Juvenile Delinquency

Free Essay Database Online

Juvenile Delinquency

Juvenile delinquents, or youth that have been convicted of a crime, seem to be the norm these days. Citizens, families, and poliy makers want new programs and policies within the juvenile justice system. Researchers have found that the family structure can be a precursor to delinquent behavior, and families do not have the control or blance that they once did. As such, mew measures need to be implemented to help these families in crisis. Rehabilitation of the family unit is the answer, say many, not punishment. In response to this, new ideas have formed to rehabilitate the family unit, but first, the family structures that are precursors to delinquent behavior must be identified.

“Family Life, Delinquency, and Crime: A Policymaker’s Guide,”compiled by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, introduces us to the theory that the family structure is a precursor to delinquent behavior. The authors and research contributors cite various family “dysfunctions” that contribute to delinquent behavior. Some of the family dysfunctions that the authors focus on are; parental criminality, parental interaction, parental supervision, and single-parent families. Parental criminality plays an important role in relation to delinquency, but based upon the stdies reviewed, poor parenting appears to be among the most powerful predictors of juvnile dleinquency. A good parent/child relationship has a positive impact on desistance from delinquent behavior. Two researchers, West and Farrington, sum it up by concluding in their research that, “the fact that delinquency is transmitted from one generation to the next is indisputable.” (West and Farrington, 1973, p.109) They also conclude that poor parenting is linked with delinquent behavior.

Parental interaction and supervision, or lack of, also contributes to delinquent behavior. The authors are unequivocal in their beliefs and studies that children that have parents who do not interact with them, or supervise them are much more likely to become juvenile delinquents. Parents need to teach their children morals and values, and when there is a lack of parental interaction and supervision these morals are not being taught.
Researchers also suggest that there is a direct relationship between single-parent families
and delinquency. Most researchers agree that the trauma of separation from a biological parent, strained parent/child relationships, and less effective parenting are common effects of single-parent homes. The researchers have found that single parent families correlated with juvenile delinquency, and children from single-parent homes were more likely to increase their delinquency as they passed through adolescence, whereas, children raised in two parent homes were more likely to desist from delinquent behavior as they matured. Family structures, such as, single-parent families and stepfamilies, seem to disrupt a child’s normal socialization process. In conclusion, the authors and researchers come to the agreement that “a healthy home environment is the single most important factor in preventing delinquent behavior,” (32).

In “The Path to School Failure, Delinquency, and Violence: Causal Factors and Some Potential Solutions,” the author also supports the theory that poor parenting is a key risk factor or precursor associated with delinquency. The author recognizes key risk factors of delinquency such as, “poverty, dysfuntional and chaotic families, incompetent parenting, and negative parental attitudes toward education” (Walker, 1999, p.2). These risk factors provide a fertile breeding ground for the development of delinquent attitudes and behavioral styles among the children exposed to them. At the core of Mr. Walker’s article is the fact that these risk factors need to be reduced and/or eliminated. Parents need to recommit themselves to raising their children safely and effectively.
Robert Trojanowicz also agrees that the family is one of the main causal factors of juvenile delinquency. He reiterates much of what the other authors and researchers have said. The book focuses on single-parent homes, parental involvement, family tension and family economics as key factors of juvenile delinquency. Although, Mr. Trojanowicz states “family economics plays a key role in determining juvenile delinquency. A family’s inability to provide for the material needs of a child can create insecurity in a child, thus, the child may seek material needs and suport from outside the family” (77). In conclusion he finds that many delinquents do not come from low-income families, and the economic condition of the family is probably one of the least meaningful contributing factors.

The research clearly shows and supports the theory that the family structure is directly related to juvenile delinquency. What is society doing to help these families in trouble? “Competency Training,” the Office of Juvenile Justice and Dleinquency Prevention (OJJDP), examines one of the family programs that have been established. The program they examined was, “Iowa’s Strenghtening Families Program. (ISFP) The SFP is a 7-week course designed to bring parents together with their 10 to 14 year old children, with the goal of reducing substance abuse and other problem behavior in youth. The curriculum uses parallel content to emphasize, to the family and the youth, improved parenting skills, and better communication for both parents and the youth. For example, while the parents are learning how to use consequences when youth break rules, youth are learning about the importance of following rules. The program has been evaluated and studied numerous times. One study used a random, controlled study of 446 families that had participated in the program, and the results were unequivocal; the program is effective in reducing adolescent substance abuse and othe problems, improving parent/child relationships, and building parenting skills.
In another article that examines a family program, Family Solutions, FSP, the author explains the steps of the program to reinforce the “family”(Quinn ; Sutphen, 1994, p. 3). Typically, the Family Solutions Program lasts for 10 weeks and participants meet one time a week. All participants are required to set goals that can be accomplished during the 10 week period. The following ideas are the key elements of the Family Solutions Program: the FSP reinforces the thought that families can solve their problems within the family, and the family can be successful. Famlies also need or want other non-professionals, families with similar problems, to talk with and offer solutions. The FSP is a flexible program, particualr problems can arise and they need to be dealt with then. The FSP centers on important community issues. “Discussions on family finances and budgets, premarital sex and meaningful symbols from the culture that espouse certain values are common” (Quinn ; Sutphen, 1994, p. 10). The last key element of the FSP is the “celbratory context” of the meetings. Each family is encouraged to share any acheivements or successes they have experienced. The Family Solutions Program focuses on low-income families and every effort is made to accommodate the families. Therapists search for the most practical solutions to avoid scheduling conflicts, transportation problems, and racial imbalance. The author establishes that this program is an effective alternative to other juvenile court responses to juvenile delinquency.

