Social Science

Write a 350- to 700-word paper on familial risk factors associated with delinquency. Analyze the impact and strategize how to mitigate these risk factors.

Factor of Divorce–Noel

Factor of Familial mental illness–Brandie

Impact of these factors–Chalyne

Strategies to mitigate–Tara


Families and Delinquency

“The number of abused and neglected children has special significance for the juvenile justice system because many of these children end up in the system.”

—Federal Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice

1 Explain how problems in the family can contribute to delinquency.
2 Explain how the mass media can influence adolescent behavior.
3 Explain how neglect and child abuse contribute to delinquency.
4 Summarize the sequence of events that occurs as the community responds to child maltreatment.
5 Recall the family-related risk factors for delinquency.
6 Recall interventions that can help prevent and reduce the extent of child abuse and neglect.


In what can only be described as strange, a number of videos appeared on YouTube and on various television networks a few years ago showing a two-year-old toddler in Indonesia who is addicted to cigarettes, 1  and a three-year old Chinese girl who not only smokes, but is a regular drinker. 2  Whereas the father of the Indonesian boy readily admitted to getting his son hooked on smoking, claiming that it did him no harm, the parents of the imbibing Chinese girl said that she indulged in such behavior only behind their backs. Although it is difficult to imagine a three-year-old having the presence of mind to hide her vices, it is important to recognize that in any culture the family is the primary agent for the socialization of children. It is the first social group a child encounters and it is the group with which most children have their most enduring relationships. The family gives a child his or her principal identity (even his or her name); teaches social roles, moral standards, and society’s laws; and disciplines any child who fails to comply with those norms and values. The family either provides for or neglects children’s emotional, intellectual, and social needs; as suggested above, the neglect of these basic needs can have a profound effect on the shaping of a child’s attitudes and values.

A child smoking. How do early life experiences shape a person’s later behavior?


How does childhood socialization determine what a person later becomes? Why is the family such an important factor in socialization?

This chapter discusses adolescents and family problems; the relationship between the family and delinquency; and the types and impact of child abuse and neglect, both at the time of their occurrence and across the life course.

 Social Context of Delinquency: Impact of Families on Delinquency

The importance of the family in understanding delinquent behavior can be seen in the fact that most theories of delinquency rely heavily on the parent–child relationship and parenting practices to explain delinquency. 3  Social disorganization theories, subcultural theories, social control theories, and life-course theories all have this emphasis. 4  The theoretical emphasis on family processes, in turn, is supported by findings that family relationships and parenting skills are directly or indirectly related to delinquent behavior. 5


Explain how problems in the family can contribute to delinquency.

A structure-versus-function controversy has been one of the important and continuing debates on the relationship between family and delinquency. The structural perspective focuses on factors such as parental absence, family size, and birth order, whereas the functional or quality-of-life view argues for the significance of parent–child interaction, the degree of marital happiness, and the amount and type of discipline. 6

There are those who challenge whether parental behavior is related to delinquency among children. A strong proponent of this position is Judith Rick Harris. She claimed that a youth’s conduct, including delinquency, is predominantly influenced by peers or group  socialization . She maintained that the relationship between parental socialization and child outcomes is largely due to the genes that are shared between parent and offspring. 7  Harris’s research has led to other studies that have questioned the association between family life and child outcomes, and most of these studies are driven by findings from behavioral genetic research. 8  This line of research has argued that once the effects that the child has on the family are taken into consideration, the relationship between family factors and child outcomes vanishes. 9

Family Factors

Numerous family factors have been identified as having association with delinquency behavior, and these are covered in the following sections.

· • Broken Homes. Early research found a direct relationship between  broken homes  and delinquency; 10 later studies, however, questioned the relationship between broken homes and delinquency. 11 Researchers have shed further light on this debate. It has been reported that the factor of broken homes affects adolescent females more than males, 12  that broken homes have a larger impact on delinquency among African Americans than on other racial groups, 13  and that the connection between broken homes and delinquency is more evident for status offenses than it is for more serious offenses. 14

· • Birth Order. Some evidence supports the significance of  birth order  in that delinquent behavior is more likely to be exhibited by middle children than by first or last children. The first child, according to this view, receives the undivided attention and affection of parents, and the last child benefits from the parents’ experience in raising children as well as from the presence of other siblings, who serve as role models. 15

· • Family Size. Research findings on  family size  generally reveal that large families have more delinquency than do small families. 16

· • Delinquent Siblings and Criminal Parents. Some evidence exists that  delinquent siblings  learn crime from other family members. 17

· • Quality of Home Life. Studies have generally reported that poor quality of home life, measured by marital adjustment and harmony within the home, affects the rate of delinquent behavior among children more than whether or not the family is intact. Nye found the happiness of the marriage to be the key to whether or not children become involved in delinquent behavior. 18

· • Family Rejection. Several studies have found a significant relationship between  rejection by parents and delinquent behavior. 19

· • Discipline in the Home. Inadequate  supervision and discipline  in the home have been commonly cited to explain delinquent behavior. John Paul Wright and Francis T. Cullen, in using data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, advanced the concept of “parental efficacy” as an adaptation of Robert J. Sampson and colleagues’ “collective efficacy” (see  Chapter 4 ). They found that support and control are intertwined and that parental efficacy exerts substantive effects on reducing children’s inappropriate behaviors. 20

Ronald L. Simons and colleagues, using data from a sample of several hundred African-American caregivers and their children, found that increases in collective efficacy within a community over time were associated with increases in authoritative parenting, which is defined as parents combining warmth and support with firm monitoring and control. 21


Conflicting findings make drawing conclusions about the relationship between delinquency and the family difficult, but the following seven observations have received wide support:

· 1. Family conflict and poor marital adjustment are more likely to lead to delinquency than is the structural breakup of the family.

Multiple risk factors within the family are associated with a higher probability of juvenile delinquency than are single factors.

· 2. Children who are intermediate in birth order and who are part of large families appear to be involved more frequently in delinquent behavior, but this is probably related more to parents’ inability to provide for the emotional and financial needs of these children than to birth position or family size.

· 3. Children who have delinquent siblings or criminal parents appear to be more prone to delinquent behavior than those who do not.

· 4. Rejected children are more prone to delinquent behavior than those who have not been rejected, and children who have experienced severe rejection are probably more likely to become involved in delinquent behavior than those who have experienced a lesser degree of rejection.

· 5. Consistency of discipline within the family seems to be important in deterring delinquent behavior.

· 6. Lack of mother’s supervision, father’s and mother’s erratic/harsh discipline, parental rejection, and parental attachment appear to be the most important predictors of serious and persistent delinquency. 22

· 7. The rate of delinquency appears to increase with the number of unfavorable factors in the home; that is, multiple risk factors within the family are associated with a higher probability of juvenile delinquency than are single factors. 23

See  Figure 7–1  for a representation of family factors and their relationship to delinquency.  Exhibit 7–1 provides an overview of Multisystemic Therapy (MST), a community-based treatment strategy that is often employed with chronic and violent juvenile offenders.

