Juvenile delinquency is the involvement of juveniles, i.e., children beyond the constitutional age limit, which is often 18 years of age, in illegal activity (Siegel and Welsh 13). A variety of causes contribute to juvenile delinquency, including psychological, sociological, and biological aspects of the individual’s life. A number of scholars believe that biological factors play a role in childhood delinquency.
Historically, it was thought that an individual’s genetic make-up determined a minor’s deviance. Cesare Lombroso, an Italian physician, and criminologist was of the view that criminals were born as such (Ardoin and Bartling 90). He built up a physiological image of what he perceived to be a criminal, alleging that they were the same as primitive individuals, i.e., frizzy hair, large ears, and forehead. Similarly, Richard Dugdale, an American sociologist, also held the belief that genetics played a part in criminal behavior. He utilized the intelligence test proposed by French psychologist Alfred Binet to make a comparison between the non- criminals and the criminals, whereby the majority of the criminals were labeled as feebleminded as opposed to the ones who did not exhibit any criminal behavior (Ardoin and Bartling 90).
Another American psychologist, William Sheldon, was of the view that deviance was biological, and utilized a framework known as somatotype to explain his reasoning. Somatotyping refers to a method whereby individuals are characterized on the basis of their body type (ectomorphic, mesomorphic or endomorphic), from Sheldon’s illustrations, the mesomorphic personalities tend to be deviant and it is also proven that they are criminal in nature. According to the view, the majority of the delinquents in the 1700s represented the mesomorphic body type, i.e., large- boned and muscular individuals with an extroverted and aggressive personality. Johannes Lange, a German investigator, carried out a study on twins, whereby he found that one twin taking part in delinquency resulted in a significant correlation of the other twin also exhibiting delinquent behavior.
In the psychological view of delinquent behavior, William Healy was one such person who studied juveniles admitted into a psychiatric institution, thereby concluding that emotional trauma played a significant part in determining the behavior. Similarly, Albert Bandura, a well- known psychologist, introduced the concept of social learning theory to put forth the belief that our behavior is learned. He was of the views that, just as we normally behaved by learning from the environment, juvenile delinquents also learned criminal behavior by observing others. They would subsequently adopt those behaviors upon imitation if they were rewarded for it (Ardoin and Bartling 91).
In the sociological view of delinquent behavior, criminologist Albert Cohen presented the concept of juvenile subcultures, observing that delinquent behavior is more common in the lower- class males (Ardoin and Bartling 92). He observed that majority of the households of the lower- class constituted females. Majority of the fathers were either not alive, found in jail, not involved in bringing up their children, are were not even known. As such, the boys of the family would develop views that they had to act as the man of the house, thereby taking on the responsibility of adults far earlier than they should be. Upon not being able to fulfill the role adequately, these children end up developing feelings of inadequacy and seeking solace in other male children who are from similar backgrounds. As they enter their teenage years, they begin to develop new objectives to substitute for the ones they could not achieve. Foster children are another category that has been studied widely regarding the subject, with research showing that child abuse and neglect on the part of parents has a far greater tendency of showing signs of delinquency in foster children.
Parental or sibling incarceration can leave a significant impact on the life of minors present in the household, be it financially, behaviorally, emotionally or regarding maintaining a sense of stability. A major component that needs to be focused on is whether the impact on the child in question was explicit because of incarceration or due to factors present well before that time, such as child abuse, domestic violence, parents/ siblings abusing drugs, or mental illness. Incarceration is not a solitary or separate phenomenon but rather a dynamic element that gradually leaves a permanent impact as time passes, be it a parent or sibling who has been incarcerated.
It is imperative to first take into consideration the short-term impacts of the process, beginning for the arrest to the physical separation to the acceptance that they will not be coming back for a certain amount of time, if at all. Subsequently, there are also specific negative and positive impacts on the child once he/she is reunited with their family member (s). It is, likewise, essential to take into consideration several other factors such as who in the family was incarcerated, whether it was a dysfunctional family system, and whether the children were living with that particular family member during the point of incarceration. It is also worth determining whether juvenile delinquency occurs as a separate entity or is likely to be a result of a family member already having been incarcerated. As such, the paper aims to assess whether there exists substantial proof to support the notion that juveniles with an incarcerated parent or sibling are more likely to commit crimes or not.
