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Crime and the family

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Crime and the family Crime is sometimes popularly blamed on the family, with poor parenting, lack of discipline and family breakdown often associated with youth crime. A recurrent theme in academic research has been to investigate the relationship between delinquency and a range of family related factors. Early studies explored child-rearing behaviour, parental discipline, the criminal histories of parents and family size and income. Popular theories in the 1950s and 1960s related juvenile delinquency to material deprivation, broken homes and to the growing number of 'latch key' children who were left unsupervised after school while their mothers went to work. All of these presaged current concerns with discipline and the role of single-parent families. What has emerged from this research is that some family factors are related to the likelihood of delinquency but that they must be considered in the context of the socio-economic circumstances of the family and the others factors such as school and the peer group. The following factors have emerged as particularly important. ...read more.


Many studies found that it is the conflict surrounding separation or divorce rather than family breakdown which may be significant (Rutter 1985, Utting et al 1993). Moreover, a single-parent home may provide the child with a caring and affectionate environment which may be far better than a home where two parents are constantly in dispute and have little time to pay attention to their children. The Home Office study confirms these points, finding that a bad relationship with a father had a strong relationship to offending for both boys and girls. Crime, unemployment and deprivation Crime has also been related to social deprivation and, more recently, to the growth of unemployment. Exploring this association is far from easy, and statistical correlations between unemployment rates and crime rates are difficult to establish. Neither set of statistics is totally reliable and studies have failed to find strong or consistent relationships, although later work has found stronger relationships between youth crime and unemployment (Box 1987; Wells 1995). ...read more.


The notion of the underclass implies the existence of a distinct class below other social classes and both its existence and its relationship to crime are disputed. To the American commentator Charles Murray, the underclass emerges from an increasing dependence on welfare benefits which leads to the development of a dependency culture. In Britain, he argues, a growing number of people who are able to work but choose not to, live in a 'different world' from others. They do not obtain good habits and discipline and their values contaminate 'the life of entire neighbourhoods' (Murray 1996:p123). Men in such communities cannot support families, leading to high rates of illegitimacy, and seek alternative, destructive means of proving that they are men. Whole communities are devastated by crime and young men look up to criminal role models. Whether or not the underclass exists, most agree that industrial restructuring has led to the growth of communities within which the majority of inhabitants are excluded from work and its associated benefits, and that these are also characterised by high amounts of property crime, youth crime and illegal drug use (Davies, Croall & Tyrer 1999). ...read more.

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