The Role The Family Plays In Cultivating Delinquency


The paper starts with an explanation of the juvenile delinquency matter that has had an enormous impact on the society. The developments in the criminal justice structure in the United States with regard to juvenile cases are then addressed. It then follows to identify the risk factors and protective factors that influence juvenile delinquent behavior in the society. It then concludes with the emphasis of the essential role that the family plays in the development of children and adolescents.

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The family plays a crucial role in cultivating delinquency since it acts as a socialization, discovery, and learning environment. The family is an essential protective factor in the children and adolescents’ development within the society. The existence of dysfunctional family foster care, single parent homes, and functional homes significantly affect the development of children and adolescent juvenile behavior. The dysfunctional nature of the family functioning and family dynamics poses a lot of risk that significantly affects juvenile delinquency. According to the, the family can act as both a protective factor and a risk factor for juvenile delinquency depending on the circumstances and the context.

Doggett further states that the family structure is the principal factor that influences youth and children behavior. The children are more likely to engage in juvenile behavior when the family structure is dysfunctional and there is a least amount of communication that’s provided. The recent developments in the area of juvenile delinquency indicate that the family structure and family dynamics both positively and negatively influence the development of juvenile delinquency behavior amongst children and youth. Thomson Reuters  indicates that there has been an increase in the number of juvenile delinquents in the recent past within the United States. Juvenile delinquents are those minors that commit acts of criminal nature that results in their apprehension in the criminal justice system. This paper will discuss the role of the family in cultivating delinquency amongst minors aged between ten and eighteen. It will also assess both the negative and positive roles of the family dynamics in influencing juvenile delinquency behavior amongst the U.S youth. The paper will also rely on the existing literature material in the field of juvenile delinquency in order to understand the current developments in the criminal activities amongst the minors within the society.

The History and Current Trends in Juvenile Delinquency Behavior in the United States

In the United States, there are at least seventy million minors as at 2006, and the number of minors aged eighteen years and below is expected to increase to eighty million by 2020. The high numbers of minors indicates that there exist a diversity and magnitude of the issues that affect minors in the United States particularly the minors who are at risk of the criminal justice system. The increased magnitude and diversity of the risks that face those children that fall into the criminal justice system as a result of their criminal behaviors has received a lot of national attention. According to a 2012 survey conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigations, there exist at least 1.5 million minors who are involved in violent criminal activities every year. In addition to this, the Uniform Crime Reporting Program Releases Crime Statistics by the FBI for 2012 indicate that there are at least seven-hundred thousand minors that are part of street gangs.

According to Jenson, Potter, and Howard, the juvenile justice system in the United States has undergone several changes in the recent past. The developments have resulted from serious cases of youth violence, the emergence of female delinquency, and co-occurring substance abuse amongst minors. Given the high number of juvenile delinquents, the United States’ justice system failed to address the specific issues that affected the young offenders. The impact of juvenile delinquent behavior on the development of children is enormous. Minors who are involved in violent criminal activities at an early age are found to be more violent and serious offenders in their adolescent age. In addition to this, the children who are confined in the juvenile justice system at a younger age are likely to be at a risk of drug and substance abuse as they develop into adolescents and adulthood.

The prevalence of juvenile offending in the United States has been on the increase due to institutional failures and lack of proper parenting of children. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the number of annual arrests of child offenders and street gangs has been on the increase. In addition to this, more children are getting involved in property crimes such as vandalism and theft. According to the FBI 2013 report, there has been a reported increase in the number of child offenders involved in violent youth crime than property offences over the years. Additionally, Jenson et al. point out to the existence of ethnic, gender, and race differences in the rates of juvenile delinquent behavior. There exist a high number of Caucasians and African Americans being involved in violent crimes and property crimes than other ethnic and racial groups. Additionally, more boys are involved in juvenile cases than girls according to the FBI.

