction
Family Structure has changed noticeably in the United States over the past several decades. It refers to various family characteristics that affect relationships and how families function. These characteristics include family size, family disruption, and birth order. High rates of divorce, single-parent housing, the spreading of non-parent families and step-families, and the propagation of cohabitation now delineate in American family life. Changes in family structure can be devastating to a child’s well-being, and have the potential to contribute to juvenile delinquency.
The Family and Delinquency Widespread agreement among social scientists and the general public lead experts to believe that family plays a key role in child development and socialization. There are two sides however to families; the first being a place where members love, care and provide for one another promoting healthy human growth. The second side reveals conflict, a lack of support, and violence. Families are extremely influenced by the political and economic context within which they operate (Elrod & Ryder, 1999, p. 53).
A family’s place within the political and economic structure is important because such placement determines the family’s admittance to connections with other institutions. These institutions can consist of school, work, church and voluntary associations. Also, such institutions can be useful resources for the family and can promote access to other resources. The family not only determines the economic status within which the juveniles live, but is also the primary molder of a child’s personality, values, and behavior (Elrod & Ryder, 1999, p. 54).
A variety of criminological theories assume that family plays a significant role in the prevention of delinquent behavior (Elrod & Ryder, 1999, p. 54). Family Size and Delinquency Larger families tend to produce more juvenile delinquents than smaller families. Being a middle child is also more predictive of delinquency than being either the youngest or eldest (Green & Gabbidon, 2009, p. 283). One common explanation for this issue is a straining of resources in larger families and the inability to provide appropriate parental supervision.
Green & Gabbidon (2009) suggest that middle children are more likely to be present during the times of strain; older children leave the home first and younger children remain when there is not as much demand for parental resources (p. 283). Exposure to Violence, Abuse, or Neglect Most studies find links between exposure to violence or abuse and later possibly offending (Green & Gabbidon, 2009, p. 282). Exposure to marital violence during childhood has been notably associated with committing marital violence as an adult. An estimated 30% of abused parents abuse their children—a rate of 15 times higher than non-abused parents” (Green & Gabbidon, 2009, p. 282). Women that were physically abused during childhood are more likely to experience domestic violence as adults. Abused mothers that did not abuse their children tend to have had a non-abusive adult in their childhood or had a stable relationship pattern as an adult. Children that were sexually abused are more likely to succumb to delinquency, suicidal ideation, and prostitution (Green & Gabbidon, 1999, p. 82). Exposure to Poverty Poverty has been linked to crime for many years. Approximately 18% of children under the age of 18 live in poverty (Green & Gabbidon, 2009, p. 283). Juveniles that grow up poor have a number of negative life outcomes, including delinquency. The impact of socioeconomic status suggests that economic strain plays an important role likely because increased stress decreases effective parenting, a situation that leads to delinquency in children (Green & Gabbidon, 2009, p. 283). Impact of Community on Juvenile Delinquency
Research throughout neighborhoods has produced significant results on determining the impact of a community on juvenile (Green & Gabbidon, 2009, p. 283). Collective socialization has a beneficial impact on the rate of delinquency among these youth. An extensive study of African American families showed that children who lived in a community high in collective socialization were less likely to associate with delinquent peers even when controlling for other important factors (Green & Gabbidon, 2009, p. 283). Theoretical Reasoning to Understanding Delinquent Behavior
There are many theories that focus on families being the central reasoning behind juvenile crimes. Generally, families are considered to be the primary factors in socialization. The impact of family in juvenile delinquency has been theorized and investigated for many decades being that crime commonly runs in families. Parental criminality is one of the most vigorous and most consistent conjectures of a child's delinquency (Greene ; Gabbidon, 2009, p. 281). Biological Theory “The so-called traditional family, with a male breadwinner and a female who cares for the home, is a thing of the past” (Siegel, Welsh, ; Senna, 2003, p. 94). This particular type of family structure can no longer be considered normal. Sex role changes have created a family in which the mother now plays a greater role in society and the economic process. The number of households that have children living with both parents has substantially declined. “Early social science researchers asserted that the “broken home” was the single most important factor in understanding delinquency” (Burfeind ; Bartusch, 2011, p. 185). Less than half of the children born today will live continuously with their mother and father throughout their childhood.
A disturbed home environment is believed to have a significant impact on delinquency. Family is the contributing unit towards children’s values and attitudes that mark the paths throughout their lives. According to Seigel, Welsh, and Senna (2003), children who have witnessed a family breakup are more likely to exhibit behavioral problems and hyperactivity than those of intact families (p. 196). Often times, family disruptions are correlated with hostility, conflict, and attachment. Children whose parents divorced are thought to have less supervision and a greater risk of falling for peer pressure.