William Schossler and Mike Powers examine two family programs that have been implemented in Florida, that employ the Multi-Systemic Therapy Program, (MST). “MST is a relativley new method of dealing with young offenders. It was developed at the Medical University of South Carolina in 1995 and is based on the theory that, in order to turn youthful offenders around, you have to make fundamental changes in their environment – not necessarily their physical environment, but the relationshiips that make up the environemnt, such as family, school, and peer groups” (2). MST works in the youth’s natural environment and gives families the power to change for the better. MST is about education for the family, setting goals, and addressing the problems that pushed the youth towards the trouble in the first place. “Oakland Park Police Lt. Alan DeNaro studied the MST program in Jacksonville (5). “DeNaro compared outcomes of 60 juvenile offenders in the MST program with 60 juveniles in comparable programs. All 120 juveniles had been convicted of felonies and were a mix of male and female, white, blac and Hispanic individuals. He found that the MST program had a successful completion rate of 85.7 percent, while only 69 percent of the comparison group successfully completed their programs” (6). DeNaro’s study concludes that MST is effective for a wide range of youths and families.
The title of this paper is Juvenile Delinquency: Is the family structure a precursor and would a parent/child relationship improvement program help to alleviate this behavior? To answer these questions it is necessary to utilize two surveys.

To determine if the family is part of the problem of the delinquent behavior, I will start with two surveys, one for the parent(s), and one for the child. These surveys will be submitted before any participation in an improvement program, and will be instrumental in designating problem areas within the family, and hopefully lead the counselors in the direction of family improvement. It is important to guarantee participant confidentiality, so that the surveys are answered objectively and truthfully. After completion of the program, these same two surveys should be resubmitted to all participants to gauge any differences in the answers. Once again, participant confidentiality is a must.
The other survey that is to be utlized is a general satisfaction survey. This survey can tell counselors what areas of the program can be improved. Particpants in these programs can offer valuable insight into different problem areas within the family and, as such, this survey should be taken into great consideration.
The recent rise in juvenile crime rates are good indicators that new measures, policies, and programs need to be utilized to reduce these rates. Frequently juveniles ae arrested and convicted without the benefit of understanding why they committed the crime in the first place. Many times there has not been any contact with the families of the offenders to determine if the delinquent behavior could have been deterred. Family strenghtening programs may be the key to deterring future delinquent behavior with the child, and possibly any siblings.


Anywhere, USA
Family Improvement Plan
This survey is intended to gather your perceptions of your family life before starting a family strengthening program.


Please answer the following questions by placing an X in the box that best matches your opinion.


1. How well do you get along with your child?
Good Fair Poor

2. Does your child go out of his/her way to please you?
Frequently Rarely Never

3. How difficult is it to be patient with your child?
Easy Moderate Difficult

4. Has your child been pleasant to raise?
Yes Sometimes No


5. What degree of discipline do you use in your home?
Harsh/Severe Moderate Little/None

6. Is the violence in your home
Harsh/Severe Moderate Little/None

7. How important is education in your home?
Very important Somewhat important Little/No Importance

8. How involved are you in your child’s life?
Frequently Rarely Never

9. How much do you communicate with your child?
Frequently Rarely Never

Anywhere, USA
Family Improvement Plan
The following survey is intended to gather your opinions and thoughts on your family. Your answers are confidential, and may not be released, without your consent, to ANYONE!!!
Please answer the following questions by placing an X in the box that best matches your opinion.


1. How well do you get along with your mother/stepmother?
Good Fair Poor

2. How well do you get along with your father/stepfather?
Good Fair Poor

3. Do you go out of your way to please your parent(s)?
Frequently Rarely Never

4. What degree of discipline is used in your home?
Harsh/Severe Moderate Little/None

5. Is the violence in your home
Harsh/Severe Moderate Little/None

6. How important is education in your home?
Very Important Somewhat Important Little/No Importance

7. How involved is your parent(s) in your life?
Frequently Rarely Never

8. How often do your parent(s) communicate with you?
Frequently Rarely Never

Anywhere, USA
Family Improvement Plan
Please take a few minutes of your time to tell us how we could better serve you.


1. Do you feel the FIP helped your family?
Yes
No
2. If you answered yes to question 1, please tell us in what areas: (check all that apply)
Communication Skills
Basic Parenting Skills
Education
Discipline Measures
Other ________________________

3. Would you recommend the FIP to other families?
Yes
No
4. Please use the space provided below to tell us how the FIP could better serve the needs of families. ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

No Comments

Add your comment