Family and Delinquency
Family and Delinquency
By Mahfuzul I. Khondaker, Ph.D.
In recent times, Bangladesh has experienced a huge increase in young adults' involvement in crime, especially in terrorist activities. Due to the grave nature of situation, it is very important to understand what may influence juveniles and youngsters to deviate from the established social norms and join the criminal activities. This short essay looks at the family as a contributing factor of juvenile delinquency as well as offers suggestions to tackle the issue.
Because of its influence on individuals, the family has been a major focus of criminologists and policy makers concerned with delinquency prevention. Not only can the family contribute to delinquent behavior, it can prevent individuals from committing crime as well. The family is one of the most important agents in the socialization process. Socialization represents the process of internalizing norms, rules, and customs of the society by an individual. The family provides biological, social, psychological, and economic support throughout the life of its members which are critical factors in shaping individuals. The family can exert its influence in both positive and negative ways. The family teaches someone to become conforming member of society. Nevertheless, it can also teach law violation. The family has been treated as a very important factor in criminological literature because of its influence on individuals. It can push someone to commit crime, and it can also control and prevent individuals from committing crime.
A substantial amount of research has focused on the family as an independent variable in crime causation and analyzed how family risk factors could be addressed to prevent juvenile delinquency. These studies reveal the relationship between family and delinquency. A recent study examined the family background of youths who are at risk of committing crime and suicide. This study revealed that youths who have a sense of connectedness to family, including parents and other care-giving adults, are much less likely to attempt suicide and indulge in antisocial behavior.
Positive socialization is important for an individual in terms of not committing crime. Research suggests that delinquency could be an outcome of a lack of proper internal controls developed in childhood. The family plays a valuable role in helping children attain internal control in early childhood. It is evident that lack of proper social bonding contributes to criminal behavior. There are four elements or dimensions that characterized the social bond: attachment, involvement, commitment, and belief. Attachment is the most important one, and it refers to the ties that one has with the significant others such as parents, friends, role models, and schools. The stronger the attachment one has with these significant others, the less likely s/he will commit crime.
Positive parenting and adequate and effective child rearing is very crucial in preventing delinquency and this takes place when parents monitor a child's behavior and recognize danger signs and punish immediately if the child acts in any deviant manner. Effective parenting results in to higher level of self-control, which in turn reduces the risk of criminal behavior significantly.
Criminal behavior, like any other behavior, is a product of learning and the principal part of the learning of criminal behavior occurs within intimate personal groups typically within families. Through interaction with others close to them, individuals acquire a positive attitude that can be conducive to violating the law and committing crimes. If other family members are engaged in criminal behavior, it is more likely that the individual will also become engaged in delinquent behavior. The family is the most fundamental primary social institution, and family members are the most important and influential individuals in one's life. One's family environment may encourage viewing criminality as something positive, and the individual would react favorably towards a criminal lifestyle.
The family may also influence delinquency in an indirect way. Lack of parental control or lack of attachment with parents can enhance delinquency by letting the child associate with delinquent peers. This association with delinquent peers increases the risk factors which promotes delinquency. The family does not contribute to delinquent behavior directly; rather, it influences delinquency through the juvenile's association with friends who are delinquents.
Weak family ties and broken homes have a strong influence on the delinquency of family members. Research explains the relationship between broken homes and/or single-parent families and juvenile antisocial behavior by showing single-parent homes are more likely to produce juvenile delinquency. Children from single-parent families are also more vulnerable to peer pressure. The children from the single-parent families enjoy more freedom in their acts, which creates a favorable situation for them to break the law. Marital discord among the parents has been considered as a strong factor in predicting delinquency. Children who witness conflict and violence between parents are at greater risk of becoming delinquents. Research suggest that aggressive behavior is learned; as parents display aggressive behavior, children learn to imitate it as an acceptable means of achieving goals. Rejection of children by parents is another contributing factor in juvenile delinquency. According to criminological literature, parental rejection appears to be one of the most significant predictors of delinquency. Neglect plays a major role in delinquency, and those children who are neglected are more likely to be delinquent than those who are not neglected. In contrast, research has found a positive effect of affection of parents for the children and family cohesion in reducing the risk of delinquency. Positive parenting, in general, means supervision, normative regulation, monitoring, and discipline by the parents over children. Research found that parents of delinquent children failed to exercise positive parenting in terms of these factors, and proper parental control reduces the risk of delinquency.
Family environment is crucial in the developmental process of the human brain. Recent research on the human brain reveals that human brains develop significantly in the first three years of life, and this development in the early ages affects one's future life. In fact, research has found that the human brain starts to develop while the fetus is in the mother's womb. The human brain develops by interacting with the environment, which includes type of nourishment, care, surroundings and stimulation an individual receives. An individual's behavioral characteristics develop through the interactive process between nature and nurture, which are biological factors and family and social environment.
Based on these research findings, it is important that we focus on parenting and family to help our children not to choose an active criminal/terrorist life. Addressing issues in the family should have a direct positive impact in preventing and reducing criminal behavior in our society.