Effects of Family Structure on Juvenile Delinquency

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The purpose of this paper is to examine the effects of family structure as well as family dynamics on juvenile delinquency. Family structure serves as a large influential factor in a juvenile’s life. Family structure such as single, married, and cohabiting parental environments has major effects on juvenile’s lives. This family structure as well as family dynamics trickle down and effect many aspects of the juvenile’s life, and causes negative consequences, leading to juvenile delinquency.


Over the years, family structure has changed by a noticeable amount. Now more common than ever, there are parents getting divorces, resulting in children living in single family homes as well as cohabiting family homes more than seen before. The children who experience this type of home environment are more commonly inadequately supervised, grow up with homes with conflict and are at a greater risk of becoming delinquent.

Juvenile delinquency is participation by a minor in illegal behavior and or actives. According to Legal Dictionary (2019), “ Juvenile delinquency is also used to refer to children who exhibit a persistent behavior of mischievousness or disobedience, so as to be considered out of parental control, becoming subject to legal action by the court system”.

Many also refer to juvenile delinquency as juvenile offending. Many factors are influencing juvenile delinquency, including family structure and family characteristics. Moreover, the various types of homes the adolescents are living in have a major effect on their well-being. These types of homes include single, married as well as cohabiting parents. These adolescents living in various home types additionally experience lack of supervision as well as involvement in their lives. A lack of these factors plays a role in juvenile delinquency.
Statistics show, if a juvenile starts offending before the age of 12, he is more likely to continue offending into adulthood. This is why the family structure for a juvenile is extremely important.

Literature Review

Family Structure

Family structure serves as a large influential factor in a juvenile’s life. According to Kevin and Karen Wright, families are a strong socializing force. For example, “They help teach children to control unacceptable behavior, to delay gratification, and to respect the rights of others. Conversely, families can also teach children aggressive, antisocial, and violent behavior”. This is a major influential factor in a juvenile’s life and can contribute to the development of delinquency behavior in the juvenile. Moreover, according to Wright and Wright (1993) research demonstrates that behavioral issues during ones childhood predict later delinquency. These behavioral issues can stem from home environments. After the development of the Juvenile Courts, studies were made of the parental status of the juvenile brought before the judge on delinquency petitions. According to Shaw and McKay, “Breckinridge and Abbott made a careful analysis of the parental status of boys brought before the Juvenile Court of Cook County on petitions alleging delinquency during the years of 1903-4 and found that of 584 cases, 253 or 44.3 percent of them lived in homes that were broken by death of one or both parents, desertion, divorce, separation of parents, or commitment of one or both parents to an institution”.

Home Environment

In today’s society, youths are living in various types of home environments. This includes single, married, and cohabiting parental environments. One third of all children are born to unmarried mothers and over one half of children spend time in a single-parent family (Demuth & Brown, 2004). More prevalent than ever, single-father families are growing faster than ever as well. The families that children grow up in and the environment in which they live can have major effects on their livelihood. A large amount of evidence examines the impact of family structure and delinquency. The findings show that dramatic shifts in American families over the past decades have substantially altered children’s family living arrangements. Moreover, youths that come from broken homes are more prevalent to increased levels of delinquency.

Single Parent

Research into the idea that single parent homes produces more delinquents goes back into the early 19th century. According to Wells and Rankin composition of families is one aspect of family life that is associated with delinquency. Moreover, “Children who live in homes with only one parent or in which marital relationships have been disrupted by divorce or separation are more likely to display a range of emotional and behavior problems, including delinquency, than children from two-parent families”. Many believe that single parent homes produce more delinquents due to a lack of supervision. Inadequate supervision, according to Tang, is when “a child left alone for a period of time not appropriate for the child’s developmental level”. Given that the parents are highly influential in children’s family experience, according to Tang, it is not surprising that lack of parental monitoring are predictive of juvenile delinquency. This monitoring can also mean knowing the child’s schedule as well as activities and friends. Due to the fact there is not two parents in the house monitoring the child, the child is more likely to come into contact with delinquent influences. Moreover many of these children also feel a lack of attention in their lives and act out in response to the lack of affection. In a study done by Snyder and Patterson (1987), they noted that monitoring is increasingly essential as the child proceeds into puberty. Being a single presents many struggles and high demands for the parent, this is also true in regards to single father figures.

  1. In regards to single father families, Demuth and Brown found that single-father headed households show higher rates of juvenile delinquency than single-mother headed households. Additionally, the “single father families are the fastest growing family form.
  2. Lack of involvement – In a study done by Shaw and Mckay, they fond that of the twenty-nine analyses presented, twenty-two showed a significant relation between lack of parental involvement and delinquency and aggression. Moreover, the lack of involvement of the father with the children generally has a stronger relation to delinquency and aggression than does the mother’s lack of involvement.
  3. Lack of Supervision – Furthermore in a study also done by Shaw and Mckay, they found that lack of supervision was significantly related to delinquency in ten of these analyses, out of the eleven analyses looked at.