Transitions and Delinquency

Divorced and single-parent families, poverty, homelessness, alcohol and drug abuse, and violence are some of the family problems that affect adolescents today. Adolescents experiencing such problems are at a high risk of becoming involved in socially unacceptable behaviors.

The high divorce rate in the United States translates into an increasing number of single-parent families. In 2012, 64 percent of children below the age of 18 years lived with two married parents, 28 percent with one parent, and 4 percent with no biological parents (see  Figure 7–2 ). 24  Divorce has affected African-American families more than Caucasian families: As many as 40 percent of Caucasian children and 75 percent of African-American children will experience divorce or separation in their family before they reach 16 years of age. Many of these children will experience multiple family disruptions over the course of their childhood. 25

FIGURE 7–1 Family Factors and Relationships to Delinquency.

EXHIBIT 7–1 Evidence-Based Practice: Multisystemic Therapy (MST)

MST provides cost-effective community-based clinical treatment of chronic and violent offenders who are at high risk for out-of-home placement. MST addresses the multiple determinants of serious antisocial behavior in juvenile offenders. It views individual behavior as being determined by a network of interconnected social systems (the family, the peer group, the school, and the neighborhood). To successfully treat the juvenile offender, intervention may be necessary in any one or in a combination of these systems. The over-arching goal of the intervention is to help parents understand and help their children overcome the multiple problems contributing to antisocial behavior. Treatment generally lasts for about four months, which includes about 60 hours of therapist–family contact. Program evaluations have revealed 25 to 70 percent reductions in long-term rates of rearrest and 47 to 54 percent reductions in out-of-home placements. These and other positive results have been shown to last for at least four years after treatment ended.

Sources: Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence at the University of Colorado Boulder, Blueprints: We Know What Works,  (accessed May 11, 2014); and Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Model Programs Guide,  (accessed May 11, 2014).

FIGURE 7–2 Percentage of Children Ages 0–17 living in Various Family Arrangements, 2012.

Source: Forum on Child and Family Services, America’s Children: Key National indicators of Well-Being, 2013(Washington, D.C.: Federal Interagency Forum on Child and Family Statistics, 2014).

FIGURE 7–3 Percentage of Children Ages 0–17 Living in Poverty by Race, Hispanic Origin, and Family.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplements, .

Poverty is a serious problem in the lives of children. In 2011, 22 percent of children ages 0 to 17 (16.1 million) lived in poverty. This is up from a low of 16 percent in 2000 and 2001. Consistent with expectations related to the economic downturn, child poverty has increased annually since 2006, when the rate was 17 percent. 26  For children living in female-householder families, the poverty rate was 48 percent in 2011, an increase from 45 percent in 2009 (see  Figure 7–3 ). Economic hardship and lack of access to opportunity tend to undermine marital and parental functioning; furthermore, adolescents who experience family transitions may have difficulty managing anger and other negative emotions that may contribute to their involvement with delinquency or drugs.

The majority of divorced parents remarry, and adolescents in these families must learn to adjust to a new parental figure. Blended families place stress on biological parents, stepparents, and children. In a typical blended family, the mother has custody of her children, and the stepfather lives with his wife’s children; his biological children (if any) usually visit the home on an occasional or regular basis. Few adolescents escape the experience of a blended family without feeling resentment, rejection, and confusion. Some stepparents even subject their stepchildren to emotional, physical, or sexual abuse.

Childbearing is a life experience that many American female adolescents have. In some instances, children are wanted and adolescent mothers are married; more often than not, however, pregnancy in adolescence leads to abortion or adoption. The birth rate of unmarried women has risen sharply since 2002, after having been relatively stable between the mid-1980s and 2002. 27  The birth rate for unmarried teenagers 15 to 17 years old in 2006 rose from 62 to 92 percent today, and increased from 40 to 81 percent for those ages 18 and 19. 28

Homelessness is a phenomenon that shapes the lives of an estimated 500,000 to 1.3 million young people each year. Many homeless youths leave their families after years of physical and sexual abuse, the addiction of a family member, strained interpersonal relations, and parental neglect. Homelessness, regardless of a child’s age, is likely to expose him or her to settings permeated by substance abuse, promiscuity, pornography, prostitution, and crime. 29

Unemployment also affects some family units in the United States. In 2011, the number of people 16 years old and older officially designated as unemployed was 8.9 percent. In 2011, the unemployment rate for whites 16 years and older was 7.9 percent. The unemployment rate for African-American men 16 years and older was 16.1 percent; and the unemployment rate for Hispanics 16 years and older was 11.3 percent. 30  The bad news for African-American and Hispanic families is that from 11 to 16 percent of the population is still experiencing unemployment and its ill consequences. 31

Adolescents whose family members have substance-abuse problems also have their sad stories to tell. Neglect, abuse, and economic hardship are common factors in family settings where alcohol misuse and substance abuse are ordinary behavior. Arrest data in Crime in the United States 2013 reflect the nationwide scope of this problem in the general population. But while the prevalence of substance abuse is unarguable, its actual impact on adolescents is not easily measurable, as it is simply not possible to display the impact on a “one abuse instance = one adverse impact on one or more adolescent(s)” basis. 32 The impact is clearly visible, however, in the behaviors of the youths it affects.

Violence has long been a major characteristic of the problem family, and it is no stranger to family life today. Marital violence is a pervasive e problem that affects nearly one-third of the married population. Numerous studies also show that some parents act out their aggression on their children, 33  and some families use physical violence for disciplinary purposes. Karen Heimer found that coercive discipline strategies teach youths to rely on force and coercion to resolve problems. 34

The Foster Family

The foster family; the adopted child; children with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender parents; and cohabiting parents provide other family contexts for children.

Foster care can be defined as 24-hour substitute care for children outside their own homes. Foster care settings include, but are not limited to, relative foster homes (whether payments are being made or not), nonrelative foster family homes, emergency shelters, residential facilities, and preadoptive homes. The publication Foster Care Statistics 2010 reveals a number of key findings:

· • On September 30, 2010, there were an estimated 408,425 children in foster care.

· • More than a quarter (26 percent) were in the homes of relatives, and nearly half (48 percent) were in nonrelative foster family homes.

· • About half (51 percent) had the goal of reunification with their families.

· • About half (51 percent) of the children left the system to be reunited with their parents or primary caretakers.

