Family Dynamics and Juvenile Delinquency


FamilyDynamics and Juvenile Delinquency

FamilyDynamics and Juvenile Delinquency


Juveniledelinquency is a subject that raised many eyebrows over the lastdecade. The increasing number of minor arrested over the years is anissue of concern to the society. Therefore, many theories, studiesand explanations have been carried out in an attempt to explain ourdisintegrating moral social fiber. In this essay, the author addressseveral reasons that been linked to increasing cases of juveniledelinquencies in our modern society. The lack of an intact home or abroken home together with a weak parental control and supervision hasbeen deemed as the main cause of juvenile delinquency. There arestrong opinions that the degrading family unit is the main cause ofjuvenile delinquency. Other factors include the exposure to riskfactors such as alcohol and drug abuse as well as violence in theenvironment. Juvenile delinquency cannot be attributed to one singlerisk exposure.

Juveniledelinquency refers to the participation of a minor usually betweenthe ages of 10 and 18 in the acts of crime or illegal behaviors.Juvenile delinquency is also referred to as juvenile offending. Therates of crime in the U.S have dropped by 6% in 1991 which representsa drop of over 100,000 cases of violent crime reported. On the otherhand, the number of juvenile crimes reported has been on steady riseover the years. For example, while the rates of crime were decreasingby 6% in 1991, the rates of juvenile delinquency were up by 20%.Statistics offered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) showsthat the 2.7 million juveniles were arrested in U.S detectionfacilities in 1995. This number represented an 18% of all arrestsmade in the U.S in that year. In the previous year, the Juvenilecourts in the country processed 1.5 million cases for minors.Therefore, this means that there was a 41% surge in the juvenilecases processed. Juvenile delinquency has been an issue that hasraised many eyebrows. Consequently, various theories and suggestionshave been put forward in an effort to explain the causes of juveniledelinquencies.

Oneof the main causes of juvenile delinquencies has been blamed on thelack of an intact unit in the family. In some cases, this has alsobeen referred to as broken homes. The lack of parental monitoring andsupervision has been another factor that has been linked to juveniledelinquency. Our modern society is also characterized by physicalviolence and crime perpetrated through the media such as televisionand radio. This sort of violence exposes the youth to violence and onthe same breath the youth are exposed to drug and substance abuse atan early age. Finally, the youths are exposed to various risk factorswhich can affect their upbringing and moral values. Juveniledelinquency has thus been linked to the exposure of various riskfactors. Over the recent years, the increasing number of juveniledelinquency has raised some concerns about the behavior of theyouths. Many policy makers and researchers have expressed theirconcern on the subject as some have regarded it as one of the mostcrucial social issues of our time. In this essay, the author willdelve on four main issues in an attempt to shed some light on thesubject of juvenile delinquency. These four issues include: the weakparental control and supervision, a broken home or a disintegratingfamily unit, the exposure to violent crime and drug &amp substanceabuse. Finally there is the exposure to risk factors(FamilyInfluence on Juvenile Deliquency, 1999).


Researchand studies conducted on juvenile delinquency mostly point out to thefamily structure as the main cause of increased cases of juveniledelinquencies. Over the last decades, it is evident that the familystructure in the United States has changed. A contemporary Americanfamily is characterized by either a single parent household or adivorce. These changes have disintegrated the basic family unit thusleading to weak parent and child relationships and less parentalsupervision. Research has established that at least most children inmodern American society spend their lifetime in either a singleparent household or a divorced family. This was after the studyrevealed that three out of four men and two out of three women end upremarrying in their lifetime, thus leading to many cases of familytransition.

PoorParental control and Supervision

Criminologyresearch has suggested there a correlation between family structureand delinquency. Children from blended families tend to result to themost cases of delinquent cases reported of any known familystructure. Children that come from cohabiting households exhibit arange of behavioral traits that would possibly lead to delinquency.This is because children from blended and cohabitated families areinfluenced by other factors that affect a child’s well-being. Suchconditions include experiencing poorer life outcomes in education dueto shifts in resources such as time and money. Family transitionsalso include changes in roles in the family and disruption in variousfamilies routine that often negatively affect parenting. One suchparenting measure that is affected by the disruption of the family isparental control and supervision. Studies suggest that changes ineconomic resources and parental and child bond determine juvenileoffending.

Weakparent-child bond

Childrenfrom cohabiting and blended families displayed higher rates ofdeviant behavior than children from a two parent household. Thiscondition has been attributed to the parent-child bond prior to thetransition. The strength of a parent-child bond might either deter orworsen future cases of juvenile offending among the youth. This isbecause children often view new partners as competition for theirmother’s affection and attention therefore creating a conflictbetween the mother and child. Strong bonds between the mother andchild may buffer the negative aspects of a new family arrangement.However, poor relationships between children and their parents canonly worsen upon cohabitation. Family dissolution has also beenlinked with less parental supervision by the parents since there isless parental attachment. The bond existing between the parent andchild is also affected since the mother’s role is now more focusedon building another relationship (Schroeder,Osgood, &amp Oghia, 2010).


