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Social Environment and Juvenile Delinquency

Numerous studies have linked the disturbing issue of juvenile delinquency to some aspects of home social environment. The family as foundation of the human society becomes of particular importance in demonstrating the link between home social environment and juvenile delinquency. Juvenile delinquency in most cases happens at adolescents. This paper investigates the roles parents play in these formative years of the youth. Additionally this paper presents arguments on the effects of single parent families versus two parent families and traditional versus non-traditional families on juvenile delinquency. This paper further discusses the role and influence of a father in the family settings. Finally, there is a comparison between effective parenting and a family setting where children are raised by law-breaking parents.

Home social environment and juvenile delinquency has come to be an issue of major concern to schools, families and law enforcement institutions among other structures of the society. This is particularly so due to a noted influx of juvenile delinquents in the contemporary society associated with truancy, gang activities, murders among other heinous crimes. While juvenile delinquency remains widespread in the modern society, there is no single model that can be employed to explain this phenomenon as evidenced by the fact that it occurs across the cultural and racial landscapes. Indeed, the problem of juvenile delinquency is statistically staggering. Focusing on home and social environment of individual juvenile delinquents, one can gain a better understanding of the causes of delinquent behaviors in an individual (Filthy Lucre, 2008).

In addition to being the foundation of the human society, the family is one of the strongest socializing forces in life. A properly functioning family will teach its children how to avoid and control socially unacceptable behaviors as well as respecting the right of others. In this regard, a properly functioning family is defined as one consisting of two parents, violence free and encouraging free communication in the household. In this light children who face rejection from their parents, those brought up in families with aspects of conflicts or those who do not get adequate supervision are the most likely to become juvenile delinquents. Positive attitude in parenting practices during the early childhood years and later during adolescence safeguards a child from acquiring delinquent behavior and further assists adolescents who are trapped in those behaviors to abstain from delinquency (Welsh & Siegel, 2011).

While adolescence is a critical stage in the life of a child that is accompanied by both risks and opportunities due to a child’s expanding exposure to life beyond school and family, it must be remembered that this stage starts with the family. Research has established that an adolescent’s exposure to violence is the entry point of delinquent behaviors. This is compounded by the fact that at this stage in life this child is not limited to violence exposure to the family settings alone but also outside the larger society. If all emotional environmental aspects of the life of a juvenile are encompassed by violence, his/her chances of being engaged in juvenile activities increases (Bartusch, 20011).

A significant number of juveniles start portraying anti-social behavior or aspects of aggression in their first few grades of elementary schools or even as early as preschool. Most of these behaviors of aggression among children are attributed to a character of resistance to change developed within the child. As an illustration, a parent who disciplines his/her child harshly is likely to experience problems with this child during adolescent and, in some cases, have the child engaged with adult criminality (Hess, Orthmann, & Drowns, 2010).

Coercion theory tries to shed light on the intrinsic functioning of the family by suggesting that the family environment influences the interpersonal style of an adolescent. The interpersonal style of an adolescent in turn influences the selection of the peer group. On the other hand, peers who demonstrate coercive interpersonal styles have a tendency of getting involved with each other. Further, this relationship of peers with coercive interpersonal styles increases an adolescents’ chances of being engaged in juvenile activities (Hess,Orthmann, & Drowns, 2010). In this observation, the nature of relationships within the family should be looked at from more diverse angles like cohesion adaptability and satisfaction for one to be in a position to gather more information and be in a position to understand the youth. A juvenile’s engagement in defiant behaviors is heavily influenced by behavior of other family members, parental monitoring and disciplining. Among many societal aspects that play a role in defining the future conduct of an individual, the family remains the central (FilthyLucre, 2008).

Research has established that in the contemporary society most parents have failed in their primary roles of monitoring. It is a common phenomenon for a modern parent not to be in a position to tell where his/her child is at any given time, in whose company the child is in or even what the child could be engaged in at that particular moment. The parental role of monitoring is particularly important when a child is moving into adolescence because at this stage in life he or she is likely to spend less time with their parents or any other adult but spends more time with peers. Recent studies have pointed out that coercive parenting and inadequate parental monitoring contributes both directly and indirectly to boy’s antisocial behaviors due to the opportunity it offers to these boys to form relationships with deviant peers (Welsh & Siegel, 2011).

Another aspect that plays a vital role in the functioning of the family is communication. The optimal functioning of the family is heavily dependent on positive communication and has major implications for defiant behavior. Indeed, research has established that there is a direct correlation between the commissioning of delinquent behaviors and communication. Aspects of conflict and aggression within a family set-up predict violent offence among children raised in that family by the conflicting parents. Equally, lack of parental love between the children and the parents — both maternal and paternal — has been associated with future involvement in property crimes (Hess, Orthmann, & Drowns, 2010). In addition, a family with a criminal history behavior is consistently linked by numerous studies to raising future juvenile delinquents. Moreover, children who have relationships within the family they co-exist, they are likely to resort to violent activities (Doggett, 2005). As such, one can safely say that children from single parent families have an inclination to delinquent behaviors.