· • Close to half of the children (46 percent) who left foster care in fiscal year 2010 were in care for less than one year. 35

The 254,114 children who exited foster care during fiscal year 2010 spent time in care as follows:

· • 13 percent in care for less than 1 month

· • 33 percent in care for 1 to 11 months

· • 24 percent in care for 12 to 23 months

· • 12 percent in care for 24 to 35 months

· • 10 percent in care for 3 to 4 years

· • 7 percent in care for 5 or more years. 36

One recent study found that children had better outcomes when they remained at home rather than entering foster care. This study found that 44 percent of the children in foster care were arrested, whereas only 14 percent were arrested when staying at home. Fifty-six percent of females became pregnant in foster care, but only 33 percent became pregnant while staying at home. 37  This study also suggests that children in foster care have a greater likelihood of difficult adjustments later in life and will require additional intervention if future problems occur.

The Adopted Child

About 120,000 children are adopted each year in the United States. Children with developmental, physical, or emotional handicaps who were once considered unadoptable are now being adopted (“special needs adoptions”). Adoptions provide the opportunity for many of these children to grow up in permanent families instead of in foster homes or institutions. 38

An important issue in adoptions is the question of when (or whether) to tell children that they are adopted. Experts agree that children should learn of their adoption from the adoptive parents. If a child learns intentionally or accidentally from someone other than his or her adopted parents, the child may feel anger and mistrust toward the parents and as a result may view the adoption as shameful or bad because it was kept a secret. The struggle with their own identity, which is normal for all adolescents, may be even more intense for those children adopted from other countries or cultures. In addition, the adopted child may have an increased interest in his or her birth parents. 39  Some adoptive children may develop emotional or behavioral problems, which may or may not relate to insecurities related to being adopted. 40

Children with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Parents (LGBT)

Millions of children in the United States have gay, lesbian, bisexual, and/or transgender (LGBT) parents. Some of these children were conceived in heterosexual relationships or marriages. An increasing number of LGBT parents have conceived children and/or raised them from birth, either in ongoing committed relationships or as single parents. 41

In contrast to what is commonly believed, children of LGBT parents:

· • Are not more likely to be gay than children with heterosexual parents.

· • Do not reveal differences in whether they think of themselves as male or female (gender identity).

· • Are not more likely to be sexually abused.

· • Do not show differences in their male and female behaviors (gender-role behavior). 42

Although research shows that children with gay and lesbian parents are often as well adjusted as children who have heterosexual parents, they can still face challenges. Some LGBT families face discrimination in their communities, and children may be teased or bullied by their peers. Parents can help their children cope with such pressures by preparing them to handle questions about their background or family, by helping their children come up with and practice appropriate responses to teasing or mean remarks, and by considering living in a community where diversity is more accepted. 43

Cohabitating Parents

The rates of divorce are going down, and the numbers of cohabiting parents are rapidly increasing. Before 12 years of age, children are more likely to live with unmarried parents than to have married parents separate or divorce. 44

Some children must deal with a variety of partners, usually mothers’ boyfriends, moving into or out of the home. Over time, the child’s parent may have lived with dozens or even hundreds of partners. Some stay a short period of time, whereas others may be a part of the child’s life for years. Eventually the relationship may lead to marriage.

Another recent study found that a quarter of American women with multiple children conceived them with multiple partners. 45  Psychologist John Gottman, a coauthor of the study, says such instability can have a negative impact on kids in various ways. He claims that, on average, children of cohabitating parents tend to be both aggressive and depressed. 46  Another study found that cohabitation is associated with children’s simultaneous increases in offending. 47

 The Mass Media and Delinquent Behavior


Explain how the mass media can influence adolescent behavior.

Part of the challenge of being a parent today is dealing effectively with the influence that the mass media have on children. For our purposes, the term mass media refers to the Internet, radio, television, commercial motion pictures, videos, CDs, music, and the press (newspapers, journals, and magazines). 48

Violent TV Programs and Movies

Most people today watch a lot of television, and many seem to depend on media programming for their understandings of the surrounding world. 49  Consequently, criminologists have shown considerable interest in assessing the relationship between delinquent behavior and the exposure to violence viewed on television. Researchers in the area of delinquency generally conclude that TV violence is most likely to negatively impact the behavior of those children who are already predisposed toward violence and that it seems to have much less influence on young people who are not so predisposed. 50

The influence of television and motion pictures also extends to the phenomenon of contagion. An example of the contagion effect of motion pictures can be seen in the movie Colors, whose showing in theaters across America led gang members nationwide to begin wearing their groups’ colors; prior to seeing the movie, most gang members had not been wearing their gang colors. 51

Some evidence exists to indicate that there is connection between parental responsibility and the access children have to violent media content. Gregory Zimmerman and Greg Pogarsky’s study investigated differences in parent and child estimates of the child’s exposure to violence. Using data from the Project on Human Development in Chicago Neighborhoods, most parents (66 percent) underestimated their children’s exposure to violence and its impact on the child’s psychosocial functioning. Parental underestimates of children’s exposure to violence reflected lower levels of family support, which led to more internalizing and externalizing problems and delinquency for the child. 52

Violent Video Games

Video games involving violent scenarios, such as “Postal 2,” “MadWorld,” “Gears of War 2,” “God of War 2” and “Asheron Call 2,” are the focus of considerable controversy today. Some people accuse video-game makers of promoting values that support violence. Not surprisingly, the software entertainment industry, with its annual $28 billion in sales paced by a nation’s thirst for action, claims that their games are offered only for entertainment purposes. 53

Part of the challenge of being a parent today is dealing effectively with the influence that the mass media have on children.

Think About It…

Adolescents are strongly influenced by today’s media, including Internet-based services such as social networking. How might social networking contribute to delinquency?

In August 2005, members of the American Psychological Association (APA) adopted a resolution calling for less violence in video and computer games marketed to children. One APA panelist, Keven M. Kieffer, reported research showing that playing violent video games tends to make children more aggressive and less prone to helping behaviors. 54  Craig A. Anderson, one of the pioneers of research in this area, adds, “There really isn’t any room for doubt that aggressive game playing leads to aggressive behavior” 55

In the fall of 2005, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) launched an investigation into the system used for rating video games, particularly what some saw as undeservedly low ratings that made the violent and sexually themed game “Grand Theft Auto” available to teens. Around the same time, a group of bipartisan senators proposed that the National Institutes of Health oversee a comprehensive $90 million study on the effects of violent media, including video games, on children’s development. 56

Recently, researchers C. L. Olson and D. W. Warner conducted focus groups with 42 boys ages 12 to 14 to determine how children are influenced by violent interactive games. Boys, they found, typically used games to fantasize about power and fame, to work through angry feelings or relieve stress, and to explore and master what they perceived as exciting and realistic environments. The boys in this study group did not believe that they have been negatively impacted by violent games, although they were concerned that younger children might imitate game behavior, particularly swearing. 57

Internet-Initiated Crimes

Internet access is easily available to nearly everyone in the United States today, and the Web has become a new frontier for innovative forms of cybercrime. One source of Internet-initiated crime is the supremacist and hate groups that target young people through the Web. In like manner, youthful perpetrators of violent crimes are sometimes influenced by information collected or contacts made on the Internet, and child sexual abuse in which initial contacts are made through the Web now accounts for up to 4 percent of all arrests for sexual assaults against juveniles. 58

Gangsta Rap

Gangsta rap is a form of hip-hop music that some believe negatively influences young people by devaluing human life, the family, religious institutions, schools, and the justice system. 59  Gangsta rap, pioneered by Ice-T and other rappers influenced by Schoolly D’s hard-core rap, portrays the lifestyles of inner-city gang members, and its lyrics relate stories of violence-filled lives. Guns play a prominent part in those lyrics and are frequently depicted as a means for attaining manhood and status.

