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Juvenile Delinquency

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944 words
Social Issues

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Juvenile Delinquency

There is no doubt that various experts can give us many theories as to the causes of juvenile delinquency, including one's economic background, substance abuse, delinquent peer groups, repeated exposure to violence, increased availability of firearms and media violence, however, I feel that the number one cause of juvenile delinquency is the breakdown of families, including lack of parental control over children. It is ironic in America, today, one must have a driver's license to operate a vehicle, a permit to own a gun and even a license to own a dog, but one does not have to have training or a license in order to become a parent. Without specialized educational programs in child development and parenting, many of our future parents will not have a chance at becoming successful parents and worse, yet, many parents today are already contributing to the ever increasing problem of juvenile delinquency simply by not knowing how to be parents. Being a parent is a lifelong commitment and new parents must learn parenting skills immediately; they do not have the luxury of internships and often times, mistakes in parenting will have drastic effects on the child.

There are many reasons for the widespread crisis in families today. Below are some of those causes:
Changes in the Social Environment - there have been many changes
in our social environment over the last twenty five years. These changes
have made a risky environment for today's youth. Children and teenagers
spend more time with peer groups than ever before. Drugs and deadly
weapons are used increasingly as ways to solve problems. Illicit and
explicit sexuality and violence are the main subjects of choice in the
media; and the impact of media influence has widened and become
more vivid with the introduction of computers, video games, portable
stereos and MTV.

Changes in Family Structure and Functioning - The prevalence of
divorce and the increasing number of women in the workplace have
reduced the number of adults who provide interaction, structure and
supervision in a child's life. Along with this, institutions have not kept
pace in providing alternative programs for unsupervised kids. Add to
this new parenting expectations that come with single parent and step-
parent families and you now have a confusing, often inconsistent and/
or unreliable home base for children.

Confusion About Parent Roles and Parent Control - When children
reach adolescence, conflict between parents and teens normally increases
as teens need to distance themselves from parental identity to establish
their own identity. Experts agree they are generally three parenting styles
that reportedly escalate these conflicts.

The authoritarian parent tends to emphasize rules and very harsh
consequences. There is little room for discussion or negotiation.

The indulgent parent tends to spoil the child and expects little or no
responsibility at home, choosing instead to clean up after the child both
at home and in his social misbehavior.

The indifferent parent is so preoccupied with his/her own life and
activities that little time and energy is given to either involvement or
appropriate structure.

The type of parenting that does work is simply called authoritative parenting. This type of parent assumes a role of authority in the child's life, but the rules and structure are sensible and flexible to accommodate the child's growth toward adolescence and young adulthood. The parent's intelligent explanations of the rules plus reasonable enforcement help to maintain a steady reduction of control as the child matures.

Studies have been made to determine the causes of juvenile delinquency. Many of these studies have focused on family relationships. In one study, comparing delinquent and non-delinquent youths showed that over ninety percent of the delinquents had unhappy home lives and felt discontented with their life circumstances. Only thirteen percent of the non-delinquent youths felt this way. This study also brought attention to the fact that to these youths, delinquency appeared to be a sort of solution to them. It brought attention to youths neglected by their parents, or approval of delinquent friends, or it solved problems of an unhappy home life in other ways.

A study by the National Institute of Justice also determined that youths from neglectful homes, single parent homes and homes in which substance abuse was a problem had a greater likelihood of being charged as a juvenile of a crime or status offense. In fact, research has shown that fifty three percent of these children are more likely to be arrested and thirty eight percent more likely to commit an act of violence. Between 1976 and 1996, the number of juveniles living in poverty grew 42 percent. Along with this growth, crimes committed by juveniles also grew.

From as early as the turn of the century, experts in juvenile delinquency (Morrison, 1915) have recognized the family's early and primary role in influencing delinquency. These experts concluded that family dysfunction and poor parental supervision and socialization are major influences on children's subsequent delinquency. Unfortunately, society did not take action on these earlier findings, thus it has only been recently that the impact of family factors has received much attention or research funding. The implications of existing research are that the family environment can either protect children from subsequent delinquency or put them at greater risk.

It is true, that depending on the level of functioning, families ...

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