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Three major classes have been put forward to shed light on the apparent link between delinquencies and disrupted families. Number one, the loss of a parent, identified as trauma theory, suggests that because of the effect of a pre-existing attachment to the parent, a child is likely to suffer from emotional damage and subsequently be engaged in antisocial activities. Two, there is life course theory which focuses on separation between the child and the parent(s). In this regard, separation is seen as a long drawn out process that can be emotive as opposed to the common perception of it as a discrete event. Third, selection theory argues that pre-existing differences in child rearing methods of family among other such cases can lead to juvenile delinquency (Doggett, 2005).

Something else that links with juvenile delinquency in terms of family social environment is a single parent household. This particularly becomes apparent when the rate of juveniles living with single parent from the childhood is compared to the cases arising from a household with both parents. In early childhood, the prediction of juvenile delinquency is defined by the maternal parenting skills imposed on the child during the formative adolescent years. This becomes rather obvious when one looks at the education performance between the children who come from single parent households and those with their two parents intact. Numerous studies conducted in this respect have continued to link delinquent and criminal behaviors and single parent families. In particular, children who are brought up in mother-only relationships are likely to end up as juvenile delinquents more than their counterparts in other family settings. Even more important, existing studies have linked children from single parent families with gang membership (Welsh & Siegel, 2011).

However, the focus on juvenile delinquency is sometimes shifted from mother to the father. The argument that comes with this school of thought is that there is lack of emphasis on the role a father should play in shaping the future conduct of a child. Because of this, fathers play the unfortunate role of initiating his offspring to offences. Indeed, the aspect of fatherlessness is now a major contributor of numerous social problems in the contemporary United States society.

Apparently, the institution of marriage should serve to provide a platform on which men can be bound to their children. The presence of a father in the family settings contributes to a child’s well-being, reduces the risks of juveniles’ crimes and eliminates possible cases of substance abuse among other positive contributions. While there is increased supervision for a family that has two parents, the shortage of one parent in the institution of marriage increases the likelihood of delinquency simply because the supervision of adolescent behavior will have a shortage of one person (Doggett, 2005).

Nowadays in the American society the delinquency is definitely on the rise. Every year, there is an increasing number of youths dropping out of school and running from their homes. In most of the arguments, an accusing finger has pointed to family influences. Some other schools of thought have gone as far as suggesting that the influence of families on juvenile delinquency is more powerful than that of peers (FilthyLucre, 2008). It therefore becomes clear that a family which positively influences its offspring through the promotion of strong emotional bonds and encouraging positive communication can mitigate the influence of deviant peers in the life of its children. In this regard, the type of family a particular youth is growing up in becomes very important. This is in observation of the fact that children raised in traditional family settings, unlike those brought up in non-traditional ones, are less likely to be engaged in delinquent behaviors (Hess, Orthmann, & Drowns, 2010).

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Due to availability of resources, traditional families are likely to offer more balanced home environment in addition to devoting more time and energy to their children. As an illustration, a child growing up in a traditional family setup is likely to be allocated more time by the family members which in effect promotes the aspect of communication — a key strategy of mitigating delinquency (Bartusch, 20011). Non-traditional families, on the other hand, face a difficult time in trying to raise their children. Being a single parent, for example, will imply a shortage of both time and resources — critical components of bringing up a child. In addition to economic support, a single parent is not likely to sustain the pressure of meeting the emotional needs of all children in a particular family. Reconstituted families are even worse especially when considering family aspects like communication and emotional support. This is underlined by the fact that there is likely to be a poor relationship between a stepparent and a child while the opposite is true. In addressing non-traditional families, there are likely to be hard feeling about an issue like divorce, or a parent whom children feel is allowed a limited access or no access at all. A combination of such factors can easily lead to delinquency (Doggett, 2005).

In conclusion, a number of researchers have pointed out that in the same way that effective parenting positively influences the life of a young person, ineffective parenting will achieve exactly the opposite. In this respect, parents who adopt poor communication strategies, those who fail to establish strong emotional ties and provide from little to no support, risk to find their children engaged in delinquent activities. This aspect of dysfunctional parenting becomes extreme when parents who are supposed to influence positively the lives of their young ones get involved in criminal acts themselves. For example, the children of substance abusers demonstrate more behavioral and emotional problems, are less socially adaptive and in the future become greater users of illicit drugs than their parents. In light of the arguments presented in this work, it is safe to say that parents are the ones who decide the destiny of their children (FilthyLucre, 2008).

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