FIGURE 7–4 Mass Media and Delinquent Behavior.

Today’s rap music has its origins in the hip-hop culture of young, urban, working-class African Americans. 60  The subject matter of this music, which is available to children via television (especially MTV), the Internet, radio (including satellite radio), and retail CDs and DVDs, has created considerable controversy, with critics charging that the messages it espouses include misogyny, homophobia, racism, and materialism. Gangsta rappers usually defend themselves by pointing out that they are describing the reality of inner-city life and claim that when they are rapping, they are merely playing a character. 61

Brown University Professor Tricia Rose’s 2006 book Hip-Hop Wars claims that hip-hop is in crisis, because its lyrics are becoming increasingly saturated with themes involving thugs, pimps, black gangsters, and “hos” (promiscuous women). She raises a number of important questions about hip-hop: Does hip-hop cause violence, or does it merely reflect a violent ghetto culture? Is hip-hop sexist, or are its detractors merely anti-sex? Does the portrayal of black culture in hip-hop undermine black social advancement? Rose calls for a more accurate reflection in the music of a richer cultural space, including anger, politics, and sex, than the current images in sound and video provide. 62

In summary, today’s parents must face the reality that their children’s minds are being bombarded with extensive disturbing stimuli. Violence permeates movies and TV screens; video games are no less violent, and the most popular ones among teenagers are probably the most violent. Supremacist and hate groups are targeting young people through their Web sites; the Internet offers opportunities for the sexual abuse of vulnerable adolescent males and females. Finally, gangsta rap is filled with violence, appears to devalue human life, and contains lyrics promoting homophobia, misogyny, racism, and materialism. See  Figure 7–4  for the types of media and a brief explanation of how they can influence adolescent behavior.

 Neglect and Child Abuse


Explain how neglect and child abuse contribute to delinquency.

Neglect  and  child abuse , like the other family problems addressed in this chapter, have a profound influence on shaping the behavior and attitudes of adolescents and adults. 63  Various categories of child abuse and neglect, also referred to as child maltreatment, are identified in  Table 7–1 . 64

Cathy Spatz Widom’s initial study of abuse and neglect found that 29 percent of those abused and neglected as children had a nontraffic criminal record as adults, compared with 21 percent of the control group. 65  Widom and Michael G. Maxfield’s updated study, which followed 1,575 cases from childhood through adolescence and into young adulthood, was able to examine the long-term consequences of abuse and neglect: 66

· 1. Being abused or neglected as a child increased the likelihood of arrest as a juvenile by 59 percent, as an adult by 29 percent, and for a violent crime by 30 percent.

· 2. Maltreated children were younger at the time of their first arrest, committed nearly twice as many offenses, and were arrested more frequently.

· 3. Physically abused and neglected (versus sexually abused) children were the most likely to be arrested later for a violent crime.

· 4. Abused and neglected females also were at increased risk of arrest for violence as juveniles and adults.

· 5. Caucasian abused and neglected children were no more likely to be arrested for a violent crime than their nona-bused and nonneglected Caucasian counterparts; in contrast, African-American abused and neglected children showed significantly increased rates of violent arrests compared with African-American children who were not maltreated. 67

Neglect and child abuse have a profound influence on shaping the behavior and attitudes of adolescents and adults.


Types of Maltreatment Brief Definition Examples of Least and Most Severe Cases
Physical Abuse A caregiver inflicts a physical injury on a child by other than accidental means. Least—Spanking results in minor bruises on a child’s arm.

Most—A child’s injuries require hospitalization, cause permanent disfigurement, or lead to a fatality.

Sexual Abuse Sexual contact or attempted sexual contact occurs between a caretaker (or responsible adult) and a child for the purposes of the caretaker’s sexual gratification or financial benefit. Least—A child is exposed to pornographic materials.

Most—A caretaker uses force to make a child engage in sexual relations or prostitution.

Physical Neglect A caretaker fails to exercise a minimum degree of care in meeting a child’s physical needs. Least—Food is not available for a child’s regular meals, a child’s clothing is too small, or a child is not kept clean.

Most—A child suffers from severe malnutrition or severe dehydration due to gross inattention to his or her medical needs.

Lack of Supervision or Moral Neglect A caretaker does not take adequate precautions (given a child’s particular emotional and developmental needs) to ensure his or her safety in and out of the home. Least—An eight-year-old is left alone for short periods of time (for example, less than three hours) with no immediate source of danger in the environment.

Most—A child is placed in a life-threatening situation without adequate supervision.

Emotional Maltreatment Thwarting of a child’s basic emotional needs (such as the need to feel safe and accepted) occurs persistently or at an extreme level. Least—A caretaker often belittles or ridicules a child.

Most—A caretaker uses extremely restrictive methods to bind a child or places a child in close confinement such as a closet or trunk for two or more hours.

Educational Maltreatment A caretaker fails to ensure that a child receives an adequate education. Least—A caretaker allows a child to miss school up to 15% of the time when the child is not ill and there is no family emergency.

Most—A caretaker does not enroll a child in school or provide any educational instruction.

Moral–Legal Maltreatment A caretaker exposes a child to or involves a child in illegal or other activities that may foster delinquency or antisocial behavior. Least—A child is permitted to be present for adult activities, such as drunken parties.

Most—A caretaker causes a child to participate in felonies such as armed robbery.

Source: Adapted from Barbara Tatem Kelley et al., “In the Wake of Childhood Maltreatment,” Juvenile Justice Bulletin(Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 1997), p. 4. See Figure 7–5 for victimization rates by maltreatment types.

FIGURE 7–5 Child Victimization Rates by Maltreatment Type, 2012.

Source: Children’s Bureau, Child Maltreatment 2012 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013), p. 40.

EXHIBIT 7–2 Child Maltreatment Victimization Statistics

Following are some figures from 2012:

· • More than 75 percent of child maltreatment victims suffered neglect.

