Drug, robbery, and murder cases—all in the hands of a 16-year-old boy full of bloodguilt. These types of news stories are no music to the ears. Yet, in another sense, they are not something new. In fact, crimes committed by minors have saturated everyday media in the recent times. Alarming as it may seem, these children in conflict with the law still have a chance for a 360-degree turn on the life ahead of them. But the question that remains is, “How were they able to do it so early in life?” A study by Rutter (1998) points it all to poor family practices and parenting.
Experienced separation and divorce. Many studies have found the connection between juvenile delinquency and broken families. For example, there is an increased risk for conduct and behavioral disorders among children who have experienced disruptive family conflict between parents. Moreover, children in single-parent families have also been found to be more prone to committing illegal acts early on in life.
Poor family interaction. Two-parent families are not even a guarantee for good parenting practices. In this family type, children can still be prone to lack of supervision, training and discipline from their parents. Poor parental management practices and disciplinary actions include: failure to set clear expectations for children, inconsistent discipline, excessively severe or aggressive discipline, and poor monitoring and lack of positive reinforcement of children. Patterson (1995), in his research, also emphasized the effects of nagging, using idle threats and physical punishments in producing defiance rather than compliance in children.
Child abuse and neglect. Psychological and emotional mishandling of children by parents may result to adverse childhood experiences. These experiences often happen to children who have been victims of physical, verbal, and sexual abuse at an early age. Children who are neglected, on the other hand, are found out to have the same emotional turmoil experienced as those who were abused, and they are more likely to commit violent crimes later on in life. Some effects of abuse may not surface immediately, but may affect children later on in life, resulting to psychological disorders.
Authoritarian parenting. This parenting style is characterized by the use of harsh disciplinary methods. For an authoritarian parent, the child needs to follows the rules, because the parent said so. This refusal to inculcate and justify disciplinary actions, results to children not understanding the reason behind the negative reinforcement or punishment. As a result, children tend to react due to unhealthy emotions, not by reason. This results to rebellious and oppositional tendencies.
Truly, juvenile delinquency constitutes a significant problem for society. It is unfortunate to say that inside the family is where crime actually begins. Despite its prevalence, a lot of parents still remain uninformed about how their words, actions and lifestyle affect their children in ways they may not even be aware of. As the basic unit of society, the family needs to be a nurturing environment, and a place for positive growth. This parent-child relationship should never be taken for granted. It is both a privilege and responsibility—but most importantly, and accountability to society.