Guide Tracking the Development of Delinquency (Criminal Justice: Recent Scholarship)

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Most children start manifesting these behaviors between the end of the first and second years. The peak level in frequency of physical aggression is generally reached between 24 and 36 months, an age at which the consequences of the aggression are generally relatively minor Goodenough, ; Sand, ; Tremblay et al. By entry into kindergarten, the majority of children have learned to use other means than physical aggression to get what they want and to solve conflicts. Those who have not learned, who are oppositional and show few prosocial behaviors toward peers, are at high risk of being rejected by their peers, of failing in school, and eventually of getting involved in serious delinquency Farrington and Wikstrom, ; Huesmann et al.

The differentiation of emotions and emotional regulation occurs during the 2-year period, from 12 months to 36 months, when the frequency of physical aggression increases sharply and then decreases almost as sharply Tremblay, ; Tremblay et al. A number of longitudinal studies have shown that children who are behaviorally inhibited shy, anxious are less at risk of juvenile delinquency, while children who tend to be fearless, those who are impulsive, and those who have difficulty delaying gratification are more at risk of delinquent behavior Blumstein et al.

A large number of studies report that delinquents have a lower verbal IQ compared with nondelinquents, as well as lower school achievement Fergusson and Horwood, ; Maguin and Loeber, ; Moffitt, Antisocial youth also tend to show cognitive deficits in the areas of executive functions 1 Moffitt et al.

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The association between cognitive deficits and delinquency remains after controlling for social class and race Moffitt, ; Lynam et al. Few studies, however, have assessed cognitive functioning during the preschool years or followed the children into adolescence to understand the long-term link between early cognitive deficits and juvenile delinquency. The studies that did look at children 's early cognitive development have shown that poor language performance by the second year after birth, poor fine motor skills by the third year, and low IQ by kindergarten were all associated with later antisocial behavior Kopp and Krakow, ; Stattin and Klackenberg-Larsson, ; White et al.

Stattin and Klackenberg-Larsson found that the association between poor early language performance and later criminal behavior remained significant even after controlling for socioeconomic status.

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Epidemiological studies have found a correlation between language delay and aggressive behavior Richman et al. Language delays may contribute to poor peer relations that, in turn, result in aggression Campbell, a. The long-term impact of cognitively oriented preschool programs on the reduction of antisocial behavior is a more direct indication that fostering early cognitive development can play an important role in the prevention of juvenile delinquency Schweinhart et al. It is important to note that since poor cognitive abilities and problem behaviors in the preschool years also.

Executive functions refer to a variety of independent skills that are necessary for purposeful, goal-directed activity. Executive functions require generating and maintaining appropriate mental representations, monitoring the flow of information, and modifying problem-solving strategies in order to keep behavior directed toward the goal.

Several mental health disorders of childhood have been found to put children at risk for future delinquent behavior. Conduct disorder is often diagnosed when a child is troublesome and breaking rules or norms but not necessarily doing illegal behavior, especially at younger ages. This behavior may include lying, bullying, cruelty to animals, fighting, and truancy. Most adolescents in U. Many adolescents, in the period during which they engage in these behaviors, are likely to meet formal criteria for conduct disorder.

Behavior characterized by willful disobedience and defiance is considered a different disorder oppositional defiant disorder , but often occurs in conjunction with conduct disorder and may precede it. Several prospective longitudinal studies have found that children with attention and hyperactivity problems, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, show high levels of antisocial and aggressive behavior Campbell, b; Hechtman et al.

Early hyperactivity and attention problems without concurrent aggression, however, appear not to be related to later aggressive behavior Loeber, ; Magnusson and Bergman, ; Nagin and Tremblay, , although a few studies do report such relationships Gittelman et al. Another disorder that is often associated with antisocial behavior and conduct disorder is major depressive disorder, particularly in girls Kovacs, ; Offord et al.

In girls, conduct disorder may be a kind of manifestation of the hopelessness, frustration, and low self-esteem that often characterizes major depression. For juveniles as well as adults, the use of drugs and alcohol is common among offenders. In , about half of juvenile arrestees in the Arrestee Drug Abuse Monitoring Program tested positive for at least one drug. In these same cities, 2 about two-thirds of adult arrestees tested.

Data on adults are collected in 35 cities altogether. Of course, drug use is a criminal offense on its own, and for juveniles, alcohol use is also a status delinquent offense. A number of studies have consistently found that as the seriousness of offending goes up, so does the seriousness of drug use as measured both by frequency of use and type of drug see Huizinga and Jakob-Chien, In the longitudinal studies of causes and correlates of delinquency in Denver, Pittsburgh, and Rochester see Thornberry et al.