· • More than 18 percent suffered physical abuse.

· • Less than 10 percent suffered sexual abuse.

· • Less than 10 percent suffered psychological maltreatment. 69

Extent and Nature of the Problem

The passage of legislation in all 50 states in the late 1960s requiring mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect cases focused attention on these problems, as did the passage by Congress of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act and the establishment of the national Office on Child Abuse and Neglect in 1974. As an indication of the extent of maltreatment of children, an estimated 3.3 million referrals involving the maltreatment of approximately 6 million children were made to child protective services (CPS) during the fiscal year 2008, and of that number an estimated 772,000 children were found to be victims. 68  For recent victimization statistics see  Exhibit 7–2

Younger children make up the largest percentage of victims. Nearly 33 percent (32.6 percent) of all victims of maltreatment were younger than 4 years of age, an additional 23.6 percent were ages 4 to 7, and 18.9 percent were ages 8 to 11. Victimization was split almost evenly between the sexes: 51.5 percent of the victims were girls and 48.2 percent were boys. Nearly one-half (46.1 percent) of all victims were Caucasian, one-fifth (21.7 percent) were African American, and one-fifth (20.8 percent) were Hispanic.  Figure 7–6  shows the age and gender of victims for the year 2008. 70

Child fatalities represent the most tragic consequences of maltreatment. In a recent year:

· • An estimated 1,740 children died due to child abuse or neglect.

· • More than 30 percent (31.9 percent) of child fatalities were attributed to neglect only, but physical abuse was also a major contributor to child fatalities.

· • More than three-quarters (79.8 percent) of the children who died because of child abuse and neglect were younger than four years old.

· • Infant boys (younger than one year) had the highest rates of fatalities, 19.31 deaths per 100,000 boys of the same age in the national population.

· • Infant girls less than one year of age had a rate of 17.32 deaths per 100,000 girls of the same age. 71

Perpetrators of Maltreatment

Statistics show that nearly 80 percent of child maltreatment victims are abused by their parents, with another 6.5 percent abused by other relatives. Women comprise a larger percentage of perpetrators than men—56.2 percent compared to 42.6 percent. Nearly 75 percent of all perpetrators are younger than age 40. 72


The word neglect generally refers to disregard for the physical, emotional, or moral needs of children or adolescents. The Children’s Division of the American Humane Association established a comprehensive definition of neglect, stating that physical, emotional, and intellectual growth and welfare are jeopardized when a child can be described in the following terms:

· • Malnourished, ill-clad, dirty, without proper shelter or sleeping arrangements

FIGURE 7–6 Child Maltreatment by Age for 2012.

Source: Children’s Bureau, Child Maltreatment 2012 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013), p. 20.

· • Unsupervised, unattended

· • Ill, lacking essential medical care

· • Denied normal experiences that produce feelings of being loved, wanted, secure, and worthy (emotional neglect)

· • Failing to attend school regularly

· • Exploited, overworked

· • Emotionally disturbed due to constant friction in the home, marital discord, or mentally ill parents

· • Exposed to unwholesome, demoralizing circumstances 73

Child Abuse

There are several types of child abuse, including physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. The term physical abuse refers to intentional behavior directed toward a child by the parent or caretaker to cause pain, injury, or death.

Murray A. Straus has been one of the strongest proponents of defining corporal punishment as physical abuse. Straus examined the extent of physical abuse using data from a number of sources, notably the 3,300 children and 6,000 couples in the National Family Violence Survey, and he found that 90 percent of U.S. citizens used physical punishment to correct misbehavior. He claimed that although physical punishment may produce conformity in the immediate situation, its long-run effect is to increase the probability of delinquency in adolescence and violent crime inside and outside the family. 74

Emotional abuse  is more difficult to define than physical abuse because it involves a disregard for the psychological needs of a child or adolescent. Emotional abuse encompasses a lack of expressed love and affection as well as deliberate withholding of contact and approval and may include a steady diet of put-downs, humiliation, labeling, name-calling, scapegoating, lying, demands for excessive responsibility, seductive behavior, ignoring, fear-inducing techniques, unrealistic expectations, and extreme inconsistency. 75  Randy, a 16-year-old boy, tells about the emotional abuse he suffered:

·  My father bought me a baby raccoon. I was really close to it, and it was really close to me. I could sleep with it, and it would snug up beside me. The raccoon wouldn’t leave or nothing. A friend of mine got shots for it. My father got mad one night because I didn’t vacuum the rug, and there were seven or eight dishes in the sink. He said, “Go get me your raccoon.” I said, “Dad, if you hurt my raccoon I’ll hate you forever.” He made me go get my raccoon, and he took a hammer and killed it. He hit it twice on the head and crushed its brains. I took it out and buried it. 76

Nature of Child Abuse

Stephanie Amedeo and John Gartrell’s study of 218 abused children found that the characteristics of parents, including being mentally ill and having been abused themselves, have the greatest explanatory power of predicting abuse; this study also revealed that triggers or stressors, such as alcohol and drug use, perform as factors that precipitate abuse. 77

Research findings disagree concerning the age at which a child is most vulnerable to parental abuse. The National Incidence and Prevalence of Child Abuse and Neglect study found that the incidence of physical abuse increased with age. 78  Gil found that half the confirmed cases of abuse involved children over six years of age and that nearly one-fifth were teenagers. 79  Yet although many adolescents may experience child abuse, the more serious cases still occur with infants and young children. Child abuse also seems to be more prevalent in urban areas than in suburban or rural settings. The fact that urban areas have better resources to detect child abuse does not entirely explain why so many more cases are reported to urban police. Obviously, the congested populations and poverty of the city, which lead to other social problems, partly account for abuse being predominantly an urban problem.

The abusive situation is often characterized by one parent who is aggressive and one who is passive. The passive parent commonly defends the aggressive one, denies the realities of the family situation, and clings to the intact family and to the abusive partner. The passive parent behaves as though he or she is a prisoner in the relationship, condemned to a life sentence, and usually does not consider the option of separating from the aggressive partner because he or she is committed to the relationship, no matter how miserable the home situation may be. 80

Children and adolescents may be victimized by either non-familial sexual abuse or incestuous sexual abuse.  Sexual abuse  of a child is intentional and wrongful physical contact with a child that entails a sexual purpose or component. Oral–genital relations, fondling of erogenous areas of the body, mutual masturbation, and intercourse are typical sexually abusive acts. 81

Incest , according to the Office on Child Abuse and Neglect, is “intrafamily sexual abuse which is perpetrated on a child by a member of that child’s family group and includes not only sexual intercourse, but also any act designed to stimulate a child sexually or to use a child for sexual stimulation, either of the perpetrator or of another person.” 82  Incestuous sexual abusers may include a parent, grandparent, stepparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, or other member of the child’s extended family. Nonfamilial sexual abusers may include any unrelated adult the child encounters outside the home (for example, at school, church, recreational venues, and so on).