The first American juvenile court was established in 1899 to address the issues surrounding juvenile delinquents. Before then, the American justice system treated both children and adults similarly. Ramirez indicates that the existence of violent criminal behavior amongst children was regarded as lack of proper parental care and control. The situation hence forced the state to intervene in the control and supervision of juvenile criminal behavior. The U.S Supreme Court addressed the issue of juvenile justice system in 1960 that required all states to enact the Juvenile Code. Also, there was a major development in the justice system that required juveniles to be accorded similar rights as adults in prosecution. Ramirez points out to these rights as the right to notice, legal counsel, and privilege against self-incrimination. In the past, children were not accorded the rights. The recent developments in the U.S justice system clearly separates the criminal justice system for children and adults.

The Role of the Family in Delinquency

The Family Risk Factors that Influence Juvenile Delinquency

Petrosino, Derzon, and Lavenberg emphasizes on the role of the family in determining the involvement of children in crime. There exist a number of family factors that influence crime. These factors include parental neglect and abuse, domestic violence, parental drug abuse, parental attitudes towards violence, parent-child separation, and parental history of mental illness. Other factors include parental education, family size, socio-economic status of the families, the parents’ age at children birth, birth order, existence of criminal parents, severity of punishment and discipline given to the children, and maternal deprivation. The family factors can act as both risk factors and protective factors for juvenile delinquency behavior amongst minors in the society. According to the National Crime Prevention Centre (Canada), there exist a number of risks that negatively influence violent behavior amongst children. The factors relate to family dynamics and functioning, family characteristics, and areas of residence.

The risks that are associated with family dynamics and functioning include poor parental practices, family violence, family conflicts, and parental or sibling criminality (National Crime Prevention Centre (Canada). In effective parental behavior has a significant influence in developing criminal behavior of the children at a later age.  The existence of an inadequate family dynamic and poor family structure results in lack of supervision, weak bond, inconsistent parental discipline, and stringent disciplinary measures by parents. These factors result in delinquent behavior amongst the youth, poor levels of academic performance in schools, and membership in the rising number of youth gangs (National Crime Prevention Centre (Canada).

In addition to this, the absence of a stable family structure results in lack of discipline and order. Thus, the children are more likely to engage in delinquent criminal behavior. The presence of parental and sibling criminality within the family results in criminal behavior of the children. The mistreatment of children at an early age will also influence delinquent behavior amongst the affected individuals in adolescent age and in adulthood. According to the National Crime Prevention Centre (Canada), the family characteristics factors such as broken families contribute to delinquent behavior amongst the minors. Additionally, the increased levels of family transitions influence delinquent behavior amongst children. The area of family residence also influences delinquent behavior such as areas characterized by high residential mobility, broken homes, and extreme poverty. These factors create a difficulty for proper parenting and good upbringing of children.

The Family Protective Factors that Influence Juvenile Delinquency

According to Savignac, the family plays a critical role in protecting the children and the youth from delinquent behavior. The situation is evident in functional families that have proper family structures, functional and dynamic family systems, suitable family characteristics, and safe family residential areas. The existence of a functional and stable family structure reduces the negative effects of the family risk factors since it acts as a risk moderator. The presence of a strong bond between the children and their parents acts as a protective factor against delinquent behavior.

The protective factors that are associated with family characteristics include high levels of parental education, family financial stability, and strength of the family unit. In addition to this, Savignac enumerates factors such as adequate parental supervision, parental affection, positive family support, and consistent disciplinary methods influence positive behavior amongst children. Additionally, according to the National Crime Prevention Centre (Canada), increased integration of the families into the community life, good relationship with neighbors, and increased school activities that involve the family all act as protective factors against delinquent behavior.


The family plays a decisive role in determining the cases of juvenile delinquency amongst children in the society. The family affects youth and adolescent criminal behavior given the risk factors and protective factors of family dynamics and functioning, area of family residence, and family characteristics. In order to prevent and reduces cases of juvenile delinquency, it is thus important to focus on the indispensable role that the family plays in the development of adolescents and children.