Past research examined the effect of family structure on delinquency by comparing single-father, single-mother, two-biological-parent families, and stepfamilies (Burfeind ; Bartusch, 2011, p. 185). The highest levels of delinquency were found in single-father families and the lowest levels being in two-biological-parent families, while single-mother families and stepfamilies were in the middle. “The absence of a parent was associated with lower levels of involvement, supervision, monitoring, and closeness” (Burfeind ; Bartusch, 2011, p. 185).
Parental absence undermines direct and indirect control leading to higher levels of delinquency among youth living in single-parent families as compared to two-parent families. Not all marriages end and divorce; some continue to live in an atmosphere of conflict (Siegel, Welsh, ; Senna, 2003, p. 198). This conflict is known as intrafamily conflict and it common in many American families today. Studies have shown that children growing up in dysfunctional homes and witness disorder or violence, later display behavioral problems and emotional issues (Siegel, Welsh, ; Senna, 2003, p. 98). Pre-existing family problems can cause delinquency; however, it may also claim that children who act out put a sizable amount of stress on a family. Psychological Explanations “Many scholars, policymakers, and laypersons have argued that there are individual differences in intelligence, personality, or other factors that not only separate delinquents from all other youths but that are, directly or indirectly, the causes of their delinquency” (Shoemaker, 2010, p. 61).
The earliest attempts in isolating the psychological or mental conditions of delinquent behavior, was the development of the concepts of moral insanity. It has been proposed that delinquents and criminals that were deficient in basic moral skills inherited this condition (Shoemaker, 2010, p. 61). According to psychologists, many delinquents have poor home lives, destructive relationships with friends, neighbors, teachers, and others in authoritative positions (Siegel, Welsh, ; Senna, 2003, p. 83). The relationships that these youth have with these individuals symbolize a disturbed personality structure.
A youth’s personality is defined by negative and antisocial behavior characteristics, and since delinquent behavior occurs in every race, ethnic group, and socioeconomic group, psychologists believe it is a function of emotional and mental disturbances. Many delinquents do not demonstrate notable psychological issues; however enough do give clinicians a strong influence on delinquency theory (Siegel, Walsh ; Senna, 2010, p. 84). Psychology is a diversified and complex discipline in which more than one psychological perspective exists.
The three prominent psychological perspectives on delinquency are psychodynamic, the behavioral, and the cognitive (Siegel, Walsh, ; Senna, 2010, p. 84). The psychodynamic theory suggests that law violations are a product of an abnormal personality that formed early on in life. This personality controls human behavior choices. “The basis of the psychodynamic theory is the assumption that human behavior is controlled by unconscious mental processes developed early in childhood” (Siegel, Walsh, ; Senna, 2010, p. 84). Behavioral psychologists believe that a person’s personality is learned through life experiences with others.
Behavior is initially triggered by a stimulus or change in one’s environment. If a certain behavior is rewarded by positive reactions, that behavior will continue and eventually be learned. The cognitive theory allows psychologists to focus on mental processes and the way people mentally represent the world around them including how they solve issues (Siegel, Walsh, ; Senna, 2010, p. 84). During the decision making process people engage in a series of cognitive thoughts. First, they encipher information so that it can be interpreted. Then they search for a response and decide what the most appropriate action is to take.
Finally, they act on the decision that they made (Siegel, Walsh, ; Senna, 2010, p. 89). It is suggested that using this approach, juveniles will be better conditioned to make appropriate judgments. Social Disorganization Delinquency that is primarily the result of a breakdown of institutional controls is known as social disorganization. “The individuals who live in such situations are not necessarily themselves personally disoriented; instead, they are viewed as responding “naturally” to disorganized environmental conditions” (Shoemaker, 2010, p. 101).
Social disorganization is associated with a lengthy list of collateral social problems, residential instability, ethnic/racial conflict, and family disruption (Siegel, Walsh, ; Senna, 2010, p. 110). Social Control Theories attempt to find factors that contribute to an individual becoming deviant. Hirschi’s Theory states, “Delinquent acts result when an individual’s bond to society is weakened or broken” (Whitehead ; Lab, 1999, p. 93). An underlying presumption is that behavior is controlled by the connections a person has to the conventional social order.
Deviance is exposed when the level of control over an individual diminishes to where that person is free to choose prohibited activities. Hirschi explains four outlines of bonds: attachment, commitment, involvement, and belief (Whitehead ; Lab, 1999, p. 94). A bond is fundamentally a result of socialization that takes place during childhood. The first bond, attachment, is the failure to care about what others think about the individual’s behavior and views. The second bond, commitment, demonstrates the individual’s ability to work towards acceptable goals.
