Family Structure Contributing to Juveniles Indulging in Delinquent Behaviors
Over a period of time, the abnormality in behavior of a person has been viewed from different perspectives. There had been various theories trying to rationalize the deviance in human behavior. Biological reasons though quite intriguing, but most appealing had been the sociological theories of deviance. These theories propose that we learn to be deviant through the family, mass media, school, and the environment. According to sociological theorists, the deviant (criminal) is viewed as a victim of forces beyond his / her control. From Freud onwards, various psychologists have identified childhood experiences as a leading cause to deviant behavior. Bowlby (1988) has argued that the failure of the mother to satisfy her child’s “basic human need” for emotional security can result in the production of a psychopathic personality.
The family is a key primary group with which one is differentially associated. The process of acquiring, persisting, or modifying behavior in the family or family surrogate is a process of exposure to normative values and behavioral models and differential reinforcement. The typical empirical measures of control theory variables such as family parental control, discipline, and parental sanctions are transparently measures of differential social reinforcement (rewards and punishment) for conforming and nonconforming or disobedient behavior (Simons et al., 2004). Informal social control in the family has long been conceptualized as part of the social learning process in producing conformity or deviance.
The role of the family is usually as a conventional socializer. It provides conventional,
anti-criminal definitions, conforming role models, and the reinforcement of conformity through
parental discipline; it promotes the development of conformity and self-control. In the family, the balance of interactive and normative dimensions of differential association, behavioral models, and reinforcement of attitudes and behavior is typically in the pro-social, non-deviant direction. But delinquent and deviant behavior also has family origins and may be the outcome of internal family interaction. The acquisition and maintenance of deviant patterns may be directly affected by deviant parental models, ineffective and erratic parental supervision and discipline in the use of positive and negative sanctions, and the endorsement of values and attitudes favorable to deviance.
Ineffective disciplinary strategies by parents increase the chances that a child will learn behavior in the early years that is a precursor to his or her later delinquency. Children learn conforming responses when parents consistently make use of positive rewards for proper behavior and impose moderately negative consequences for misbehavior. In some cases, parents directly train their children to commit deviant behavior, and in general, parental deviance and criminality are predictive of the children’s future delinquency and crime (Simons et al., 2004).
The social control theory maintains that parents influence their child’s delinquency through the direct control of behavior through restriction, supervision, and punishment, internalized control through the creation of a child’s conscience, and indirect control through the amount of affectional identification the child has with parents. The theory examines the influence of familial factors on delinquent behavior. Family structure exerts an indirect effect through the social controls provided by family relationships. The actual attitudes and relationships affecting social control are considered the crucial factors, but these are found more concentrated in families with certain structures than others. The research shows children from homes with a single parent exhibited higher levels of delinquency, which is resulted primarily from a loss of direct parental controls and decreased child-parent attachments (Simons et al., 2004).
Bowlby John (1988). Secure Base: Parent-Child Attachment and Healthy Human Development. New York: Basic Books.
Simons, Ronald L., Simons, Leslie Gordon and Wallace, Lora Ebert. (2004). Families, Delinquency and Crime. Los Angeles, California: Roxbury Publishing Company.