Recently, the number of sexual abuse cases substantiated by CPS agencies in the United States underwent a dramatic 62 percent reduction between 1992 and 2012, with opinion being divided as to why the estimated annual incidence dropped from 150,000 to 56,500 cases (see  Figure 7–7 ).

Incest reportedly occurs most frequently between a biological father or stepfather and a daughter but also may involve brother and sister, mother and son, and father and son. 83  Although stepfathers sexually victimize stepdaughters, biological fathers appear to be involved in more cases of sexual abuse than are stepfathers. 84  The average incestuous relationship lasts about three and one-half to four years. 85  The completed act of intercourse is more likely to take place with adolescents than with younger children.

Helen, a 16-year-old, was sexually victimized by her father for three years, and she had great difficulty getting anyone to believe that her father was committing incest. When the father was finally prosecuted, she made this statement:

·  When I was thirteen, my father started coming into my room at night. He usually did it when he was drinking. He would force me to have sex with him. I told my mother. I told my teachers at school. But nobody would believe me. 86

FIGURE 7–7 Estimated Number of Substantiated Cases of Child Sexual Abuse in the United States.

Source: David Finkelhor and Lisa M. Jones, Explanations for the Decline in Child Sexual Abuse Cases (Washington, DC: Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2004) citing data from 1990–2000 National Child Abuse and Neglect Data System (NCANDS) reports (U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1992–2002); and Children’s Bureau, Child Maltreatment 2012 (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013), p.20.

Some evidence exists that  brother–sister incest  takes place more frequently than  father–daughter incest , but its long-term consequences are usually less damaging because it does not cross generational boundaries and often occurs as an extension of sex play. 87  But brother–sister incest can have damaging consequences for the sister if the act is discovered and she is blamed for being sexually involved with her brother. If the girl feels she has been seduced or exploited, then the damage may be even greater.

Mother–son incest  is less common and only rarely reported, largely because of the strong stigmas and taboos attached to the idea of sex between boys and their mothers. 88  Mother–son incest usually begins with excessive physical contact, which eventually becomes sexually stimulating. “Don’t leave me” or “Don’t grow up” messages are communicated to the son as the mother seeks ways to prolong physical contact with him by sleeping with him, bathing him, or dressing him. 89

Father–son incest  also is rarely reported, largely because it violates both the moral code against incest and the taboo against homosexuality. The stress of an incestuous relationship, as well as the threat to masculinity, often results in serious consequences for the boy when father–son incest does occur. Sons who are involved in father–son incest usually experience acute anxiety because they feel damaged, dirty, and worthless, and they may cope by retreating into their own world and losing contact with reality. 90

Think About It…

Child abuse and delinquency appear to be closely correlated. Why might abuse lead to delinquency?

The National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect has identified five factors that are usually present when father–daughter incest takes place: (1) the daughter’s voluntary or forced assumption of the mother’s role, (2) the parents’ sexual incompatibility, (3) the father’s reluctance to seek a partner outside the family unit, (4) the family’s fear of disintegration, and (5) the unconscious sanctioning by the mother. 91

Neglect, Child Abuse, and Delinquency

Research findings have revealed that a neglected or abused child is more likely to become involved in delinquency or status offenses. Neglect or abuse may have a negative impact on the emotional development of the child; it may lead to truancy and disruptive behavior in school or  running away  from home, or it may generate so much pain that alcohol and drugs are sometimes viewed as a needed escape. Neglect or abuse may cause so much self-rejection, especially in victims of incest, that these youths may vent the need for self-destructive activities through prostitution or may even commit suicide. Neglect or abuse may also create so much anger that abused youngsters later commit aggressive acts against others.


Consequences of Abuse and Neglect
Victims of child abuse and neglect often show psychological damage.
Victims of child abuse and neglect frequently run away from home.
Some research supports that neglected and abused children have greater difficulty in school.
Many abused and neglected children turn to drug and alcohol abuse.
Evidence exists that sexual abuse victims themselves may become involved in deviant sexual behavior.
Children who have experienced abusive and violent childhoods are likely to grow up and express violent behavior.

There is some evidence that childhood maltreatment that does not persist into adolescence has minimal correlation with adolescent delinquency. 92  The negative influence of severe maltreatment, such as sexual abuse by parents or caretakers, is commonly seen as carrying into adulthood and perhaps even throughout the life course. However, Peggy Giordano, Stephen A. Cernkovich, and Jennifer L. Rudolph’s study of women across the life course is a reminder that female offenders who suffered extremely abusive childhoods can still have cognitive transformations as adults and can desist from criminal behaviors. 93  See  Table 7–2  for the possible consequences of neglect and child abuse on delinquency.

 Child Abuse and the Juvenile Justice System


Summarize the sequence of events that occurs as the community responds to child maltreatment.

The term child protective services (CPS) usually refers to services that are provided by an agency authorized to act on behalf of a child when parents are unwilling or unable to do so. In all states, these agencies are required by law to conduct assessments or investigations of reports of child abuse and neglect and to offer treatment services to families where maltreatment has taken place or is likely to occur. 94

Sexual abuse victims themselves often become involved in deviant sexual behavior.

Although the primary responsibility for responding to reports of abuse and neglect rests with state and local CPS agencies, the prevention and treatment of child maltreatment can involve professionals from many organizations and disciplines. Jurisdictions do differ in their procedures, but community responses to child maltreatment generally include the following sequence of events.


· • Individuals who are likely to identify abuse are often those in a position to observe families and children on a regular basis. These include educators, medical professionals, police officers, social services personnel, probation officers, day-care workers, and the clergy. Family members, friends, and neighbors also may be able to identify abuse.


· • Some individuals—educators, child-care providers, medical and mental health professionals, social services providers, police officers, and clergy—often are required by law to report suspicions of abuse and neglect.

· • CPS or law enforcement agencies generally receive the initial report of alleged abuse or neglect.

Intake and Investigation

· • Protective services staff members are required to determine whether the report constitutes an allegation of abuse or neglect and how urgently a response is needed.

· • In some jurisdictions, a police officer always accompanies the social worker on the child abuse or neglect investigation to protect the social worker, to help if the parents become assaultive, to use legal authority to take the child out of an abusive home if necessary, to gather evidence and take pictures if admissible evidence is present, and to permit the social worker to focus on the family rather than being preoccupied with the legal investigation.

· • Caseworkers usually respond to reports of abuse and neglect within two to three days. An immediate response is required if it is determined that the child is at imminent risk of injury or impairment.

· • If the decision is made to take the child out of the home, the juvenile court judge must be called for approval as soon as the social worker and police officer leave the house.