In addition, about three-quarters of drug users in each sample were also involved in serious delinquency Huizinga and Jakob-Chien, Similarly, in the Denver Youth Survey, serious offenders had the highest prevalence and frequency of use of alcohol and marijuana of all youth in the study.

Nevertheless, only about one-third of serious delinquents were problem drug users Huizinga and Jakob-Chien, Although there appears to be a relationship between alcohol and drug use and criminal delinquency, not all delinquents use alcohol or drugs, nor do all alcohol and drug users commit delinquent acts other than the alcohol or drug use itself.

Those who are both serious delinquents and serious drug users may be involved in a great deal of crime, however. Johnson et al. Neverthless, it would be premature to conclude that serious drug use causes serious crime McCord, Whatever characteristics individuals have, resulting personalities and behavior are influenced by the social environments in which they are raised.

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Characteristics of individuals always develop in social contexts. Children's and adolescents' interactions and relationships with family and peers influence the development of antisocial behavior and delinquency. Family interactions are most important during early childhood, but they can have long-lasting effects. In early adolescence, relationships with peers take on greater importance.

This section will first consider factors within the family that have been found to be associated with the development of delinquency and then consider peer influences on delinquent behavior.

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Note that issues concerning poverty and race are dealt with under the community factors section of this chapter. Chapter 7 deals specifically with issues concerning race. In assigning responsibility for childrearing to parents, most Western cultures place a heavy charge on families.

Such cultures assign parents the task of raising children to follow society's rules for acceptable behavior. It should be no surprise, therefore, when families have difficulties with the task laid on them, that the product often is juvenile delinquency Kazdin, Family structure who lives in a household and family functioning how the family members treat one another are two general categories under which family effects on delinquency have been examined.

Before embarking on a review of the effects of family structure, it is important to raise the question of mechanisms Rutter et al. It may not be the family structure itself that increases the risk of delinquency, but rather some other factor that explains why that structure is present. Alternatively, a certain family structure may increase the risk of delinquency, but only as one more stressor in a series; it may be the number rather than specific nature of the stressors that is harmful.

Historically, one aspect of family structure that has received a great deal of attention as a risk factor for delinquency is growing up in a family that has experienced separation or divorce. For example, longitudinal studies have found an increased level of conduct disorder and behavioral disturbance in children of divorcing parents before the divorce took place Block et al.

Capaldi and Patterson showed that disruptive parenting practices and antisocial personality of the parent s accounted for apparent effects of divorce and remarriage. Thus, it is likely that the increased risk of delinquency experienced among children of broken homes is related to the family conflict prior to the divorce or separation, rather than to family breakup itself Rutter et al.

In their longitudinal study of family disruption, Juby and Farrington found that boys who stayed with their mothers following disruption had delinquency rates that were almost identical to those reared in intact families. Many discussions of family structure treat single-parent households and divorced families as the same. In this section, the literature on single-parents is reported separately from that on separated and divorced families because there may be considerable differences in the experiences of children born to single parents and those whose parents divorce.

Being born and raised in a single-parent family has also been associated with increased risk of delinquency and antisocial behavior. Research that takes into account the socioeconomic conditions of single-parent households and other risks, including disciplinary styles and problems in supervising and monitoring children, show that these other factors account for the differential outcomes in these families. The important role of socioeconomic conditions is shown by the absence of differences in delinquency between children in single-parent and two-parent homes within homogeneous socioeconomic classes Austin, Careful analyses of juvenile court cases in the United States shows that economic conditions rather than family composition influenced children 's delinquency Chilton and Markle, Statistical controls for the mothers' age and poverty have been found to remove effects attributed to single-parent families Crockett et al.

Furthermore, the significance of being born to a single mother has changed dramatically over the past 30 years. In , Census Bureau, By , births to unmarried women accounted for Gorman-Smith and colleagues found no association between single parenthood and delinquency in a poor, urban U.

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Nevertheless, children in single-parent families are more likely to be exposed to other criminogenic influences, such as frequent changes in the resident father figure Johnson, ; Stern et al. Single parents often find it hard to get assistance Ensminger et al. If they must work to support themselves and their families, they are likely to have difficulty providing supervision for their children. Poor supervision is associated with the development of delinquency Dornbusch et al. An analysis of children born in and in Washington state found that being born to a mother under age 18 tripled the risk of being chronic offender.