The third bond, involvement, uses the individual’s energy and time in socially acceptable behaviors. The fourth bond, belief, opens doors for the individual for deviant and delinquent behavior. Later in Hirschi’s career, he proposed that single parenting may be just as effective as dual parenting (Leiber, Mack, ; Featherstone, 2008, p. 4). Hirschi’s Theory tried to explain why an individual is deviant and how they became the way they are. Poor socialization is the easiest explanation; however, the theory fails to prove how this happens. The relative impact of the four elements of bond is left unexplained.
Drift Theory Episodic Deviance is another area of concern. Youths tend to sway between delinquent and conventional behavior. Using the control theory, this drift between the two cannot be explained when an individual chooses to commit a deviance. Such drifts can only be explained by suggesting that the bond is strengthened and weakened easily and more often than none. According to Whitehead ; Lab, 1999, “A final concern is that the theory assumes all bonding is to conventional, nondeviant lifestyles” (p. 95). It is possible that the juvenile is being raised in a household with parents that are deviant.
The theory suggests that a juvenile in such circumstances will be bonded to deviance. Labeling Theory The Labeling Theory is the view that formal and informal reactions to delinquency can influence the attitudes and behavior of delinquents (Shoemaker, 2010, p. 259). Frank Tannenbaum introduced “dramatization of evil,” in which he suggested that officially labeling someone as a delinquent can result in the person becoming the very thing that they are labeled (Shoemaker, 2010, p. 259). A basic presumption regarding the labeling theory is that initial acts of delinquency are caused by a wide variety of factors.
The primary factor in the recurrence of delinquency is the fact of having been formally labeled as a delinquent (Shoemaker. 2010, p. 260). Reiterated acts of delinquency are influenced by formal labels because they eventually alter a person’s self-image to where the person begins to identify themselves as a delinquent and act accordingly. The view of labeling aspect is that a negative self-image follows the act of delinquency rather than preceding delinquency. The labeling approach is dependent on certain criteria in addition to the behavior itself.
One does not have to be officially labeled a criminal or delinquent in order to label him/herself as such. Schools and Delinquency Another institution with has a profound impact on the lives of juveniles is school. School is an important institution because it provides juveniles with the academic skills to effectively participate in society (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 61). Other reasons that schools play such important roles in the lives of juveniles is it has become the primary socialization institution. It is there that children learn attitudes, values, and skills that are necessary for their future in economic and social life.
Much of the interaction between parents and children revolves around school related issues (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 61). A number of factors can be related to school failure and delinquency. Students’ feelings of belonging, commitment, and attachment to school reveal these factors are related to school violence, vandalism, and delinquency (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 63). Studies have found that students that dislike their teachers are more likely to be involved in delinquency than those who feel an attachment to their teachers (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 63).
Students that are less committed to school and their teachers and who feel alienated are more likely to commit disruptive or delinquent behaviors in and out of school. Many students drop out of school and believe this is a solution to the problems they have faced in school. Dropping out of school has numerous negative consequences for the juvenile. They face less job prospects and many times experience difficulty meeting basic income needs to survive. Besides the economic effect of dropping out of school, there are also substantial psychological and social consequences (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 64).
Usually, juveniles that drop out regret their decision and typically show evidence of not being satisfied with themselves and their environment. They also have lower occupational aspirations than those who graduate from school, and also have lower occupational aspirations for their children (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 64). “Compared with students who stay in school, those who drop out tend to be from low socioeconomic status groups, to be members of minority groups, and to come from homes with fewer study aids and where there are fewer opportunities for non-school-related learning” (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 4). Juveniles that drop out are also more likely to have come from single-parent households where the mother works, resulting in less parental supervision. Studies have uncovered that when juveniles drop out of school, their involvement in criminal activities tends to increase immediately (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 65). Race and Juvenile Delinquents According to Burfeind ; Bartusch (2011), “The relationship between race and involvement in delinquency is not entirely straightforward” (p. 81). Minorities are disproportionately represented in arrest statistics.
African American juveniles are arrested for a disproportionate number of rapes, murders, robberies, and assaults, while white juveniles are disproportionately arrested for arsons (Siegel, Welsh, ; Senna, 2003, p. 40). The racial gap in juvenile arrest rates has broadened during the past decade with African American youths experiencing a steady increase in arrest rates. “African Americans have suffered through a long history of discrimination, which has produced last emotional scars” (Siegel, Welsh, ; Senna, 2003, p. 42). Racism is an element of daily life in the African American community.