The middle years of childhood are a vital time in the development of social and intellectual aspects within children. Social abilities are quickly developing at this time, as children turn out to be more skilled at self- control and are subject to more prominent contact with society that does not merely extend to family members. Furthermore, the issues encountered the behavior of children during the period are prescient of a wide cluster of results that make themselves prominent further down the road. Delinquent behavior at the stage becomes a severe problem.
Even though majority of the children that are anti-social are not the same during adulthood, the ones taking part in delinquent acts during the early stages of life are more prone to be subjected to problems that have built up over the years, coming about both as a result of degenerated conduct itself as well as from the responses of guardians, educators, and other authoritative figures to such conduct. Even though the delinquent behavior of children has been linked with a diverse array of elements, extending from identity, impulsivity, and insight to financial and group impacts, family conditions are reliably recognized in the literature as being among the leading indicators of delinquency. A few longitudinal examinations have shown apparent connections between the financial issues of the family, along with parenting styles, adult offenses, child delinquencies, and criminal acts of parents (Geller et al. 26).
The exceptional ascent in imprisonment throughout the latter half of the 1900s has resulted in unfortunate outcomes for the steadiness of the family structure, compromising the relationship of couples, resulting in financial constraints, and resulting in undue stress for the children. Children during every phase of life are known to displaying expanded behavioral issues upon the onset of their parents being incarcerated. Be that as it may, there still exists room for more research to be carried out to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of the part played by the incarceration of parents, and the impact it leaves on the children and subsequent delinquent behavior (Geller et al. 27). Imprisoned guardians are a select gathering, and the solitary conduct that brought about their detainment might be a more significant impact on their kids’ misconduct than the imprisonment encounter itself.
Even though the attachment theory was at first acquainted with talk about the relationship between a mother and her newborn, many years of research have distinguished solid connections between broken families and delinquent behavior of children. There are plenty of reasons attributable to the delinquent behavior of a child. Losing a parent has an adverse impact on children, generally due to the impact of the strong connection to the parent. Being separated from the parent, especially the mother can result in a pattern of distressing encounters and can also result in conflicts arising between the children and the parents, financial issues, and inadequate child rearing. There is also a possibility that broken families result in delinquency within the children due to there being previously apparent disparities from different families in risk elements such as the criminal behavior of parents and conflicts arising with parents etc.
The idea of having a minor’s parents incarcerated definitely leads to a financial crisis at home and this on the other hand leads to the minor straining for resources where according to them crime is the only way out. This is according to Robert K Merton an explanation of the strain theory.
The incarceration of fathers additionally speaks to a potentially defining moment in youngsters’ family lives, and like this, their developmental process. The absence of a father from the workforce, and the difficulties that former prisoners encounter upon trying to find suitable employment again, regularly prompt declines in family assets and increments in material issues (Geller et al. 27). These anxieties and much more related to being incarcerated may create stress between the relationship of the parents, thereby prompting struggle, divisions and even seeking new partners. The burdens and complications encountered by the mothers and other guardians can likewise restrict their ability to parent positively and effectively, decrease the degree to which the child receives supervision and leaving the child with far more chances to adopt an anti-social behavior. This is well explained by the social control theory on the fact that an individual can easily commit a crime because of the absence of a figure of disapproval whom in this case is the father.
Regardless of the part played by the incarceration of fathers in the behavior exhibited by the child and his/ her overall development, delinquent behavior is influenced by a variety of family conditions as well as by various individual and ecological attributes, and also, by the relationship between people and their families and social surroundings. There exist many indicators of conduct that is deemed offensive, such as decreased levels of insight and accomplishment, identity and temperament issues, compassion, and impulsive behavior.