Cohabiting Parents

According to Brown, when transitioning from a single-mother family into either a cohabiting or married step-family this is also associated with higher levels of delinquency. Manning and Lamb found that individuals who come from cohabiting parents display a range of behavioral problems.

Children from blended and cohabiting families clearly display higher levels of deviant behavior than children from two-biological-parent homes.

Types of Partnering styles

The parenting styles can have a major impact on juvenile delinquency. According to Tang, authoritative parenting can be when a parent has both expectations for and empathy toward a child. While authoritarian parenting is restrictive and punitive and there is little empathy shown. On the other hand, permissive parenting according to Tang (2019), can refer to indulgent parenting, the parent exhibits few expectations of the child but has a large amount of empathy.

A. Discipline

According to Shaw and Mckay (1932), the term discipline has been used for a wide variety of parental child-rearing practices. These practices can include physical punishment, withdrawal of affection as well as scolding. In regards to physical punishment, it has been fond to be a precursor of delinquency. According to Shaw and Mckay, “Parental discipline as a predictor of child conduct problems and delinquency was measured in five studies, of the twelve analyses, seven showed a significant relation between discipline and later delinquency and aggression”.

B. Rejection

Two different types of rejection can be noted, parental rejection of their children, and children’s rejection of their parents. In regards to parental rejection of their children, Shaw and Mckay found that this was one of the factors that consistently related to delinquency. In a study done on parental rejection as a predictor of aggressiveness and delinquency, of the twenty analyses, thirteen showed significance. On the other hand, when discussing the children rejection of their parents, in another study done by Shaw and Mckay, “Seven studies measured children’s affective relations with their parents. Twelve of fifteen analyses reported a significant relation between rejection and delinquency and aggression”. Parent child relationships are extremely important at such a young age, without the relationship the child is more likely to be associated with delinquency.

Other Conflicts

A. Sibling Conflict

Shaw and Mckay additionally found that recurrent sibling conflict is associated with more serious coercive behaviors, such as threats and physical violence.

B. Poverty

The social structure theory of crime links crimes to inequities in opportunities (Tang, 2019). Poverty often causes individuals to resort to crime as a means to an end. While living in such an environment, juveniles are likely to experience strain, stress, and anger (Tang, 2019). Empirical research shows, according to Rekker at all that changes in a family’s socioeconomic status predicted changes in youth’s behavior. In a study made up of one hundred and twenty adolescents of the Betamba Re-education Institution of the Central Province of Cameroon, Ngale found that some of the crimes committed in Cameroon were connected to family socio-economic problems. The crimes that were being committed were more than likely due to the “inability of parents to provide regular and substantial meals to their offspring”.

C. Criminal record

Juveniles who have criminal parents are at a greater risk of becoming criminals themselves. According to Wright and Wright (1993), the likelihood of a juvenile with criminal parents becoming delinquent is greater than those with non-criminal parents.

D. Alcohol and Substance Abuse

E. Sexual Abuse

According to Tang, “Sexual Abuse involves nonconsensual sexually motivated behaviors involving children, and the sexual exploitation of children” (Tang, 2019, p. 56)


Family structure has a significant impact on juvenile delinquency. The family structure, as discussed, serves as a large influential factor in a juvenile’s life. The family structure helps children to control behavior that is unacceptable and to teach them to respect others. If the family structure has a negative impact on the child, it teaches them things such as antisocial, and violent behavior. More prevalent than ever, youths are living in various types of home environments. Such as single, married, and cohabiting parental environments. The juveniles coming from single homes are more likely to display a range of emotional and behavior problems, including delinquency, than the children from two-parent families (Wells and Rankin, 1991). The impact of family structure sets into motion many other influential factors as well. This includes inadequate supervision and involvement, as well as financial status. Which in return leads to increased stress and conflict within a home, thus resulting in juvenile delinquency.


Cite this paper

Effects of Family Structure on Juvenile Delinquency. (2020, Oct 28). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/effects-of-family-structure-on-juvenile-delinquency/



What are the factors affecting juvenile delinquency family?
The factors affecting juvenile delinquency in family include lack of parental supervision, neglect, abuse, and dysfunctional family dynamics. Additionally, poverty, substance abuse, and mental health issues may also contribute to juvenile delinquency.
What are the top 5 factors that contribute to juvenile delinquency?
There is no one answer to this question as the factors that contribute to juvenile delinquency can vary greatly depending on the individual situation. However, some of the top factors that have been identified as contributing to juvenile delinquency include poverty, family dysfunction, peer pressure, substance abuse, and mental health issues.
What do you understand about family affect and delinquency?
The family is the closest social institution to the individual and plays a significant role in socializing its members. The family affects delinquency in that delinquent behavior is more likely to occur in families where there is little supervision, communication, and involvement.
What is the relationship between family structure and delinquency?
Marriage is the legal or religious ceremony that unites two people, while family is a group of people related by blood or marriage.
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