This factor alone undermines faith in political and social institutions and weakens confidence in the justice system. These acquired attitudes are supported by evidence, that in some jurisdictions, young African American males are treated more harshly than members of any other ethnic group. Differences in racial crime rates may also be tied to frustration over perceived racism, discrimination, and economic disparity (Siegel, Welsh, ; Senna, 2003, p. 42). Gender and Delinquency Official arrest statistics point to males being significantly more criminal than females.
However, the arrests of female delinquents in recent years have been increasing faster than those for males. “Between 1990 and 2000, the number of arrests of male delinquents actually decreased by about 3 percent, whereas the number of female delinquents arrested increased about 25 percent” (Siegel, Welsh, ; Senna, 2003, p. 40). Age and Delinquency As juvenile offenders mature, their offending rates decline (Siegel, Welsh, ; Senna, 2003, p. 43). Regardless of sex, race, social class, or intelligence, people commit less crime as they age.
The aging-out process is referred to as spontaneous remission. According to this process, even the most continuing juvenile offenders will commit less crime as they age. There are a number of reasons as to why the aging-out process occurs. First of all growing older means that the offenders have to face the future. Secondly, with maturity comes the ability to resist the temptation to commit crimes as a quick fix solution. Some juveniles may turn to crime as a way to solve loneliness, problems with adolescence, frustration, and the fear of being rejected by peers (Siegel, Welsh, ; Senna, 2003, p. 44).
As the juvenile matures, more options become available to help solve these problems. Personalities can also change with age. Youth that were more rebellious as youngsters, may eventually develop increased self-control and be able to resist delinquent behaviors. Young adults become more aware of the risks and consequences that accompany crime. “As adults, they are no longer protected by the kindly arms of the juvenile justice system” (Siegel, Welsh, ; Senna, 2003, p. 44). Early Efforts at Diversion “Efforts to divert children from normal criminal justice processing have a long history” (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 60). The development of routine diversion strategies and specialized diversion programs has significantly increased during the past twenty years. In order to regulate the number of diversionary responses available to communities, the commission proposed the establishment of youth services bureaus (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 161). The bureaus were intended to assist existing community agencies that dealt with juveniles in coordinating programs and services for both delinquent and non-delinquent youth (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 161).
They were also intended to serve as an alternative to juvenile court processing, allowing hundreds of thousands of juveniles to be diverted from the formal juvenile justice process each year (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 161). The Effectiveness of Diversion Diversion Strategies and Programs uphold that such programs decrease the number of juveniles involved in the formal juvenile justice process (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 173). These programs are believed to reduce offending youths who receive diversionary treatment, minimize formal intervention, and are more cost-effective that formal processing (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 73). However, some evaluation studies have found that they fall short of their goals often. Some evaluation studies indicate that diversion programs can reduce recidivism or are at least as effective as formal processing (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 173). It is possible that diversion programs may deny juveniles due process. Diversion may be compulsive and consist of intrusive interventions, and possibly, the youth’s family may be required to participate. Coercion is problematic and all levels of the juvenile justice process (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 173).
Research on diversion, in sum, has produced mixed results (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 174). “There are a number of problems that have been associated with diversion programs, but despite these problems diversion appears to have some merit” (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 174). Decriminalization Societal Reaction advocates point out that the criminalization of some behaviors often produces more harm than it does good. Behaviors such as running away and not attending school are objectionable in many cases, but treating them as crimes does not always benefit the juvenile (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 65). Treating truants and runaways as juvenile offenders is expensive and ineffective. As a result, the societal reaction theorists leaned more towards the deinstitutionalization of status offenses (Elrod ; Ryder, 1999, p. 165). Prevention and Intervention With the important role family’s play in the socialization of children, several programs have been implemented to prevent family contribution to delinquency or to intervene once a problem has been realized (Siegel, Welsh, ; Senna, 2003, p. 42).
Years of program evaluations have produced a number of effective family-based prevention programs such as parent training on appropriate and effective child-rearing (Siegel, Welsh, ; Senna, 2003, p. 42). Conclusion According to the research conducted, family impact is wrong: parental absence is not importantly related to juvenile delinquency. Family interactions have greater influence on delinquency. Children reared by competent, affectionate parents who avoid using physical forms of punishment are unlikely to commit serious crimes either as juveniles or as adults.
On the other hand, children reared by parents who neglect or reject them are likely to be greatly influenced by their community environments, which may offer opportunities and encouragement for criminal behavior. Bibliography Shoemaker, Donald J. (2010). Theories of Delinquency: An Examination of Explanations of Delinquent Behavior 6th Edition. Whitehead, John T. , ; Lab, Steven P. (1998). Juvenile Justice: An Introduction 3rd Edition. Seigel, Larry J. , Welsh, Brandon C. , ; Senna, Joseph J. (2002). Juvenile Delinquency: Theory, Practice, and Law
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