Males born to unmarried mothers under age 18 were 11 times more likely to become chronic juvenile offenders than were males born to married mothers over the age of 20 Conseur et al. What accounts for the increase in risk from having a young mother? Characteristics of women who become teenage parents appear to account for some of the risk. Longitudinal studies in both Britain and the United States have found that girls who exhibit antisocial behavior are at increased risk of teenage motherhood, of having impulsive liaisons with antisocial men, and of having parenting difficulties Maughan and Lindelow, ; Quinton et al.

In Grogger's analysis of data from the National Longitudinal Study of youth, both within-family comparisons and multivariate analysis showed that the characteristics and backgrounds of the women who became teenage mothers accounted for a large part of the risk of their offsprings' delinquency Grogger, , but the age at which the mother gave birth also contributed to the risk.

A teenager who becomes pregnant is also more likely than older mothers to be poor, to be on welfare, to have curtailed her education, and to deliver a baby with low birthweight. Separately or together, these correlates of teenage parenthood have been found to increase risk for delinquency Rutter et al.

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Nagin et al. Children raised in families of four or more children have an increased risk of delinquency Farrington and Loeber, ; Rutter and Giller, It has been suggested that large family size is associated with less adequate discipline and supervision of children, and that it is the parenting difficulties that account for much of the association with delinquency Farrington and Loeber, Work by Offord points to the influence of delinquent siblings rather than to parenting qualities.

Rowe and Farrington , in an analysis of a London longitudinal study, found that there was a tendency for antisocial individuals to have large families. The effect of family size on delinquency was reduced when parents' criminality was taken into account. Even in intact, two-parent families, children may not receive the supervision, training, and advocacy needed to ensure a positive developmental course. A number of studies have found that poor parental management and disciplinary practices are associated with the development of delinquent behavior.

Failure to set clear expectations for children 's behavior, inconsistent discipline, excessively severe or aggressive discipline, and poor monitoring and supervision of children predict later delinquency Capaldi and Patterson, ; Farrington, ; Hawkins et al.

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As Patterson , indicates through his research, parents who nag or use idle threats are likely to generate coercive systems in which children gain control through misbehaving. Several longitudinal studies investigating the effects of punishment on aggressive behavior have shown that physical punishments are more likely to result in defiance than compliance McCord, b; Power and Chapieski, ; Strassberg et al.

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Perhaps the best grounds for believing that family interaction influences delinquency are programs that alter parental management techniques and thereby benefit siblings as well as reduce delinquent behavior by the child whose conduct brought the parents into the program Arnold et al. Consistent discipline, supervision, and affection help to create well-socialized adolescents Austin, ; Bender, ; Bowlby, ; Glueck and Glueck, ; Goldfarb, ; Hirschi, ; Laub and Sampson, ; McCord, ; Sampson and Laub, Furthermore, reductions in delinquency between the ages of 15 and 17 years appear to be related to friendly interaction between teenagers and their parents, a situation that seems to promote school attachment and stronger family ties Liska and Reed, In contrast, children who have suffered parental neglect have an increased risk of delinquency.

Widom and McCord both found that children who had been neglected were as likely as those who had been physically abused to commit violent crimes later in life. In their review of many studies investigating relationships between socialization in families and juvenile delinquency, Loeber and Stouthamer-Loeber concluded that parental neglect had the largest impact.

Child abuse, as well as neglect, has been implicated in the development of delinquent behavior. In three quite different prospective studies from different parts of the country, childhood abuse and neglect have been found to increase a child's risk of delinquency Maxfield and Widom, ; Smith and Thornberry, ; Widom, ; Zingraff et al. These studies examined children of different ages, cases of childhood abuse and neglect from different time periods, different definitions of. The findings are true for girls as well as boys, and for black as well as for white children.

In addition, abused and neglected children start offending earlier than children who are not abused or neglected, and they are more likely to become chronic offenders Maxfield and Widom, Victims of childhood abuse and neglect are also at higher risk than other children of being arrested for a violent crime as a juvenile Maxfield and Widom, There are problems in carrying out scientific investigations of each of these components as predictors of juvenile delinquency.

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First, these behaviors are not empirically independent of one another. Parents who do not watch their young children consistently are less likely to prevent destructive or other unwanted behaviors and therefore more likely to punish. Parents who are themselves unclear about what they expect of their children are likely to be inconsistent and to be unclear in communications with their children. Parenting that involves few positive shared parent-child activities will often also involve less monitoring and more punishing.

Parents who reject their children or who express hostility toward them are more likely to punish them. Parents who punish are more likely to punish too much abuse.