· • Following the initial investigation, the protective services agency usually draws one of the following conclusions: (1) There is sufficient evidence to support or substantiate the allegation of maltreatment or risk of maltreatment; (2) there is insufficient evidence to support maltreatment; or (3) maltreatment or the risk of maltreatment appears to be present, although there is insufficient evidence to conclude or substantiate the allegation.


· • Protective services staff members are responsible for identifying the factors that contributed to the maltreatment and for addressing the most critical treatment needs.

Case Planning

· • Case plans are developed by protective services, other treatment providers, and the family to alter the conditions and/or behaviors that result in child abuse or neglect.


· • Protective services and other treatment providers have the responsibility to implement a treatment plan for the family.

Evaluation of Family Progress

· • After implementing the treatment plan, protective services and other treatment providers evaluate and measure changes in family behaviors and conditions that led to child maltreatment.

Case Closure

· • Some cases are closed because the family resists intervention efforts and the child is seen as being at low risk of harm. Other cases are closed when it has been determined that the risk of abuse or neglect has been eliminated or reduced to the point that the family can protect the child from maltreatment without additional intervention.

· • If the determination is made that the family will not protect the child, the child may be removed from the home and placed in foster care. If the decision is made that a child cannot be returned home within a reasonable time, parental rights may be terminated so that permanent alternatives can be found for the child.

Involvement of Juvenile or Family Court

· • An adjudication (fact-finding) hearing is held if a petition of abuse or neglect has been filed by the department of social services.

· • States vary in the standard of proof needed to substantiate allegations of child abuse and neglect: 6 states rely on the caseworker’s judgment, 18 states on some credible evidence, 11 states on credible evidence, and 12 states on the preponderance of evidence; and 3 states have no official reporting means. About 30 percent of all child abuse and neglect reports in the country are substantiated, which varies somewhat by type of maltreatment and by state. 95

Self-control theory argues that the principal cause of individuals’ low self-control is ineffective parenting.

Termination of Parental Rights

· • In the most serious cases of child maltreatment, the state moves to terminate parental rights and to place a child for adoption.

Prosecution of Parents

· • The prosecution of parents in criminal court depends largely on the seriousness of the injury to the child and on the attitude of the district, county, or state attorney’s office toward child abuse. The cases most likely to be prosecuted are those in which a child has been seriously injured or killed and those in which a father or stepfather has sexually abused a daughter or stepdaughter. The most common charges in prosecutions are simple assault, assault with intent to commit serious injury, and manslaughter or murder. See  Figure 7–8  for the sequence of events from child abuse to court processing.

 Delinquency Across the Life Course: Family-Related Risk Factors for Delinquency


Recall the family-related risk factors for delinquency.

With the emergence of the life-course perspective, there has been increased empirical and theoretical interest in the role played by family relations both in fostering and in protecting against delinquency and drug involvement. Studies have documented the family-related risk factors that increase delinquency propensity. Some of those risk factors and linked outcomes are ineffective parenting and low self-control; links between corporal punishment and delinquent behavior; family structure at the time of adolescence, such as single-parent families; physical abuse early in life cycle; and links between being married and reduction in delinquency. 96

 Prevention of Delinquency and Social Policy: Child Maltreatment


Recall interventions that can help prevent and reduce the extent of child abuse and neglect.

Child maltreatment is a serious issue in the United States. This maltreatment can be inflicted from a variety of contexts: abusive or neglectful parents or caretakers, the Internet (in terms of child pornography), teachers or classmates, or even religious leadership.

FIGURE 7–8 The Sequence of Events from Child Abuse to Court Processing.

We know that child maltreatment can be an influential factor leading to such undesirable outcomes as emotional trauma, running away, disruptive and truant behavior in school, drug and alcohol abuse, sexual behavior, and violence and abuse. The more serious the maltreatment of a child, the more likely it is that he or she will become involved in these behaviors, which can have extremely negative consequences for his or her life course. The abused child, if seriously abused, can even become involved in taking a parent’s life.

To reduce the extent of child abuse and neglect in the United States, numerous strategies or interventions are needed. Widom recommended the following six principles:

· 1. “The earlier the intervention, the better.”

· 2. “Don’t (continue to) neglect neglected children.”

· 3. “One size does not fit all,” which means that “what works for one child in one context may not work for a different child in the same setting, the same child in another setting, or the same child in another period in his or her development.”

· 4. “Surveillance is a double-edged sword,” meaning that intervention agents must be sensitive to the possibilities of differential treatment on the basis of race or ethnic background and take steps to avoid such practices.

· 5. “Interventions are not one-time efforts.”

· 6. “Resources should be accessible.” 97

There is emerging evidence of the effectiveness of early family-based programs designed to address some the familial risk factors for delinquency. 98  For example, Piquero and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of the effects of early family/parent training programs for young children and found that early family/parent training is an effective intervention for reducing antisocial behavior. 99

THE CASE: The Life Course of Amy Watters, Age 13

After she left home, Amy spent almost a year on the run. During that time she didn’t attend school and had no contact with her father. She lived under a highway overpass in a city about an hour away from her home with new “friends” that she had made. They were other kids who, like herself, had left home for one reason or another. During that time she became especially close to Damon, a 15-year-old boy who had left a Mormon family in Utah and spent his days earning a small income doing odd jobs for people who didn’t ask about his background. Physical closeness had been natural, as staying warm at night meant snuggling up with Damon. After only a couple of nights, Amy found herself having sex. It quickly turned into a regular occurrence and Amy, who had begun menstruating a year earlier, became concerned that she would get pregnant. At the same time, she didn’t want to disappoint Damon, who seemed to greatly enjoy their encounters, and she soon learned to find pleasure in their nightly activities. Not long after they had pledged themselves to one another, however, Amy learned that Damon had begun to sell sexual services to men whom he met by hanging around bars in the city’s seedy downtown district. One of the men, Damon told her, wanted to take naked pictures of him and sell them on the Internet. The money was sure to be good, Damon said.


· 1. What is the likely relationship between Amy’s early sexual activity and other forms of delinquency? Generally speaking, why might early sex and delinquency be associated with one another?

Learn more on the Web:

·  Some studies have shown that early sexual activity may lead teens into delinquency. See, for example:

·  Developmental Patterns in Exposure to Violence: .

Follow the continuing Amy Watters saga in the next chapter.

CHAPTER 7 Families and Delinquency


Explain how problems in the family can contribute to delinquency.

Studies of the relationship between the family and delinquency have generally concluded that the quality of life within the home is a more significant deterrent of delinquent behavior than the presence of both parents; that parental rejection is associated with delinquent behavior; and that inconsistent, lax, or severe discipline is associated with increased delinquency. Similar research concludes that delinquent behavior among children increases proportionately with the number of problems within the family. Divorced and single-parent families, blended families, births to unmarried women, alcohol and drug abuse, poverty, and violence are problems that some families encounter. The failure of a family to provide for the needs of its children can have an effect on the attitudes and behaviors of those children that can last into their adult years—and even for the rest of their lives.