Children are additionally affected significantly by various logical stages, such as peer influences, peer reactions to their behavior, individual behavior, familial conditions, teacher reactions, and easily available resources at school. A father being incarcerated can prompt changes in the way in which his family is viewed by other individuals, which subsequently impacts the conduct of children as they mature and this is evident from the explanation from the social labeling theory that states, the simple fact that juveniles can be labeled deviant due to the criminal family members or any other case, they might as well as become deviant. Be that as it may, children’s associations at educational institutions and within the social surrounding may likewise influence wrongdoing in courses irrelevant to the imprisonment of the father.
Children with incarcerated parents experience a lot of different issues. Numerous have encountered the emotional trauma of separation from their parent brought upon them out of the blue, and majority of them are powerless against sentiments of blaming themselves, despondency, misery, outrage, anxiety, and dread. They are subjected to foster care or moving from one home to another. It may not be apparent at the time, but the behavioral results can be extreme, ranging from dropping out of school, social isolation, withdrawing emotionally, intergenerational incarceration and delinquency (Simmons 1). Even so, such children seem to be overlooked during the process of incarcerating the parent in question, as a result of which there exists little data on the impacts that such an episode can leave on the children.
According to Hawkins et al., a study showed results that males aged 18 to 23 with a father who was a criminal were around four times more prone to also carrying out criminal activities as opposed to males whose fathers were not involved in criminal activities (3). Similarly, a study carried out by Farrington in 1989 found that young men with a parent being incarcerated, while the child was still below the age of 10, were twice as many times more prone to carrying out criminal activities in comparison to those with no criminal parent (Hawkins et al. 3). Interestingly, a study carried out by Moffitt in 1987 discovered that adults between the ages of 29 and 52, who had parents with a criminal record, were not more inclined to be subjected to arrests for a criminal act as compared to the ones with non-criminal parents (Hawkins et al. 3). It is, as such, essential to carry out more studies to build up a thorough understanding of the extent to which the incarceration of parents has contributed towards their children exhibiting criminal behavior.
Juvenile delinquency is not only influenced by parental incarceration but may also be prompted by the imprisonment of siblings. It is not necessary for siblings to be in good terms every single moment, but there still exists a special connection that is lost when one of them is incarcerated. Imprisonment is a problem that influences a huge number of families on a yearly premise. Up until now, the larger part of studies inspecting the misfortune has studied the effect of imprisonment on the parents and the children, mainly the way in which incarceration impacts the attachment of the child to the mother and the father as well. Frequently disregarded in these examinations have been the siblings that are incarcerated. Particularly crucial to the investigation of the paper is the way in which experts comprehend the effect of kin imprisonment on distress and adapting mechanisms of the siblings who have not been part of any criminal activity so far.
According to Hawkins et al., a study carried out by Farrington in 1989 found that having a delinquent sibling when the child himself/ herself is below the age of 10 is likely to result in the child also being convicted at a later stage in life (5). The relationship between having a delinquent brother or sister and being incarcerated was far more likely when delinquency of siblings took place nearer to the time of the child’s offense during youth and then during the developmental phase (Hawkins et al. 5). This indicates that siblings who are less socially active have a more grounded negative impact amid their sibling’s youth than during the early developmental phase of the child. Similarly, a study carried out by Williams in 1994 showed that the impact of delinquency in siblings was far more prevalent in young females than in the males (Hawkins et al. 5).
In connection to the incarceration of siblings, ambiguity and anguish can be comprehended in the physical loss of a sibling as they are incarcerated, in spite of the prevailing mental effect on the more youthful siblings, be it via conversation, visiting them, or via memories. The equivocalness that accompanies staying in contact with somebody who is lost as a result of individual conduct likewise distinguishes another type of misery. The other type of pain is referred to as disenfranchised grief (Heaton 6).
