Social correlates of delinquency
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Social Correlates of Delinquency. The Family. Why Look at the Family as a Causal Context for Delinquency?. History of childhood and delinquency reveals that the family has been charged with primary responsibility for socialization of children

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Why Look at the Family as a Causal Context for Delinquency?

  • History of childhood and delinquency reveals that the family has been charged with primary responsibility for socialization of children

    • It is within the context of the family thatprimary relations are first formed

    • Basic values are first formed here

  • We have also seen that historical forces in America disrupted family life

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Family Variables Linked to Delinquency: The Broken Home I

  • Variable interest in the broken family as a cause of delinquency

  • Early research:

    • Found that broken home had a profound effect

    • Seemed to affect girls more than boys

    • Seemed to affect whites more than other ethnic groups

    • Seemed to affect the affluent more than poor

    • Homes broken by divorce more devastating than homes broken by death

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Family Variables Linked to Delinquency: The Broken Home II

  • The broken home reconsidered

    • More recent studies have been inconclusive

    • Many of early studies were conducted among arrestees and in correctional institutions--possible bias in samples

    • Self-report studies suggest a less clear-cut relationship

  • Some concluding thoughts:

    • Divorce does seem to be more correlated than death

    • Broken home probably affects status offenses more than serious delinquency

    • Remarriage does not mitigate effect of divorce on youth

    • Continued contact with non-custodial parent does not mitigate

    • Little evidence that behavior of children in broken homes improves over time

    • Post-divorce conflict related to child maladjustment

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Family Variables Linked to Delinquency: Family Conflict

  • Intra-family conflict and discord have long been associated with delinquency

  • Various factors operative:

    • emotional disturbance

    • low warmth and affection

    • low social skills

  • Difficult to establish whether family conflict causes childhood maladies or vice versa

  • Relative consequences of the broken home vs. family discord

    • Recent review of literature suggests that both situations are deleterious

    • Children of divorced parents probably fare better than children of high-conflict families

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Family Variables Linked to Delinquency:Parental Rejection

  • Generally believed that children need warm, supportive relationships to thrive

  • Most studies have used boys in their samples

  • Early studies suggested that rejection by either mother or father was related to delinquency

  • Joan McCord’s research finds that mother’s rejection is more significant in early years; father’s in later years

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Family Variables Linked to Delinquency:Discipline

  • Gluecks--found that lax or erratic discipline was most associated with delinquency

  • Nye--found that very erratic, strict, or very permissive discipline most associated with delinquency.

  • Strauss--found that physical punishment tends to be more associated with delinquency.

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Family Variables Linked to Delinquency:Family Role Models

  • Gluecks--find discipline ineffective when parental behavior is inconsistent

  • Hirschi--found that even criminal parents espouse conventional values. Intimacy between parents more important than role modeling

  • Laub and Sampson--find that parental deviance related to chronic delinquency

  • Rowe and Gulley--find that siblings have an impact on delinquency if relationship is intimate

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Family Variables Linked to Delinquency:Family Size

  • Some evidence suggests that larger families may be productive of delinquency

    • suggested that this may be due to a “dilution of resources.”

  • Relationship is usually seen as more indirect

    • resource dilution often leads to educational underachievement

    • family size also related to social class

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A Special Case:The Abusive Family

  • Defining child abuse and neglect:

    • Abuse--historically defined as “any non-accidental physical injury inflicted on a child by a parent…”

    • has come to be used more generically to include neglect as well

    • Neglect--more passive, referring to the deprivations that children suffer at hands of parents or guardians. Three broad types:

      • Physical neglect

      • Emotional neglect

      • Moral neglect

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Extent of Child Abuse:Reported Cases

  • All states have laws for certain professionals to report child abuse, but these cases represent only a tip of the iceberg

  • Leading organization in reporting is the National Committee to Prevent Child Abuse (NCPCA)

    • Reported 3.1 million cases in 1995 (up 5% from 1994, and up 50% from 1985)

      • 26% of these were physical abuse

      • 10% sexual abuse

      • 53% neglect

      • 3% emotional maltreatment

      • 17% “other”

    • NCPCA estimates about 1,200 children killed each year because of abuse

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Extent of Child Abuse:Unreported Cases

  • Research by Murray Strauss in 1980:

    • between 1.4 and 1.9 million children abused annually

    • the average number of assaults for each child was 10.5 (median 4.5)

  • Estimates are that as many as 1 in 10 boys and 1 in 3 girls have been sexually abused

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The Abused and the Abusers

  • Most likely to be abused:

    • Infants (especially premature infants)

    • Illegitimate children

    • Hyperactive children

    • Boys

    • Circumstantial

  • Most likely to abuse (in order)

    • Natural parents

    • Step parents

    • Paramours

    • Other relatives

    • Babysitters/non-relative caretakers

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What Causes Child Abuse?

  • Adults who have been abused themselves

  • Social isolation and alienation

  • Substance abuse

  • Social Class

    • This has been controversial, though most experts agree that there is a higher incidence in the lower class

    • Perhaps due to financial stress

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Relationship between Child Abuse and Delinquency

  • Logical relationship

    • Abuse provides a role model for aggression

    • Abuse leaves one more vulnerable to stress

  • Clinical Histories

    • Studies of incarcerated delinquents reveal that a substantial majority have been abused in some way as children

    • Problem with these studies is that they do not tell us about the known population of abused children and the % of them who are delinquents

    • Also, it may be that child abused is caused by the delinquency!

Modeling of Aggression

Vulnerability to Stress



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Cohort Studies on Abuse and Delinquency

  • This method follows up cohorts of children who have been abused and compares their delinquency to non-abused youth

  • A major study by Cathy Widom found that 27% of abused youth (compared with 17% of non-abused youth) later had criminal records

  • Certain categories more affected by abuse than others; older, black males most affected

  • General conclusions:

    • Abuse increases likelihood of juvenile arrest by 53%

    • Abuse increases likelihood of adult arrest by 38%

  • In a follow-up, Widom found greater likelihood of persistent offending over time by abused children