· 1. How is the family the primary agent for the socialization of children?

· 2. What are the most serious problems facing the American family today? What are their effects on children?

· 3. What conditions within the family are more likely to result in delinquent behavior?

socialization The process by which individuals come to internalize their culture; through this process, an individual learns the norms, sanctions, and expectations of being a member of a particular society.

broken home A family in which parents are divorced or are no longer living together.

birth order The sequence of births in a family and a child’s position in it, whether the firstborn, middle, or youngest child.

family size The number of children in a family—a possible risk factor for delinquency.

delinquent sibling A brother or sister who is engaged in delinquent behaviors—an apparent factor in youngsters’ involvement in delinquency.

rejection by parents The disapproval, repudiation, or other uncaring behavior directed by parents toward children.

supervision and discipline The parental monitoring, guidance, and control of children’s activities and behavior.


Explain how the mass media can influence adolescent behavior.

The mass media can influence delinquent behavior as adolescents are exposed to a variety of seemingly negative media influences, including violent movies, TV shows, and video games; Internet pornography; and gangsta rap and other forms of music carrying violent themes.

· 1. Why do the mass media impact the behavior of juveniles so powerfully?

· 2. What can parents do to counterbalance the negative effects of the mass media?

· 3. What social programs and policies might be based on an understanding of how the mass media influence adolescent behavior?


Explain how neglect and child abuse contribute to delinquency.

Children who have been neglected and abused may experience psychological problems, run away from home, become involved in truancy and disruptive behavior in school, and turn to drug and alcohol abuse. Some neglected and abused youngsters become involved in deviant sexual behavior and assume an aggressive stance toward others. Moreover, research findings show at least a partial link between child abuse and neglect and delinquent behavior and status offenses.

· 1. What is neglect? What are some examples of neglect within the home?

· 2. What are physical and emotional abuse? What are some examples of physical and emotional abuse within the home?

· 3. What is incest? What different kinds of incest exist? What type of father is most likely to become involved in incest?

· 4. How are child abuse and neglect related to status offenses and delinquent behavior?

neglect A disregard for the physical, emotional, or moral needs of children. Child neglect involves the failure of the parent or caregiver to provide nutritious food, adequate clothing and sleeping arrangements, essential medical care, sufficient supervision, access to education, and normal experiences that produce feelings of being loved, wanted, secure, and worthy.

child abuse The mistreatment of children by parents or caregivers. Physical abuse is intentional behavior directed toward a child by the parent or caregiver to cause pain, injury, or death. Emotional abuse involves a disregard of a child’s psychological needs. Sexual abuse is any intentional and wrongful physical contact with a child that entails a sexual purpose or component, and such sexual abuse is termed incest when the perpetrator is a member of the child’s family.

emotional abuse A disregard for the psychological needs of a child, including lack of expressed love, withholding of contact or approval, verbal abuse, unrealistic demands, threats, and psychological cruelty.

sexual abuse The intentional and wrongful physical contact with a person, with or without his or her consent, that entails a sexual purpose or component.

incest Any intrafamily sexual abuse that is perpetrated on a child by a member of that child’s family group that includes not only sexual intercourse but also any act designed to stimulate a child sexually or to use a child for sexual stimulation, either of the perpetrator or of another person.

brother–sister incest Sexual activity that occurs between brother and sister.

father–daughter incest Sexual activity that occurs between a father and his daughter. Also refers to incest by stepfathers or the boyfriend(s) of the mother.

mother–son incest Sexual activity that occurs between a mother and her son. Also refers to incest by stepmothers or the girlfriend(s) of the father.

father–son incest Sexual activity between father and son. Also refers to incest by stepfathers or the boyfriend(s) of the mother.

running away The act of leaving the custody and home of parents or guardians without permission and failing to return within a reasonable length of time; a status offense.


Summarize the sequence of events that occurs as the community responds to child maltreatment.

Community responses to child maltreatment generally include the following sequence of events: identification, reporting, intake and investigation, assessment, case planning, treatment, evaluation of family progress, case closure. The response might also extend to the involvement of juvenile or family court, the termination of parental rights, and the prosecution of parents.

· 1. What are typical types of community responses to child maltreatment?

· 2. How do child protective service agencies work with juvenile court officials?


Recall the family-related risk factors for delinquency.

Family-related risk factors associated with an increase in the propensity for delinquency include the following: (1) ineffective parenting and low self-control, (2) the use of corporal punishment, (3) family structure, (4) early physical abuse, and (5) marital status.

· 1. What are the family-related risk factors associated with an increase in the propensity for delinquency?

· 2. What implications for social policy and for the prevention and control of delinquency would a realistic assessment of family-related risk factors for delinquency have?


Recall interventions that can help prevent and reduce the extent of child abuse and neglect.

Strategic interventions that can help prevent and reduce the extent of child maltreatment include early intervention, available community resources, and individualized programs.

· 1. What kinds of early intervention can be employed in order to prevent and/or reduce the extent of child abuse and neglect that might otherwise occur?

· 2. What community resources can be used to prevent and/or reduce the extent of child abuse and neglect?

8 Schools and Delinquency

“If we want to deal with youth crime, adult crime, and street gangs, we must go back to the family unit, must improve our schools, and must make our neighborhoods more desirable.”

—John Walker

1 Summarize the major issues American schools have faced over time.
2 Summarize the extent of vandalism, violence, and bullying in schools.
3 Explain how delinquency is linked to school failure.
4 Summarize how various delinquency theories view the school’s role.
5 Summarize school students’ rights.
6 Explain the correlation between dropping out of high school and crime.
7 Summarize the school interventions that hold promise for reducing delinquency.


A recent national study of delinquency prevention in schools found that minor forms of problem behavior are common in schools. 1  The study discovered, for example, that 27 percent of teachers reported that student problem behavior kept them from teaching effectively “a fair amount or a great deal.” In a quarter of all schools participating in the study, 42 percent or more of teachers reported that student problem behavior kept them from teaching “at least a fair amount.”

A Third-Grade Classroom. What is the Relationship between Schools and Child Misbehavior?

The study also found that more serious forms of problem behavior, such as physical attacks or fights involving a weapon, robberies, or threats involving a knife or a gun, occur much less frequently than the relatively pervasive kinds of minor student misconduct. But these events happen often enough that they pose major problems for schools. Almost 7 percent of schools participating in the study reported at least one incident of physical attack or fight involving a weapon to law enforcement officials. In the case of middle schools and junior high schools the percentage was 21 percent.

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