The grief is an especially troublesome type of misfortune to get over because most cases regarding such anguish are the result of individual choices or behaviors. Such misfortune regularly leads to a feeling of disgrace or blame on the individual or his/ her family, rendering it hard to publicly grieve, talk about, or adapt to the activities that have resulted in that loss (Heaton 6). Families with imprisoned members who are close to them, for example, parents or siblings, can be distinguished as having endured the type of distress. Humiliated or apprehensive at what others in their social group might be thinking or perceiving, numerous parents or siblings have admitted to not telling others that that particular incarcerated sibling even exists in their life. This happens because they would prefer not to be a part of even more disparagement and social stigmas than they already have been exposed to. This, then, results in an added loss that is centered on being socially isolated. Disengagement can upset the family framework all the more after a sibling is incarcerated. Subsequently, the sibling might encounter even more traumatic experiences as a result.
According to the trauma theory, the occurrence of a trauma that is an extreme and unapparent type of stress tends to occur and render the person unable to adapt to its significant impact. The trauma leaves him or her with a particularly overwhelming feeling and devoid of the ability to handle or shield themselves against it (Bloom 419). The memory of a horrible ordeal results in an elevated feeling of pressure and severe dread that leaves a person afraid of being defenseless against future excruciating encounters (Bloom 420). Despite the fact that the siblings who have no offense to their credit could be made oblivious to the incarceration process, from the arrest to the sentencing. There is still a very good chance that a sibling will encounter being traumatized, be it when the sibling is arrested or during the time of visiting in prison or even the rebuilding of the family structure. Siblings are open to showing more vulnerability upon seeing family events or roles that they are not accustomed to, which might result in unforeseen stressors coming to the forefront that may otherwise have been kept away from.
The siblings of imprisoned youth confront an assortment of feelings and the young ones are mainly just not ready to process feelings and also the grown-ups as well, and these emotions play out in unforgiving settings. With so much emotional perplexity, the young people who have not been incarcerated, but their sibling has, have a greater tendency to exhibit behavior that is deemed negative according to society. For example, school, and the educational institutions that emphasize upon a zero-tolerance strategy, in which such negative behavior could result in serious consequences in the long run. This is because such schools force the children already trying to cope with traumatic experiences out of their educational institutions, thereby encouraging them to adopt unacceptable behaviors, rather than trying to find out what is going on the children’s lives and subsequently trying to find solutions to help them cope with those problems. Upon being kicked out of educational institutions, more of than not, these children accept their negative behavior and exhibit it on all works of life. These children are already trying to deal with the emotional trauma, and when this is combined with the influence that the now- incarcerated siblings had on them, they tend to turn to such activities that are bound to leave them imprisoned as well.
Based on the studies that were studied for the paper, it can be said that there is, overall, a greater chance of adolescents becoming juvenile delinquents in case of a parent or sibling having been incarcerated. There is, however, not a lot of evidence and still a lot of room for further exploration in the field. The effect of imprisonment on families, in general, is quite astounding. Regardless of whether the individual being incarcerated is an adolescent or an adult, everybody is left with a mark by the criminal justice framework. In spite of the assortment of studies looking at the effect of imprisonment on adult guardians and their young ones, there is not much research regarding the impact that is left on the family upon a sibling being incarcerated.
There is not a lot that is as yet known regarding effective ways to include the siblings who have not done anything wrong into the program that is meant to make the process somewhat easier for them. The focus continues to remain primarily on the incarceration of parents and the impact that it has on their children, while the sibling aspect is overlooked to quite an extent. In spite of the fact that this is an essential part in making a positive impact on so many children, the impact on mother- children relationships are given far more concentration, which needs to be remedied.
The research above has dwelt on four critical theories regarding juvenile delinquency. These theories include, social control theory, social learning theory, labeling theory and strain theory which have all been discussed in detail above.
It is suggested that further studies be carried out on the violence level exhibit by the youth, incorporating studies that hold dissimilarities with the non-violent offenders or non- offenders and the violent offenders. More extensive studies are likewise needed to better comprehend the defensive elements that moderate the impacts of exposure to risks. Numerous indicators of violence are indicators of different issues altogether, for example, teenage pregnancies, dropping out of school, substance abuse, of which childhood delinquency is a part. Intervention techniques that aim to identify such individuals at a heightened risk of being impacted as a result of incarcerated family members can prove to be quite useful in the field as well.
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