Singleparent households

Anintact family can be defined as a family structure with two parents,a mother and a father. Any digression from this structure can beclassified as broken. Intact households are one of the most crucialand influential institutions during child bringing. It also deemedthat children brought up in broken homes have higher rates of beinginvolved in juvenile delinquency than those in intact homes. In orderto prove this theory, a study was conducted on male juveniles betweenthe ages of 9 and 17 in an attempt to establish a link betweenjuvenile delinquency and parental absence. The study categorized theoffenses into five classes of family units. These included: intactfamily, mother only, father only, step parents and others. Theoffenses were also broken down into their respective levels such asmisdemeanor, status and felony.


Brokenfamilies have probably been the main factor associated with juveniledelinquency as far as criminology studies are concerned. Familydisruption is viewed as a threat to a child’s well-being as brokenhomes do not provide a stable haven to fend off negative influencesfrom the society. A family is the center of a child’s developmentas it provides a guidance and structure for children to socialize andgain their own identity. In addition, a family acts as a gateway fortransmitting the values held by the society. According to the study,it was established that children from broken homes were more likelyto be involved in delinquent behaviors than their intact families’counterparts. Girls from single parent households were more likely tobe associated with auto trespassing and vandalism cases. While malesfrom non-intact homes were more likely to indulge in promiscuity,drug and alcohol related cases. In addition, children from non-intactfamilies were three times more likely to have behavioral andemotional issues. The results of the study revealed that the absenceof the father in a family was the only variable that showedsignificant effects. Therefore, it was concluded that the absence ofa father or a father figure in a family was the contributing factortowards delinquency(Mullens,2004).This was because fathers provide leadership on how to adjust to thesociety and fend off social pressure.

Parentcriminal history

Antisocialand criminal parents are also a factor that contributes to juveniledelinquency. According to a longitudinal survey that was conducted inBoston from 400 males between the ages of 8 and 48, 63% of the boyswith convicted fathers were convicted at some point in their lives. Asimilar study that was conducted in Pittsburg affirmed the sameposition that criminal history plays a role in determiningdelinquency in the family. This was especially true for the males wholooked up to their fathers. A couple of factors could be attributedto such behavior and this include: exposure to multiple factors suchas poverty and teenage pregnancy. Other rational explanations arethat female offenders get married to their male counterparts.

Numberof siblings in a family

Thesize of the family was also another predictor of delinquency.According to a Cambridge study, boys who had more than more siblingsin their family before their tenth birthday were twice more likely tobecome delinquent. A large number of siblingstranslates to lessattention per sibling and this leads to more frustration andconflicts and this may eventually lead to delinquency (Farrington).


Drugs,substance abuse and violence

Ina report by the National Center for Education Statistics, childrenare usually the victims of battering and violence. The risk of childabuse is higher in families where one of the partners is assaultedand it has been established that half of the men who abuse theirpartners end up assaulting their children. In addition, the studyfound out that women who are assaulted in their homes are also lessable taking care of their children. Sometimes, the childrenexperience direct violence from their own mothers as a result oftheir resentment towards their fathers. Drug, alcohol and substanceabuse were also associated to violence in households. Children whowere exposed to alcohol and drugs were more likely to be delinquentin comparison to their counterparts not exposed to drugs and alcohol(FamilyInfluence on Juvenile Deliquency, 1999).


Lotsof research and studies have been conducted on the subject ofjuvenile delinquency and it is evident that no single case ofdelinquency can be attributed to one single factor. According toShader(Shader,2002)a youth possessing certain risk factors is more likely to experiencemore chances of engaging in delinquent behavior. This model resemblesthe same methodology that doctors use in evaluating patients risk ofbeing diagnosed with a certain treatment. The doctors evaluate thepatient’s medical history, diet, family history and exercise levelsin order to come to a conclusion about the patient’s risk.Therefore, in order to reduce the chance of juvenile delinquencies onthe youth parents and the society as whole should examine thechildren’s exposure to risk factors such as growing in a brokenhome, having less parental and weak parental control in order to helpprevent future juvenile delinquent cases.


FamilyInfluence on Juvenile Deliquency.(1999). Retrieved February 26, 2015, from Strengthening Families:

Farrington,D. P. (n.d.). FamilyInfluences on Deliquencies.Retrieved February 27, 2015, from Jbpub:

Mullens,A. D. (2004). TheRelationship Between Juvenile Deliquency and Family Unit Structure.Retrieved February 26, 2015, from

Schroeder,R. D., Osgood, A. K., &amp Oghia, M. J. (2010, November 4). FamilyTransitions and Juvenile Deliquency.Retrieved February 27, 2015, from

Shader,M. (2002). RiskFactors for Deliquency.Retrieved February 27, 2015, from U.S Department of Justice: