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Ed.D. Dissertations School of Graduate and Continuing Studies


Divorced Families and Their Children: Discovering What Leads to Delinquency

Brandon H. Myers
Olivet Nazarene University,

Follow this and additional works at: Part of the Family, Life Course, and Society Commons, Juveniles Commons, and the Social Control, Law, Crime, and Deviance Commons Recommended Citation
Myers, Brandon H., "Divorced Families and Their Children: Discovering What Leads to Delinquency" (2011). Ed.D. Dissertations. Paper 28.

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by Brandon H. Myers


Submitted to the Faculty of Olivet Nazarene University School of Graduate and Continuing Studies in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of

Doctor of Education in Ethical Leadership

May 2011

2011 Brandon H. Myers All Rights Reserved

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to first and foremost express my appreciation to my dissertation adviser, Brian Woodworth who selflessly gave of himself so that I may pursue and accomplish the goal of obtaining this doctoral degree. Secondly, I would like to recognize the efforts of my dissertation coordinator, Dr. Houston Thompson, as well as the entire dissertation committee who generously committed their expertise and time. Finally, I would like to share my gratitude with all of the faculty and staff members at the Olivet Nazarene University School of Graduate and Continuing Studies who made it their goal to ensure the success of all students enrolled in this doctoral program.


DEDICATION I dedicate this dissertation to my wonderful wife, Kathleen, and my two children, Damon and Samuel. It was through the many sacrifices of company and time that this accomplishment was made possible. Because of this I am and always will be truly grateful to my family.


ABSTRACT by Brandon H. Myers, Ed.D. Olivet Nazarene University May 2011 Major Area: Ethical Leadership Number of Words: 117

This study sought to determine what aspect of divorce was most likely associated with an increase in criminally delinquent behavior among adolescent children under the age of eighteen years. The researcher utilized the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, NLSY97, as the primary research tool which was a ten year survey of nearly 9,000 youths and household members. The researcher relied upon a correlative research method through the use of comparative frequencies in order to determine which of the six leading perspectives concerning the effects of divorce on adolescent development was more prominent. Although this research showed that parenting styles may be slightly more significant the author provided a model from which future research should be based.


INTRODUCTION ...................................................................................................1 Statement of the Problem .........................................................................................2 Background ..............................................................................................................2 Research Question ...................................................................................................6 Description of Terms ...............................................................................................6 Significance of the Study .......................................................................................10 Procedure to Accomplish .......................................................................................10


REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE .......................................................................14 Introduction ............................................................................................................14 Historical View of Juvenile Delinquency in America ...........................................23 Juvenile Delinquency within America ...................................................................26 Conclusion .............................................................................................................37


METHODOLOGY ................................................................................................40 Introduction ............................................................................................................40 Research Design.....................................................................................................41 Population ..............................................................................................................43 Data Collection ......................................................................................................45 Analytical Methods ................................................................................................48 Limitations .............................................................................................................49 vi

Chapter IV.


FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS ......................................................................52 Introduction ............................................................................................................52 Findings..................................................................................................................58 Conclusions ............................................................................................................78 Implications and Recommendations ......................................................................82 Future Research .....................................................................................................88 REFERENCES ......................................................................................................90


LIST OF TABLES Table 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. Page Sample Size: Cross-Sectional or Oversample........................................................54 Sample Sizes by Subsamples, Race/Ethnicity & Gender ......................................56 Have Youths Parents Divorced (Each Other or Someone Else) In Last 5 Yrs......59 Does Youth Live With Both Biological Parents ....................................................59 Biological Parent vs. Divorced Household ............................................................60 Lives with Both Parents and Theft.........................................................................62 Lives with Both Parents and Property Damage .....................................................63 Lives with Both Parents and Drug Sales................................................................64 Parenting Style and Theft.......................................................................................65 Parenting Style and Property Damage ...................................................................66 Parenting Style and Drug Sales..............................................................................68 Conflict and Theft ..................................................................................................69 Conflict and Property Damage...............................................................................70 Conflict and Drug Sales .........................................................................................71 Unemployment and Theft ......................................................................................72 Unemployment and Property Damage ...................................................................73 Unemployment and Drug Sales .............................................................................74 Divorce and Theft ..................................................................................................75 Divorce and Property Damage ...............................................................................76 viii


Divorce and Drug Sales .........................................................................................77


LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1. 2. 3. Page Application of NLSY97 Variables to Study ..........................................................78 Comparison Chart: Delinquency Behaviors and Divorce Aspects....79 Myers Developmental Distress Model (MDDM) ..................................................81

CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION Researchers have continually asserted that, after controlling for socio-economic and other factors, children of divorced parents are considerably more likely to be plagued with lower self-esteem and higher delinquency rates than their counterparts from completely intact families (Amato, 2000; McLanahan & Sandefur, 1994). The idea that children raised in non-traditional family structures suffer more often from internal as well as external behavioral problems has become an increasingly alarming condition for most social scientists when taken in consideration with the increase in divorce rates American families have experienced over the last century. According to Cherlin (1992) approximately 5% of marriages resulted in divorce at the beginning of the 20th century, but in recent years, studies indicate that nearly half of all first marriages will end in separation. Half of these marital separations involve children under the age of 18 (Amato, 2000). The end result is that two out of every five children will be a product of marital dissolution (Bumpass, 1990; Price & Kunz, 2003). The U.S. Census Bureau (2009) has estimated that there will be more than 21 million children raised in non-intact families by the year 2010. Although much of the research (Amato, 2001; Amato & Keith, 1991) has shown that the degree to which children of divorced parents demonstrate behavioral problems is slight, Hetherington (1993) produced a study showing that adolescent boys were 16% more likely and adolescent girls were 24% more likely to develop serious behavioral problems that would require some form of professional counseling. 1

It has been determined through a variety studies and meta-analysis that, on average, children from divorced families suffer more behavioral problems and have lower self-esteem than children from a traditional intact family (Amato & Booth, 1994; Amato & Keith, 1991; Antecol & Bedard, 2007). The position that children are resilient enough to adapt to the major stressors of divorce and show no long lasting effects has been disregarded by many social scientists in recent years. The change of view was due to the overwhelming evidence that pointed to divorce as the cause of lower academic scores, increased behavioral problems, reduced psychological adjustment, lower self-esteem, intensified depression, and escalated juvenile delinquency. Statement of the Problem The results of various research has demonstrated that adolescent children, under the age of eighteen years who experienced parental divorce in early childhood, are more likely to be criminally delinquent than children of a traditional intact family. The purpose of this study was to determine what aspect or aspects of divorce are associated with an increased probability of criminally delinquent behavior among adolescent children. Furthermore, this study identified the need for further research in order to develop strategies that are available to communities in mitigating the effects of divorce on adolescent delinquency. Background Early studies concerning the effect that divorce has on adolescent development have been centered on two types of research design identified as cross-sectional and longitudinal. In the cross-sectional design researchers compare the children of a traditional two-parent family with children of divorce at a single moment in time while the social scientists who rely upon the longitudinal model compare groups of children 2

from both a traditional family and a divorced family over an extended period of time (Amato & Booth, 1994). Although both research designs have advantages; neither rely upon a control group and are therefore open to generalization. The general consensus among social scientists has been that children of divorce have a more difficult time adjusting during adolescence than children from an intact family (Amato, 2000; Seltzer 1994). This generalization has often been misrepresented by many social organizations as evidence that the act of divorce itself causes poor childhood adjustment even though leading researchers have attempted to explain that simple correlation does not equate to causation (Popenoe, 1996). Furthermore, this confusion over the established research has resulted in public disagreement over the effects of divorce on children. In an effort to reduce confusion concerning the overall effect of divorce, social scientists have begun to proffer alternative assumptions or theories explaining youths reaction to divorce and the increased likelihood of adjustment disorders including amplified levels of criminal delinquency. In order to move research from the already established correlation to theories of causation, social scientists such as Amato (1993) and Kelly and Emery (2003) presented six hypotheses that attempted to provide a direct link between divorce and adolescent maladjustment. These theories are labeled as (a) parental absence theory, (b) parental adjustment theory, (c) interparental conflict theory, (d) economic hardship theory, (e) life stress theory, and (f) the incompetent parenting theory. Amato (1993) described the parental absence or parental loss theory as the reduced amount of exposure between the children and the noncustodial parent. The unintended affect is the perceived or actual loss of affection, guidance, and quality time. Each parent provides specific types of support for their children and the children rely 3

upon these lifelines. Divorce often removes accessibility to half of these support systems and advocates of the parental loss theory have explained that a parents absence is problematic for adolescent development. The custodial parents psychological state following the divorce has been identified as the focal point of the parental adjustment theory. Divorce has often been accompanied with increased feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, and self-doubt (Hetherington, Cox, & Cox, 1982). These feelings have been identified as roadblocks to effective communication and appropriate levels of affection between the custodial parent and the child, which has been documented as leading to harsher discipline and less supervision (Amato & Keith, 1991). The third assumption, the interparental conflict theory, relies on information concerning both predivorce and postdivorce marital discord. Increased levels of marital conflict or violence have been shown to effect a childs psychological development negatively (Amato & Cheadle, 2008; Kelly & Emery, 2003). Children react negatively when faced with marital discord on a regular basis. Children show increased levels of fear, anxiety, and anger. Furthermore, the parental hostility has been shown to imprint on children causing these children to be more verbally and physically aggressive. Because this marital discord often occurs prior to divorce, Amato (1993) suggested that the conflict is the cause of lower well-being among the youth rather than divorce itself. The economic hardship or economic loss theory is centered on the idea that divorce reduces the economic resources available to the now single-parent household. The great majority of children reside with the mother following a divorce and this often leads to a decrease in the familys standard of living. In certain circumstances, children can become fearful of the familys security and may even suffer from poor nutrition. Less 4

economic resources often leads a family to reside in less than desirable neighborhoods with increased levels of crime and violence, reduces a familys access to educational tools such as tutors and computers, and reduced supervision due to the possibility of a parent taking on secondary employment. The life stress theory is based on the changes in the childs environmental familiarity. These stressors include moving, changing schools, a parents remarriage, and loss of friendships. Often a parents remarriage will have ended in a subsequent divorce, causing the child to relive all of the previous negative experiences (Bumpass, 1984). Stress has been shown to accumulate in children of divorce throughout childhood which has been shown to cause a delay in adolescent development (Amato & Booth, 1994). The last theory proffered was the incompetent parenting theory. Amato (1993) explained that the skills parents possess in dealing with children have a profound influence on a childs well-being. Research has indicated that parents have reported a diminished ability to parent properly directly following a divorce. Research has shown that parenting skills and the types of relationships maintained between divorced parents and their children are strong influences on a childs well-being (Kelly & Emery, 2003). Researchers have redirected their studies in order to move from the simple understanding that a correlation exists between divorce and a childs well-being in an effort to discover the direct cause of adolescent maladjustment among children of divorce. These social scientists have recognized that many variables exist contributing to the increased levels of behavioral problems including delinquent behavior and have narrowed these variables into six assumptions or theories. These six theories, along with the previous research, provided the baseline for this study.

Research Question What aspect of divorce is most likely associated with an increase in criminally delinquent behavior among adolescent children under the age of eighteen years? Description of Terms Adolescence. Adolescence is the process or period of growth between childhood and maturity (Mish, Morse, Gilman, Copeland, Lowe, & Neufeldt, 1997, p. 29). For the purposes of this study adolescence was identified specifically as the period between the ages of 12 and 18 years old. Antisocial personality traits. Antisocial personality traits are recognized in this study as behaviors exhibited by a juvenile that would normally be considered contrary or hostile to the well-being of society. An example of antisocial behavior would be any criminal activity, such as burglary, theft, illegal drug use, or underage consumption of alcoholic beverages (Mish et al., 1997). Behavioral Problems. Behavioral problems as defined in this paper are internal as well as external functions of behavior that are contrary to normally accepted patterns. External behavioral problems would include any of the above listed antisocial personality traits while internal behavioral problems would be recognized as depression or personal feelings of isolation. Biological Parent. The relationship between a parent and child bound by genetics as opposed to adoption or marriage (Mish et al., 1997). Children. Children are the male or female offspring (son or daughter) who are between the periods of infancy and youth and may be heavily influenced by parents or others (Mish et al., 1997).

Custodial Parent. A custodial parent was recognized as the parent that was legally bound to be in immediate charge and control of a child (Mish et al., 1997). Delinquency. Delinquency was defined as the purposeful neglect or violation of established rules, laws, or commonly accepted social norms. Divorce. Divorce is the act or instance of legally dissolving a marriage (Mish et al., 1997, p. 228). Externalized Behavioral Problems. Along with the already identified antisocial personality traits and criminal behavior, externalized behavioral problems include aggressive behaviors such as fighting, teasing, cheating, and lying. Family. A family is a group of individuals living under one roof and under one head; a group of persons of common ancestry (Mish et al., 1997, p. 274). For the purposes of this study the family was recognized in its traditional form as two married parents and their direct biological children. High Conflict Marriage. High conflict marriage refers to the increased level of friction encountered within a marriage prior to a separation or divorce. The friction can range from continual arguing to open physical abuse (Amato, Loomis, & Booth, 1995). Household. A household includes, those who dwell as a family under the same roof (Mish et al., 1997, p. 361). Intact Family. The intact family, as recognized in this study, is a family consisting of both biological parents and any direct biological offspring living within one household. The intact family does not include any stepparent or stepchild structure. Internalized Behavioral Problems. Internalized behavioral problems are explained as symptoms that are emotionally-based. These symptoms include depression, feelings of

isolation, anxiety, withdrawn behavior, or fear (Birmaher, Ryan, Williamson, Brent, Kaufman, & Dahl, 1996). Juvenile. A juvenile is a young person who is below the legally established age of adulthood (Mish et al., 1997, p. 410). Juvenile Delinquent. A juvenile delinquent is defined as a young person, under the age of adulthood, who commits violations of established rules, laws, or commonly accepted social norms. This is a person who has a tendency to display antisocial behavior (Mish et al., 1997). Low Conflict Marriage. The low conflict marriage is distinguished from the high conflict marriage by having low to moderate levels of conflict with no instances of physical abuse. Parents in a low conflict marriage are careful to shield their children from marital disagreements (Amato, Loomis, & Booth, 1995). Marriage. Marriage as referenced in this paper is defined in the legal sense as the joining of a man and woman as a husband and wife according to law and custom. Marital Dissolution. Marital dissolution is the final termination of a marriage beyond a legal separation. A divorce is a marital dissolution. Minor. A minor is legally defined as a youth who has not yet reached the age of 18 years old. National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97). The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97) was a survey administered annually over a ten year period beginning in 1997. The survey involved nearly 9,000 participants and over 6,000 households from across the nation representing both genders and all ethnicities. The participants were surveyed on a variety of topics such as family structure, employment, education, criminal behavior, etc. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). 8

Paramour. A paramour is defined by this researcher as a boyfriend or girlfriend without any legal bond or commitment to their partner. Predivorce marital discord. Predivorce marital discord refers to the high level of marital conflict and violence experienced prior to a divorce and generally believed to continue between the partners long after the divorce is finalized (Amato, Loomis, & Booth, 1995). Separation. A separation is a formal separating of a married couple by agreement but without divorce (Mish et al., 1997, p. 666). Single-Parent Household. A single-parent household is a family consisting of only one custodial parent living within a residence. The single-parent is responsible for the care and welfare of the children as well as the maintenance of the household. Socioeconomic. Socioeconomic is formally defined as relating to, or involving both social and economic factors (Mish et al., 1997, p. 691). Specifically, this researcher has defined socioeconomic as the financial state or condition of a family or household. Stepparent. A stepparent is the married partner of a son or daughters biological parent. A stepparent has no biological or genetic relation to a child but is identified as a parent solely through the marital relationship. Stressors. Stressors are the unintentional consequences of divorce experienced by the family and more specifically the children following the parents separation. Kelly and Emery (2003) listed these stressors as: exposure to parental conflict, poor parental adjustment, incompetent parenting, parental loss, economic loss, and environmental discord, such as change of school and residence. Youth. Youth is defined as the period of life between childhood and maturity (Mish et al., 1997, p. 859). 9

Significance of the Study This study has made three specific contributions to the current research literature. First, although there has been a great deal of research dedicated to divorce and the effects on offspring, previous research has focused almost entirely on the overall consequences such as increased externalized behavioral problems, increased internalized problems, and lower academic achievement. This study has furthered previous research by identifying the specific aspect of divorce that causes increased juvenile delinquency among children of divorce. Second, this study did not focus entirely on divorce; rather it investigated the six leading theories offered by researchers related to the social adjustment and well-being of children from non-intact families. Amato (1993) as well as Kelly and Emery (2003) have identified these six theories as: (a) parental conflict, (b) parental adjustment, (c) incompetent parenting, (d) parental loss, (e) economic loss, and (f) environmental discord. Third, this study has given direction for further research which would investigate innovative and new strategies that will assist families and communities in mitigating the effects of divorce on the social well-being of the nations youth. Procedure to Accomplish The author of this paper relied upon a quantitative research model using data obtained through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997. The researchers choice of data collection focused on the correlational survey method along with the archival method through the use of comparative frequency tables, comparing childhood development in divorced families with childhood development in traditional families. Although the information collected may appear to be qualitative in nature due to the heavy reliance on surveys and the interpretation of the


data received; the studys author emphasized the need for a large, nationally representative sample and a conclusion based upon objective, statistical data. Due to the authors desire to have a nationally representative sample, the author chose to rely on data resulting from the use of a national longitudinal survey, a widely accepted primary research tool (Amato & Booth, 1994; Amato, Loomis, & Booth, 1995; Amato & Booth, 1996; Amato & Cheadle, 2008; Antecol & Bedard, 2007; Hamilton, Cheung, & Powell, 2007; Hawkins, Amato, & King, 2006; Mennemeyer & Sen, 2006). The National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997 (NLSY97), distributed and administered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2009), was a series of surveys distributed nationwide that began in 1997 and continued annually until 2007. The NLSY97s original sample included 8,984 respondents. In order to achieve this representative sample size, the administrators of the survey examined 75,291 households in 147 primary sampling units. These administrators described a primary sampling unit as metropolitan area, such as a major city, or a single county in the more rural areas of the nation. NLSY97 interviewers visited these households in order to identify children that were within the parameters of the survey group. The children had to be between the ages of 12 and 16 prior to December 31, 1996 and had to reside within the household. If the interviewer selected one of the children, then one of the youths parents was also asked to participate. The interviewer accepted either a biological parent or a stepparent from each household. From the 8,984 participants selected the survey administrators developed two separate samples. The first was a cross-sectional sample that represented the entire population, within the United States, that was born between the years 1980 and 1984. The second sample was a supplemental sample representative of the African-American and 11

Hispanic populations born in those same years. Survey administrators believed that this process provided a more accurate representation of the national population. The 8,984 respondents selected derived from 6,819 individual households. The early 8,984 respondents, including one parent or guardian from each household, were surveyed annually for ten years. This large sample size, along with previously available research and studies, provided the author and researcher of this study ample information in order to develop accurate conclusions. The researcher utilized the NLSY97 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009) as the primary research tool in collecting necessary data. The NLSY97 was a survey that documented the development of children as they transitioned from school to employment as well as from adolescence to adulthood. The variety of questions asked through the use of computer-assisted interviews covered a number of topics affecting Americas youth such as: employment, military, education, training, income, assets, welfare, family structure, childcare, household environment, discipline, dating, sexual activity, and health. The interviewers, through the use of private, audio computer-assisted selfinterview technology, went on to survey the youth participants concerning illegal cigarette use, illegal alcohol and drug use, sexual behavior, and other criminal activity. The use of the audio computer-assisted self-interview technology was to ensure that the respondents would be more truthful in their responses. The latter information along with family make-up, income, childcare and discipline assisted the researcher in developing a workable data set. The method the researcher followed to dissect and organize available data into a workable conclusion included the following five steps:


1. Previous studies were reviewed in order to confirm conclusions that showed adolescent youth from divorced families were statistically more likely to exhibit delinquent behavior than youth raised under the traditional intact family structure. 2. Information was extracted from the NLSY97 that identified delinquent youth respondents (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). 3. Delinquent youths were identified as belonging to a family of divorce or a traditional family. 4. Through the data extracted from the NLSY97, trends were identified in the delinquent youths economic and demographic environment which included finances, parental support, discipline, parental monitoring, etc. 5. The most common factors among juvenile delinquents and their environmental upbringing were identified. By following this five step investigative method, the researcher was able to discover an association between the adolescent youths environment and increased delinquency and then identify what aspect or aspects of divorce most likely leads to the development of externalized delinquent behavior.


CHAPTER II REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE Introduction Over the last half-century society has experienced a steady increase in the national crime rate. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice (2009), the national violent crime rate was just 160.9 crimes reported per every 100,000 persons in the population in 1960 as compared to the 2006 rate of 473.5 reported crimes per 100,000 persons, a crime rate increase of nearly 300 percent. The Federal Bureau of Investigation detailed that in 1960, with a population numbering just 179,323,175 American citizens, there were 288,460 violent crimes reported. In 2006 there were 1,417,745 reported violent crimes with a United States population of 299,398,484. Even though there has been a significant rise in crime across the nation since 1960, since 1996 there has been a steady annual decrease averaging 3.5 percent. Similarly, the juvenile arrests decreased nearly 30 percent since it reached a twenty year high in 1996, as reported by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (2009). Although, beginning in 1996, juvenile crime rates have fallen in the same manner as the total national crime rate, juveniles currently represent just 26 percent of the population and that is expected to rise to 31 percent by the year 2010 (U.S. Bureau of the Census, 2009). In 2002, the number of juvenile adolescents as a percentage of the total population equaled the proportion of overall arrests accounting for nearly 26 percent. As the senior population is expected to decline and the junior population is 14

expected to rise, it can be anticipated that juvenile crime will have an adverse effect on the national crime rate causing crime to increase as the numbers of juveniles increase. Many theories have been presented in an attempt to explain an increase in crime. Many of these theories are centered on age population. Seigel and Welsh (2005) explained that general increases and decreases in crime model the fluctuations in the juvenile male population. This was verified by the sudden increase in crime during the 1960s as the baby boomers entered their teen years and also by the 1990s decrease due to the maturing of the zero-population generation. Additional explanations for the increase in juvenile crime provided by Seigel and Welsh included a poor economy, drug abuse, inappropriate media influence, and other social problems such as: divorce, lack of education, and racial conflict. Other researchers (Amato, 1993; Kelly & Emery, 2003) have provided a counter argument by explaining that the juvenile crime rate may increase due to poor financial position, lack of education, drug abuse, etc; however these circumstances are discussed as a product of divorce or a deviation in family structure. Scholars such as Amato and Mclanahan and Sandefur (1994) have long argued that adolescents who are a product of households that have suffered from marital disruption are more likely to participate in delinquent behavior than children from secure households. Just as the nations population has increased over the 20th century, so has the rate of divorce. Studies (Cherlin, 1992) have shown that the rate of divorce in first-time marriages has increased from just 5% at the beginning of the last century to current divorce rate of nearly 50%. Further research (Amato, 2000; Price & Kunz, 2003) has indicated that nearly half of the households suffering from marital dissolution involve adolescent children. The end result is that nearly 40 % of all children are a construction of divorce. According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2009), more than 21 million children 15

will spend there critical, formative-developmental years in single-parent households. The current consensus among researchers (Amato & Keith, 1991; Antecol & Bedard, 2007) is that adolescent youth do suffer emotionally and socially from martial separation often leading to destructive episodes of delinquent behavior. This current trend of sociological thought is in complete contradiction to the previous belief that children were quick to recover from emotional distress or loss. Subsequently, researchers such as Amato (2000) and Seltzer (1994) have described divorce as a possible indicator of adolescent maladjustment. Popenoe (1996) has cautioned, however, that social scientists should not be too quick to confuse correlation with causation. Research in juvenile criminal delinquency as related to marital separation has transitioned from a simple explanation of causation to a more complex series of theories. These theories, presented by various social scientists, were an attempt to correlate the multiple consequences of divorce on the family structure with the apparent maladjustment suffered during a youths adolescence. In separate studies, Amato (1993) as well as Kelly and Emery (2003) presented similar hypotheses explaining the relationship of family disruption with childhood adjustment disorders that included increased criminal behavior. Amato presented five perspectives in an attempt to provide alternate explanations for adolescent maladjustment resulting from non-intact households. Amato labeled these hypotheses as: (a) the Parental Loss Perspective, (b) the Parental Adjustment Perspective, (c) the Interparental Conflict Perspective, (d) the Economic Hardship Perspective, and (e) the Life Stress Perspective. Similarly, Kelly and Emery (2003) provided six theories on stressors leading to increased delinquent behavior among adolescent children of divorce. These six theories were identified as: (a) Stress of the Initial Separation, (b) Parental Conflict, (c) 16

Diminished Parenting after Divorce or Incompetent Parenting, (d) Loss of Important Relationships, (e) Economic Opportunities, and (f) Remarriage and Repartnering. Amato (1993) explained that, although the relationship between adolescent development and parental separation appears to be associated, no one theory can fully explain the connection. Because of this, Amato explained that a broader model was necessary that was capable of illustrating some interconnectedness of all the above listed perspectives. Likewise, Kelly and Emery explained that the effect of these stressors on adolescence was dependent upon the number of stressors experienced, the severity of each stressor, and the length of time the stressor was prominent within the youths development. From their observations, Kelly and Emery rationalized that the outcome of these divorcerelated stressors varied from child to child. Parental Loss Perspective Amatos (1993) parental loss perspective identified that the existence of two parents in the household generally provides for a more stable and emotionally balanced home life for children. Amato explained that with two parents there is more supervision and emotional support. Amato further rationalized that two parents can possibly serve as role models for a youths social development. According to Amato, each parent provides a specific form of support function within the household and the inadvertent consequence of divorce is a perceived or actual loss of affection, guidance, and quality time shared with the noncustodial parent. Kelly and Emery (2003) provided a comparable perspective in their loss of important relationship hypothesis. Kelly and Emery explained that children who are accustomed to visiting with both parents on a daily basis may suffer emotionally when the frequency of visits with a nonresident parent is reduced to just a few days a month. Kelly and Emery further explained that children of divorce have 17

continually described the loss of contact with one parent as the primary negative consequence of divorce. Parental Adjustment Perspective A second perspective offered by Amato (1993) that focused on the psychological state of the custodial parent following a divorce was the parental adjustment hypothesis. Many researchers have agreed that the healthy development of children during adolescence is dependent upon supportive and present parents (Belsky, 1990; Maccoby & Martin, 1983). However, if the custodial parent has suffered from emotional stress following a separation, the essential skills necessary for providing the proper nurturing or supportive environment for the child are absent. Hetherington et al. (1982) explained that the negative emotions associated with divorce such as anger, depression, anxiety, and self-doubt, presents communication roadblocks. Furthermore, the increased stress experienced due to the separation leads to lower levels of affection and care which often results in harsher discipline and less supervision (Amato & Keith, 1991). Kelly and Emery (2003) supported Amato in this perspective in their own hypothesis of diminished parenting. Kelly and Emery explained that the parents are often more focused on their own emotional well-being in response to the marital dissolution than the social and emotional needs of the children. Due to increased levels of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse experienced by these parents, Kelly and Emery discovered that the children often become the sole support for the parents on an emotional level. In addition, Hetherington (as cited Kelly and Emery, 2003) was in support of the conclusion that the emotionally maladjusted and distant parent was often provided less affection and was generally more harsh in dispensing discipline. According to Kitson and Morgan


(1990) the experience of divorce is one of the most stressful events a person could ever suffer and the great majority of adults have adjustment difficulties. Parental Conflict Perspective Amato (1993) next identified the interparental conflict perspective. Through this hypothesis, Amato explained that increased conflict and/or violence within a marriage, both pre- and postdivorce, has been shown to have a negative effect on a childs psychological development (Amato & Cheadle, 2008; Kelly & Emery, 2003). Children raised in a hostile setting may experience a wide range of emotions and stresses not normally associated with childhood development. Children caught in the crosshairs of this interparental conflict often suffer from increased negative emotions that include anger, fear and stress (Amato). An even more precarious situation may develop as a child learns to model the parents behavior towards conflict resolution. This may lead to increased delinquent behavior as the children have learned through imprinting that fighting is an appropriate response to a disagreement. Another risk, according to Grynch and Fincham (1990), is that children of combative parents are often drawn into the parents dispute, forced to take sides, and sometimes even assume responsibility for the conflict. Kelly and Emery (2003) agreed that marital discord and violence would have a negative effect on adolescent development. Kelly and Emery explained that divorced hostile parents often directed their rage at the former spouse while the children were present or by having the children themselves pass on negative information to the former spouses. Children raised in this type of hostile environment are often found to be even more depressed and ragefilled than children of low-conflict separations (Buchanan, Maccoby, & Dornbusch,


1991). Amato (1993), however, found that predivorce conflict is more so the catalyst for lower self-worth among adolescents than the separation itself. Parental Economic Hardship Perspective The belief that fewer economic means brought about by divorce or marital separation leads to the negative development of adolescent children has been identified as the economic hardship perspective (Amato, 1993). Proponents of this hypothesis have argued that the economic hardship is brought about because most children live with their mothers as the primary, residential custodian. This scenario generally leads to a reduced standard of living than the children were previously accustomed to (Duncan & Hoffman, 1985; Kelly & Emery, 2003). The reduction of economic resources has been shown to force single-parent households into less than desirable neighborhoods that suffer from high crime and increased gang activity. Furthermore, lower income has reduced a familys access to quality schools, computers, and books (McLanahan & Booth, 1989). All of the effects of a lower social standard may cause the single-parent to seek secondary employment or even cause the children to quit school due to the lack of proper supervision or a preference to raise money on their own. The failure of these juveniles to complete school perpetuates the circle of poverty that may lead directly to an increase in delinquent behavior. Kelly and Emery (2003) have also recognized reduced economic opportunities as a contributor to delinquent actions among adolescent children. Kelly and Emery documented that poorer single mothers changed residences 75 % more often than the average mother within the first six years following a separation. This instability in a childs homelife leads to difficulty in building relationships as well as joining and participating in group organizations or sports (Hetherington & Kelly, 2002). The


economic hardship perspective was identified in an effort to account for the financial loss suffered through divorce. Parental Life Stress Perspective Divorce has been shown to bring stress on all members of a family unit sometimes causing even more stress among the children than on the separating spouses. Pre-divorce events such as aggression, neglect, and violence create a negative environment that hinders growth in adolescent children. Similarly, post-divorce consequences such as moving from home to home, changing schools, losing friends and pets, and possibly welcoming new stepsiblings each have been shown to have a negative effect on a childs development. Bumpass (1984) discovered that these stressors are often exasperated as children experience divorce repeatedly as parents fail in their subsequent second or third marriages or relationships. Brody, Neubaum, and Forehand (1988) discovered that the pre-divorce experiences suffered by the children of marital separation are often duplicated in subsequent marriages as the children are exposed to neglect, conflict and economic hardship. The repetitive submersion into the negative environmental consequences of divorce stunts the mental and social development of these children. Wallerstein and Kelly (1980) learned that, even though the pre-divorce and post-divorce environments provide little support for the healthy adolescent development, few children are prepared emotionally for the separation itself. These children were discovered to suffer from increaserd levels of stress, anxiety, anger, and depression (Wallerstein & Kelly). Furthermore, parents often neglect to explain the causes of divorce and the processes to the children. The parents even neglect to hear concerns from the children allowing the anxiety created by separation to build in these children with no positive outlet (Kelly, 21

1993). The consequence of this is that children are often left alone to build identity in face of family dissolution. Kelly and Emery (2003) agree with Amato in that the initial separation and subsequent events support a life stress hypothesis. According to Kelly and Emery, these children generally do not benefit from the stability of a single household or residence and feel that they can not communicate directly with either parent as they are shuffled from home to home. This inability to establish even some semblance of grounding has been shown to have the effect of retarding the childs emotional and social development. The repetitive accumulations of stress experienced by children who suffer through their parents marital separation throughout childhood have been shown to delay their adolescent development (Amato & Booth, 1994). Remarriage and Repartnering This perspective has been discussed as a factor in many of the previous listed perspectives, however Kelly and Emery (2003) have identified remarriage and repartnering as an entirely separate hypothesis in identifying the correlation between divorce and childhood delinquency. According to Kelly and Emery increases in divorce raises the potential for children to experience repetitive emotional let-downs. Family relationships are strained with each separation and with each new union by one or both of the childs parents. Children who witness short-term serial relationships are found struggling in developing their own mature emotional and intimate relationships (Kelly & Emery). Studies have revealed that more than half of divorced parents, male and female, eventually remarry; and more than half of those numbers cohabitate with their paramour prior to remarrying (Bumpass, Sweet, & Castro-Martin, 1990). Amato (1993) discovered


that the addition of a step-parent or step-siblings can prove to be stressful for the whole family unit, parents as well as children. Historical View of Juvenile Delinquency in America According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2009), 25% of the population, or approximately seventy-three million persons, are children under the age of eighteen. The number of children is expected to grow to a population of over eighty million by 2020. This growing generation of children, as described by Davis (1998), has been the first generation to spend more time viewing violent crimes on television than time spent in classrooms. As American youth enter into their adolescent years; a period of uncertainty, anxiety, and mood fluctuations, they are bombarded with images contrary to the expected norms of society. According to Seigel and Welsh (2005) adolescents encounter a period of personality development that is extremely susceptible to external stimuli as well as a period of biological growth causing uncontrollable hormonal changes. These developmental changes experienced by youth combined with a desire to discover their own self-worth and gain independence from parents has often created an explosive environment leading to an increase in delinquent behavior (Sutton, 1988). According to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) (2003), nearly 1.6 million adolescents were charged with crimes in 2002 ranging from simple status crimes, such as curfew, to more serious felonies including murder. Even though todays society has been inundated with this increased amount of negative stimuli, juvenile delinquency and the study of youth crime has occupied criminologists for centuries. Early nineteenth century treatment of juvenile delinquents was focused more on the control of rather than the rehabilitation or reform of adolescent offenders. During this period of American history it was common practice for the justice system to treat children 23

extremely harsh in the same manner as adult offenders (Pleck, 1987). During this period no distinction was made between children and adults in regards to sentencing and all offenders were subject to corporal punishment, imprisonment, and capital punishment. The attitude towards delinquent children at this time in American history was so severe that, according to Pleck (1989), strict laws were passed that required the youth to stringently follow rules instituted by their parents. As the nineteenth century progressed the attitude toward juvenile offenders began to soften and society became more sensitive towards the differences between adults and adolescents. Up to the mid-nineteenth century criminal delinquents were seen in the same scope as their adult counterparts, however progressive groups within the major urban areas such as New York and Chicago started to push for dissimilar treatment and lobbied for the development of a separate juvenile justice system (Seigel & Welsh, 2005). Seigel and Welsh explained that this was the first great awakening in the developing national consciousness of childrens needs (p. 13) and that also led to the use of the term delinquent. The use of this new term was promoted in an effort to prevent the labeling of juvenile offenders as criminals and thus stigmatizing the children during one of the most impressionable periods in their lives. It was also at this time the connection was first made indicating that delinquent adolescents were the byproduct of poor upbringing and improper parenting in the home. Shortly after the turn of the century the progressive movement was successful in the establishment of the first juvenile justice system. The primary focus of juvenile courts was to intervene on the behalf of these children so that criminal behavior could be mitigated. The direction of the courts focus was based upon a growing upsurge in the belief that the courts should intercede in juvenile criminal matters on behalf of the state 24

prior to these children committing more serious crimes (Platt, 1969). Consequently the courts took special precautions to protect youth offenders. Courts generally charged juveniles as delinquents in an effort to protect the minor from permanent labeling as a result of youthful indiscretions. Juvenile charges are undisclosed and may be purged as the child reaches the legal age of adulthood, usually seventeen or eighteen years old. Newman (1978) explained that the courts have historically treated juvenile crime more mercifully because (a) juveniles exhibit riskier behavior, (b) juveniles fail to accurately weigh the consequences of their behavior, (c) children are more impulsive, (d) they tend to lack self-control, and (e) juveniles more easily fall prey to peer pressure. As a result of continued societal pressures, the U.S. Congress took additional steps to further protect the adolescent offender. Twenty-first century measures have included the passing of legislation that required states to keep less violent juvenile delinquents detained separately from the more violent and serious offenders (Datesman & Aickin, 1985). This legislation, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, authorized the creation of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention in order to distribute grant funds to local communities and states for special programs to assist juveniles in need, create shelters and detention facilities for runaways, and provide training for officials tasked with the care and authority of minors in need (Datesman & Aickin). The generalizational trend towards the relaxation of accountability in juvenile justice laws has created much disagreement within the courts. According to Robinson and Arnold (2000), many juvenile judges have argued that the reduction of control allowed to the courts would lead to an increase in juvenile crime and will lead to the juvenile offenders committing more serious offenses in the future. Feld (1993) supported the idea of stricter controls based on his own research that revealed that many juvenile 25

delinquents, specifically runaways, suffer emotional disorders that lead to wide range of destructive behaviors. Regardless of the various expert viewpoints and arguments, only one constant remains that juvenile delinquency and criminal activity has always been and most likely will always be part of the American landscape (Kidd, 2006). Juvenile Delinquency within America It has long been the practice of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to compile and publish all reported crimes throughout the nation annually. The FBI collects data from all local and state law enforcement agencies in an effort to monitor crime trends. The data presented by the FBI (2003) showed that crime between the years 1960 and 1991 quickly increased from a low of 3.3 million reported crimes to a high of over 14 million reported crimes in 1991. This was followed by a steady decline until reaching a level of approximately 11.8 million reported crimes in 2002. More recently, according to the FBI (2008) data there were a total of 11.1 million reported crimes in 2008, a 21% decrease from the 1991 high of 14 million. In 2008 the FBI reported that there were slightly over 10 million total arrests and juveniles constituted approximately 1.5 million or 15% of all arrests. In 2002 the FBI reported that juveniles under the age of 18 years made up a total of 26% of arrests which matched the juvenile proportion of the total population, also 26%. However, since 2002 there has been a steady decline in the amount of juvenile arrests in relation to population. The U.S. Census Bureau (2009) reported that juveniles made up 25% of the total population in 2008, yet according to the FBI juveniles only accounted for a total of 15% of all reported arrests. The information provided by the FBI and the U.S. Census Bureau has demonstrated that juvenile crime rates have been


declining over the last decade; however fluctuations in criminal arrests as well as reported crimes have always been the norm in American society. The continued decline of adolescent delinquency rates has been a subject of expert divisiveness. Fox (1996) argued that because the nation will experience a steady climb in the juvenile population, juvenile crime will reach an all-time high. Fox explained that many more of these children are products of unstable home environments which will also contribute to an increased propensity for crime. Another researcher, Levitt (1999), agreed that the future generation may experience an increase in juvenile crime however he wrote that the overall crime rate will be relatively unaffected by the increase in delinquency. Levitt explained that along with a growing juvenile population the nation will also experience an increase in the senior population. The increase in seniors along with a minimized middle-age population, according to Levitt, will offset juvenile crime leading to a continued decline in overall crime rates. Levitt (2004) did agree with Fox in that the primary major contributor to juvenile delinquency is youth experiencing essential developmental years in broken homes or difficult home environments. The cause of fluctuations in the nations crime rate, whether juvenile or adult, has been studied by numerous researchers. Even though researchers have disagreed on the specific causes leading to increased delinquency, there is very little divergence on the numerous factors that have contributed to these causes; among these are age, economy, and social dysfunction. A large number of criminologists have pointed directly to variability in age as the primary factor in rising crime. OBrien, Stockard, and Issacson (1999) contend that the nations rise in crime between the years 1960 and 1991 was a direct result of the maturation of the baby-boomer generation. Alternatively, the 27

subsequent declines in crime have been attributed to the large number of seniors within the nations population along with a reduced number of children under the age of eighteen (Johnson, Cohen, Smailes, Kasen, & Brook, 2002). Similar to the disagreement on age, the state of the economy in relation to juvenile crime was also a topic of debate among experts. A down economy historically produces increased unemployment. A general belief has been that rising unemployment equates to rising crime but Kleck and Chiricos (2002) claimed that there has been no direct relationship between unemployment and adolescent delinquency. They explained that during a short-term economic downturn there is an increase in parental supervision caused by increased unemployment. The increase in parental supervision, Kleck and Chiricos described, provided a control mechanism over children that is unavailable when parents are away at work. Seigel and Welsh (2005) provided a slightly different view concerning the influence of a weak economy. Juvenile unemployment, they explain, may create an atmosphere or environment of despair leading to an increase in criminal behavior. Seigel and Welsh also rationalized that fewer prospects of economic recovery within the nations inner-cities may inadvertently lead youth towards lifestyles that include violence, drug dealing, and burglary. Seigel and Welsh declared that long term economic weakness along with a rising youth population in the future will generate juvenile delinquency rates even higher then the pre-1991 levels. Many researchers have focused on the dysfunctions of society as an explanation of childhood crime. Donohue and Levitt (1999) discovered that nations with the greatest numbers of children born to teenage or single mothers are also the nations with the highest child homicide rates. In addition, Donohue and Levitt explained that there was a distinct correlation between increased social problems, such as divorce, and higher 28

delinquency rates. They rationalized that children of single parent homes are more likely to become involved in delinquent behavior because single parent households are twice as likely to suffer economically as families with both parents still at home. Subsequently, juvenile crime rates have declined on par with the decrease in the amount of teen pregnancies and single parent households (Seigel & Welsh, 2005). Researchers have attempted to breakdown the previously discussed factors in order to determine a more specific understanding of which individual as well as social characteristics are most likely associated with juvenile delinquency (Seigel & Welsh, 2005). The various personal traits identified as being most clearly related to increased adolescent misbehavior are age, race, gender, and social status. These characteristics have been argued to be individual contributors to crime but when the youth experience these traits in combination, the possibility that the youth would exhibit delinquent behavior, according to Seigel and Welsh, becomes multiplied. Age in Relation to Delinquent Behavior Many experts have made the case that age and criminal behavior are inversely related (Lafree & Arum, 2006; Levitt, 2004; OBrien, Stockard, & Issacson, 1999; Seigel & Welsh, 2005). Seigel and Welsh explained that juvenile arrests have historically been disproportionate to the juvenile portion of the general population. Specifically, Seigel and Welsh pointed out that while adolescents between the ages of fourteen and twenty represent just 7 % of the population, this same age group represents 21 % of all arrests. In contrast, adults over the age of fifty make up only 6 percent of arrests while representing 30 % of the population. Agnew (1999) explained that the correlation between age and crime is constant in that as people age and mature there is less motivation to act in a delinquent manner. This theory was also supported by researchers such as Phillips (1997) 29

and Thomas (1993), who found that other variables such as race and gender had little effect on age as a factor in relationship to crime. Thomas even professed that the most hardened juvenile offender indulges in fewer crimes as age sets in. Hirschi and Gottfredson (1983) believed that the task of crime in and of itself proved to be the main factor stimulating the reduction as the youthful offender aged. They explained that the rewards were generally too miniscule and the punishments often too harsh to continue with the risk of committing crimes and possibly being discovered. Other criminologists including Brezina (2000), Cohen and Land (1987), Greenburg (1985), as well as Sampson and Laud (1993) described various additional reasons that children rely less on crime as they enter adulthood. These reasons included (1) increased levels of responsibility, (2) refined problem-solving skills, (3) balanced understanding of risk versus reward, and (4) developed maturity. Cohen and Land rationalized that as youthful offenders age they take on greater responsibilities. The responsibilities of adulthood, such as parenting, marriage and the reality of everyday expenses, redirect the attention and focus of the now young adults and the enticement of criminal behavior becomes greatly subdued. Brezina indicated that children lack adequate problem-solving skills in early life, but as the children mature intellectually and emotionally, the ability to avoid knee-jerk reactions and seek long term solutions develops as well. Sampson and Laub discovered that a great majority of the youth offenders reach a turning point where the position of risk versus reward becomes evident. When the juvenile delinquent reaches this turning point, Sampson and Laub argued, then personal problems begin to be solved in less destructive ways. Sampson and Laub contend that the criminal offender may recognize that the risk becomes greater because the offender will no longer be processed under the juvenile justice system. Greenberg 30

reasoned that the children no longer commit criminal acts simply because they have matured. The rationale, Greenberg proposed, was that the youth exhibit more selfdiscipline and self-control as they mature and become more capable to resist delinquent behavior. An opposing point of view posited by researchers such as McNulty and Bellair (2003) have expressed a belief that other factors such as peer relationships and other environmental influences have been shown to extend the time youth exhibit criminal behavior. In particular McNulty and Bellair argued that the earlier the involvement in delinquent behavior begins the more likely the youth will exhibit criminal conduct into adulthood. In other words, McNulty and Bellair deviated from the findings of the previously identified researchers by contending that age and crime are not constant. Race as a Factor of Delinquency According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census (2006) the number of Caucasian youth outnumbered African-American youth nearly five to one yet, according to Seigel and Welsh (2005), African-American adolescents were disproportionately arrested for serious crimes and served much harsher punishments than white children. White children, on the other hand, were shown to be disproportionately arrested for petty offenses. Many researchers including Gold (1966), Short and Nye (1958), and more recently, Webb, Katz, and Decker (2006), agreed that there appeared to be a large discrepancy between the self-reported criminal activity of youth and the amount of arrests officially reported by law enforcement agencies. These researchers claimed that there was virtually no difference in self-reported minority or self-reported white criminal activity; however minority youths continued to account for a much greater portion of arrests. These discrepancies have led other criminologists and social scientists toward a belief that 31

African-American youth are in fact disproportionately and unfairly arrested (Bachman, Johnston, & OMalley, 2003). Specifically, researchers have claimed that this phenomenon indicates that there is a discriminating bias in law enforcement (Kim, Fendrich, & Wislar, 2000). The counterargument to police bias has been the understanding that minority children have historically under-reported involvement in delinquent or criminal activity (Warner & Coomer, 2003). Due to this custom of minority under-reporting many researchers have claimed that the use of self-reports as an indicator of racial discrimination is invalid (Blumstein, Cohen, & Rosenfeld, 2001; Hindelang, Hirschi, & Weis, 1981). Seigel and Welsh (2005) explained that racial discrimination may be present throughout the criminal justice system in that African-American children are more likely to be detained and searched due to the communities they are raised in. These children are subsequently introduced to the juvenile court system at earlier ages which creates a catalyst for more severe punishment with every successive arrest (Seigel & Welsh). This belief that racial biases form the foundation of minority arrest discrepancies has been a point of contention among criminologists. According to Hindelang, Hirschi, and Weis, promoting the theory that minority arrests are a result of racially-based biases discounts the involvement of the minority youths in committing criminal offenses. Although previously identified researchers have indicated that racial discrimination has been prevalent throughout the justice system, others have claimed that bias has only been miniscule in influence. Tracy (1987) argued that the disproportionately high arrest rates of minority youths are a direct result of the disproportionately high offense rates. This is supported by Huizinga and Elliot (1987) who wrote that although there has been a significant amount of evidence to support a 32

belief of some racial bias in the criminal justice system, a larger amount of evidence supports the theory that official arrest rates are true. Researchers who have supported the premise that official crime rates are accurate have not distinguished race as a direct cause. Bachman, Johnston, and OMalley (2003) explained that the racial differences associated with crime have been more closely related to economic and social circumstances. The disproportionate amount of African-Americans and other minority families bound to the poorer regions of the nation such as urban centers and inner-cities has placed an increased burden on the minority family constitution. The resulting weakened state of the family has been shown to provide very little of the structure necessary to establish the appropriate controls and supervision needed to guide the adolescent children away from delinquent behavior (Walker, Spohn, & DeLone, 1992). African-American communities have long suffered from economic depression even as the remainder of the nation realized positive economic growth. According to Sealock and Simpson (1998) this failure to visualize economic promise and growth within the inner-city neighborhoods often led minority children to seek economic opportunity in criminal actions. Some researchers explained that the cause of increased juvenile criminal activity within inner-cities was less a factor of race but was more a question of family income and structure (Blalock, 1967). Blalock recognized that the majority of African-American children arrested for juvenile offenses were from singleparent and low income families. Conversely, Blalock explained that the minority children from families with moderate incomes and stable families were much less likely to participate in delinquent behavior. In support of Blalock, criminologists such as Engen, Steen, and Bridges (2002) tendered the opinion that given the same economic conditions,


educational opportunities, and family stability; minority children would be no more likely to commit criminal acts than the average white child. The Gender Influence on Delinquency Seigel and Welsh (2005) reported that males have historically been more delinquent than females being arrested nearly four times as often during their adolescent years. However the gender gap has reduced slightly over the last generation. Seigel and Welsh continued to explain that in the decade between the years 1993 and 2002 male delinquency was reduced by 16 %; during that same time period female delinquency rates increased nearly 6 %. Seigel and Welsh also distinguished the differences between the two genders in relation to violent crime. Again between the years 1993 and 2002, male violent crime rates were reduced by 33 % as female violent crime remained stagnant. Seigel and Welsh were careful to clarify that even though female crime rates are higher than in 1993; overall crime rates for both genders have declined from the peak in 1997. Other researchers have agreed that there appears to have been a steady increase in female teenage delinquency over the last 40 years. Rowe, Vazsonyi, and Flannery (1995) explained that even though females made up just 13 % of index crimes in 1967, females now account for one-quarter of all juvenile crimes. Bem (1993) attributed the rise in female delinquency rates to the reality that females were much more likely to participate in petty crimes usually associated with their male counterparts. Illegal acts such as shoplifting, smoking marijuana, and alcohol offenses were becoming more common for the female delinquent and were no longer found to be dominant to the male gender (Bem). Gender differences have not been singly focused on the amount of crimes committed; arrest rates have also shown a disparity by gender. According to Seigel and


Welsh (2005), in the decade proceeding 2002, the teenage male violent crime rate decreased by 39 % while the female rate declined by just 13 %. Similar to the other juvenile crime correlates such as age and race, researchers have argued that gender alone should not be considered an aspect leading to delinquency. These researchers have indicated that social and economic influences should also be considered (McCabe, Lansing, Garland, & Hough, 2002). According to Mason and Windle (2002) the intact family has been known to provide a greater degree of supervision over female children where the parents more quickly recognize and are less tolerant of deviant behavior among the girls. Mason and Windle explained that devoted supervision reduces opportunity for the children to engage in criminal activity. Mason and Windle added that strong family relationships also reduce the childs desire to seek companionship with other delinquent children. Farrington (1992) supported this point of view by declaring that adolescent girls who may grow up in broken homes that lack appropriate supervision will be more prone to committing delinquent acts. Researchers such as Dixon, Howie, and Starling (2005), Herrera and McCloskey (2003), and Messer, Maughan, and Quinton (2004) all agreed that unlike boys, who generally become delinquent to show their toughness or to seek excitement, girls become delinquent as a result of their dysfunctional home life. The general conclusion concerning gender and delinquency, as supported by various researchers, was that male juveniles commit criminal acts in an effort to demonstrate their manhood while females become delinquent as a result of hostility towards their parents and family (Messer, Maughan, & Quinton). Social Status and Delinquency Each of the three other correlates listed above; age, race and gender, have been presented with a consideration of social economic influences such as poverty, 35

unemployment, and family dysfunction. Seigel and Welsh (2005) proclaimed that juvenile crime is not isolated nor is it committed in a vacuum; all social classes have been touched by delinquency. Because of the supposition that all economic classes have been affected by juvenile crime Seigel and Welsh argued that the problem of delinquency is less financial than it is structural. Leiber and Fox (2005), on the other hand, explained that children of low-income households often commit criminal acts in an effort to gain monetarily and to equalize themselves with the children of more affluent families. DeJong and Jackson (1998) asserted that the youth from economically challenged families are usually raised in single-parent homes. Households with just one parent residing have been shown to lack the appropriate supervision necessary to provide proper guidance in raising the children. According to DeJong and Jackson delinquent behavior thrives when there is family disruption. A few researchers have argued that there is no direct relationship between deviant or delinquent behavior and the social status of youth, explaining that self-reporting of crime has revealed that juvenile crime is common to all economic classes (Engen, Steen, & Bridges, 2002). The claim has been that the disparity in crime and arrests was not a result of socioeconomics but rather the biased treatment of children from families in lower-income brackets by all levels of the criminal justice system (Eitle, DAlessio, & Stolzenberg, 2002). Wilbanks (1987) boldly agreed by writing that even though wealthy and poor children have been similarly involved in thefts, assaults, and drug use, only extremely poor children are arrested and processed in the juvenile justice system. Walker, Spohn, and Delone (1992) deviated from this point of view explaining that self-reported crime rates demonstrated an overall equality of crime throughout economic classes but the children of middle- and upper-economic classes were primarily responsible for petty 36

crimes and status offenses such as curfew and tobacco violations. Walker, Spohn, and Delone explained that the youth from lower-income families and poverty stricken neighborhoods were more likely to commit more serious criminal offenses such as robbery or murder. All research has shown, however, that children who become involved in the most serious of criminal behavior are most likely to be members of a lower socioeconomic class (Paschall, Flewelling, & Ennett, 1998). Conclusion A great amount of research has been conducted in an attempt to discover the affect divorce and single-parenting has on children in their adolescent years. This research as conducted by Hetherington (1999) and Amato (2000) revealed that children of divorced parents are at an increased risk for adjustment disorders. Hetherington explained that children who suffer the divorce of their parents during the adolescent years were drastically more likely to develop academic, social, and behavioral problems than comparable children who were raised in completely intact families with continuously married parents. The risk, Hetherington estimated, was more than twice as high for the children raised in single-parent or disrupted families. Hetherington and Kelly (2002) stated that as much as one-quarter of all children raised in homes with divorced parents may suffer from serious social and psychological problems. These problems have been identified as adjustment disorders affecting the youths ability to respect authority figures and adults, and an increase in antisocial and conduct behaviors (Hetherington & Kelly). Amato (2001) agreed with the conclusions presented by Hetherington and Kelly (2002) but added that adolescent boys were more likely to suffer these harmful consequences than were girls. Sun (2001) disagreed with Amato, however, stating that very few studies demonstrated a significant difference related to gender and divorce. 37

Vandewater and Lansford (1998) found that the compounded interaction between the four correlates of crime previously identified as age, race, gender, or social status, and the six hypotheses of adolescent maladjustment following divorce makes it difficult to pinpoint the exact effect divorce has on children when split by gender. The enlarged risk to children of divorce not only includes the retarded development of social and psychological skills as previously presented but also the increased possibility that these children will not complete their high school education. Pong and Ju (2000) discovered that the children from disrupted families are three times more likely to quit school early than children from traditional families. Pong and Ju elaborated further by explaining that poor economic situations and poverty leads to increased school drop out rates, however the marital dissolution of the childs parents may reduce economic resources further, exasperating and increasing the likelihood that the child will not complete his or her education. Sun and Li (2001) further explained that along with the reduction in financial resources available to children following the divorce, parents also reduce involvement in the childrens lives failing to provide the much needed social and human interaction that guides these children through adolescence. The global conclusion of the provided research explains that children from disrupted families may generally suffer from more psychological and behavioral problems than the children from traditional families. The specific factor most likely to lead to the antisocial and delinquent behaviors has not yet been isolated. Kelly and Emery (2003) and Amato (1993) independently identified several theories or hypotheses in an attempt to narrow the cause of this adolescent maladjustment in children of divorced families. The hypotheses provided by Amato, which correspond with Kelly and Emerys 38

theories, are: (1) the parental loss perspective, (2) the parental adjustment perspective, (3) the interparental conflict perspective, (4) the economic hardship perspective, and (5) the life stress perspective. The recognition that children raised in single-parent homes due to divorce are more likely to develop antisocial as well as delinquent behaviors, as recognized by Hetherington (1999), along with Agnews (1999) calculation that age and crime are constant in conjunction with the possibility of a growing generation of adolescents, support the findings of other criminologists and social scientists that divorce and delinquency are connected.


CHAPTER III METHODOLOGY Introduction According to recent research, marital disruption has placed an enormous strain on the children of the separated parents (Amato & Cheadle, 2008; Kelly & Emery, 2003). The effects of divorce have been shown to have far reaching effects including an increase in juvenile delinquency. Over the last 30 years numerous studies have been revealed that children who have suffered from a family break-up have an increased possibility of suffering from emotional and behavioral disorders (Amato, 2000). Even though not all children who experience the disruption of the parents marriage suffer these effects and develop delinquent behaviors, the increase in anti-social activities has been significant enough to warrant research (Amato & Cheadle). As indicated earlier in this study, a greater percentage of children of divorced parents are more likely to develop destructive behaviors than children from traditional and complete families. Amato (1993) as well as Kelly and Emery (2003) have attempted to explain the cause of this condition by identifying six factors influencing the divorcedaffected child. These six factors were recognized to be: (a) Stress of the Initial Separation, (b) Parental Conflict, (c) Diminished Parenting after Divorce or Incompetent Parenting, (d) Loss of Important Relationships, (e) Economic Opportunities, and (f) Remarriage and Repartnering. The purpose of this study was to determine which of the above listed factors was more likely to lead to the development of delinquent behavior 40

among children, up to the age of 17, who suffered from the disruption in the marriage of the childrens parents. The previous chapters explained and identified the problem of divorce in relation to a childs well-being. The purpose of this chapter was to provide the roadmap or specific description of the methodology utilized in the current study in addition to describing how the research question was explored. This chapter will describe the research methods used along with the method of acquiring the sample population. Furthermore, a thorough description of the data collection methods, analytical processes, and research limitations has been presented in this chapter for review. Finally, a comprehensive explanation of the research methodology has been provided so that the study might be replicated by additional researchers. Research Design The researcher of this paper investigated the demographic make-up of youth who have been raised in a single-parent household, as the result of divorce, and have demonstrated adolescent delinquent behaviors and criminal activities such as thefts, property damage crimes, and the sale of illegal drugs. Previous researchers have examined the connection between divorce and youthful misbehaviors (Amato, 1993; Kelly and Emery, 2003; Wallerstein and Kelly, 1980), however none have attempted to determine which of the six stressors, identified by Amato and similarly recognized by Kelly and Emery as the parental absence theory, the parental adjustment theory, the interparental conflict theory, the economic hardship theory, the life stress theory, and the incompetent parenting theory; has been more likely to lead to the development of delinquent behavior among these youth. The author of this study was singularly focused on discovering the relationship between divorce, individual stressors, and adolescent 41

delinquent behavior. More succinctly the author sought to determine which of the above listed stressors, caused by marital dissolution, was most likely to lead to the development of delinquent behavior among adolescents. As indicated earlier, a quantitative research model utilizing the information previously obtained by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in the NLSY97was used. The researchers choice of data assessment concentrated on a correlational survey method through the use of comparative frequencies, evaluating the development of childhood behaviors within divorced families in comparison to childhood development in traditional, fully-intact families. Although the researcher recognized that information collected from the NLSY97 appeared to be qualitative in nature because of the strong dependence upon surveys as well as the interpretation of the data revealed; the author also recognized that the use of a large nationally representative sample would best produce a conclusion based upon objective statistical data. The use of a comprehensive, nationwide longitudinal survey was primarily due to the authors desire to have a nationally representative sample. The use of data obtained from a longitudinal survey as a primary research tool has been a long and widely accepted practice among researchers (Amato & Booth, 1994; Amato, Loomis, & Booth, 1995; Amato & Booth, 1996; Amato & Cheadle, 2008; Antecol & Bedard, 2007; Hamilton, Cheung, & Powell, 2007; Hawkins, Amato, & King, 2006; Mennemeyer & Sen, 2006). This has been proven true for the use of the NLSY97, which was distributed and administered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2009), and consisted of a series of surveys distributed nationwide for ten years that began in 1997 and continued annually until 2007.


The author of this paper chose to utilize the NLSY97 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009) as the primary research tool in collecting the data necessary for this research. The NLSY97 proved beneficial to this study in that it consisted of ten rounds of annual surveys that documented childhood development as the child made evolutionary progressions in areas such as the movement from school to employment as well as from adolescence to adulthood. The surveys consisted of a variety of questions which were asked through the use of computer-assisted interviews. These interviews questioned participants on a number of topics affecting American youth including: employment, military participation, education, training, income, assets, welfare, family structure, childcare, household environment, discipline, dating, sexual activity, and health. Additionally, through the use of private, audio computer-assisted self-interview technology, the interviewers were capable of surveying the youth participants about more sensitive topics concerning illegal cigarette use, illegal alcohol and drug use, sexual behavior, and other criminal activity. The utilization of the audio computer-assisted selfinterview technology was necessary to increase the probability that the respondents would be more truthful in their responses. The latter information concerning illegal activity, along with family make-up, income, childcare and discipline was drawn from the NLSY97 in order to assist the researcher in developing a workable data set. Population The original NLSY97 sample included 8,984 respondents. The administrators of the survey were able to achieve this nationally representative sample through the examination of 75,291 independent households within 147 primary sampling units. As explained earlier in this paper a primary sampling unit was defined as being a metropolitan area, such as a major city, or a single county in the more rural areas of the 43

nation. Participants of this study were required to fall within strict parameters that were narrowly defined by the survey administrators. The children had to be between the ages of 12 and 16 prior to December 31, 1996 and had to reside within a single household. Various NLSY97 interviewers visited over 75,000 households in an effort to identify eligible children that fell within the parameters of the survey group. If the interviewer selected one of the household children, then one of the selected youths parents was also asked to participate. The interviewer was given the authority to accept either a biological parent or a stepparent as long as the selected parent resided in the same household. The survey administrators then separated the nearly 9,000 participants into two separate samples. The first was a cross-sectional sample that was intended to represent the entire child population, within the United States, that was born between the years 1980 and 1984. The ancillary sample was a supplemental and smaller sample developed in order to represent the African-American and Hispanic populations born between the same years of 1980 and 1984. The NLSY97 survey administrators believed that this process would provide a more accurate, complete, and true representation of the entire national population. As the interviewers narrowed down the sample population to just 8,984 respondents, the number of households was also tempered to just 6,819 individual households from the original 75,291 visited. These principal 8,984 respondents, which included one parent, step-parent, or guardian from each household, were then surveyed annually for ten years. The NLSY97 provided the researcher of this study with an extremely large and current sample size. The NLSY97 had more than ten years of data for the current researcher to utilize. The NLSY97 data, along with all of the previously


available research and studies, provided the author and researcher of this study with ample information to develop accurate and complete deductions. Data Collection The author of this study sought to explain the process of data collection in relation to the NLSY97 in this section of the paper. The author relied upon numerous segments of the NLSY97 in order to pull data necessary for this study. These segments included: the youth questionnaire; the household income update; the screener, household roster, and nonresident roster questionnaire; and the parent questionnaire. The author of this paper additionally relied on individual subsections of these questionnaires which were titled: income, assets and program participation; parents current status, residential history, and behaviors. The author collected and sorted through all of this data in an effort to develop accurate conclusions concerning what aspect of divorce most likely leads to delinquent behavior among adolescents. Youth Questionnaire The primary focus of the youth questionnaire was on both participation in school and the workforce. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2009), the youth questionnaire not only asks the participant questions on school and employment but also asks questions concerning finances, family make-up, relationship with non-resident parents, as well as health and behaviors. The youth were asked similar questions encompassing the above listed areas of study over the lifetime of the longitudinal study. Household Income Update Within the NLSY97, a parent, step-parent or guardian of a youth participant also participated in the survey. During the first five years or first five rounds of the NLSY97, this resident adult participant was provided with a self-administered survey in an effort to 45

collect household income information. The parent, step-parent, or guardian who signed the youth participants consent form was asked to complete the household income update (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). Screener, Household Roster, and Nonresident Roster Questionnaire The initial household interviewers prepared two household rosters during the first round or first year of interviews. The first roster included information concerning each household member currently residing with the youth participant. The second roster, the nonresident roster, collected data on each member of the youth participants immediate family that did not live in the same residence as the respondent (U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). This roster was completed during the first round however updates were conducted when necessary. Parent Questionnaire During the initial interview, round 1, a resident parent, step-parent, or guardian was asked to complete a parent questionnaire (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). This questionnaire, similar to the youth questionnaire asked for an exhaustive description of the respondents current circumstances including finances, marital status, employment, as well as other personal information. Income, Assets, and Program Participation According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2009) the income and asset survey questioned respondents on their personal financial situation including access to funds through not only salaries and wages but also though any allowances provided by parents. In addition to wages the NLSY97 had questions concerning the value of independent assets a respondent may have including vehicles, homes, or investments such as certificates of deposit (CDs). 46

Parents Current Status This questionnaire concerned updates to the household roster specifically addressing the status of the parent, stepparent, or guardians current status. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2009), during rounds or years 2 through 5, both the youth and adult respondents were surveyed concerning household information such as parents earnings and income status. Residential History In the NLSY97 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009) rounds 2 through 7, the respondents were surveyed concerning transitions in custodial circumstances. Youth and adult participants were questioned about changes in the location of residences as well as changes in guardianship or legal custody of the child respondent. Behaviors This section of the NLSY97 was an essential data producing segment for the researcher of this paper. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2009), the respondents were questioned about health-related and social behaviors including participation in delinquent or criminal activity. Questions asked centered on issues such as opinions or attitudes on drinking alcohol, sexual activity, smoking, and delinquency. The author of this paper relied upon the above listed data collected through the use of the NLSY97 in order to provide the primary figures necessary to complete this study. The author extracted the necessary information to input within the Statistical Analysis Software (SAS) to identify possible correlations or comparable frequencies that would lead to accurate deductions.


Analytical Methods The researchers choice of data collection focused on the correlational survey method, through the use of comparative frequencies, that relied upon a quantitative research model in order to fully analyze the data obtained from the NLSY97. The collected data was withdrawn from the NLSY97 survey results and extracted to the Statistical Analysis Software provided by SAS, Inc. This data was examined and tables were run illustrating the descriptive statistics and frequencies of each variable. These variables were identified earlier as the six stressors or factors of divorce. The researcher further analyzed this data by use of comparison frequency tables in order to determine which of the six stressors was most closely related to an increase in juvenile delinquency. These correlations were illustrated through the use of comparison frequency tables, charts, and bar graphs. The researcher examined each of the individual comparison frequency tables as well as the findings bar graph in order to determine a conclusion as to which of the divorce perspectives increased delinquency among adolescents. As explained earlier in this paper, the system utilized by the researcher in order to explore and coordinate existing figures into an effective supposition included the following five actions: 1. Previous studies were reviewed in order to confirm conclusions that showed adolescent youth from divorced families were statistically more likely to exhibit delinquent behavior than youth raised under the traditional intact family structure. 2. Information was extracted from the NLSY97 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009) that identified delinquent youth respondents.


3. Delinquent youths were identified as belonging to a family of divorce or a traditional family. 4. Through the data extracted from the NLSY97, trends were identified in the delinquent youths economic and demographic environment which included finances, parental support, discipline, parental monitoring, etc. 5. The most common factors among juvenile delinquents and their environmental upbringing were identified. By adhering to this five-phase investigative system, the researcher was able to discover whether there was or was not a connection between the adolescent youths environment and increased delinquency. Subsequently, the researcher could potentially identify what aspect or aspects of divorce most likely leads to the development of externalized delinquent behavior. Limitations In every study the researcher is faced with limitations that restrict or interfere with the full intention or capabilities of data analysis. Even though research has limitations, an immense amount of knowledge and understanding can still be siphoned and the great majority of research is determined to be valid. The following limitations were considered by the author in an effort to provide transparency to this study. The limitations listed here were a result of restrictions in time, resources, and availability of data; however the results of the study remain constructive. The first limitation concerned the available data sets. The authors principal source of data was from the NLSY97 ten year study. This series of surveys, although validated and verified, is considered secondary source information due to the fact that the author did not develop or administer any of the surveys directly. The data collection was 49

also handled through the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics without any involvement of this studys researcher. This created a challenge because the researcher had no firsthand knowledge that the surveys were administered properly nor is there any direct knowledge that the data was authentic. A second limitation proved to be the testing instruments. Personnel from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics conducted a series of surveys and interviews for more than ten years. The researcher had no control over this testing instrument in the development phase, the validation period, the administration to the study participants, or the collection and interpreting of the data. Due to the lack of direct participation by the researcher, complete confidence in the validity of the surveys and interviews can not be achieved. The NLSY97 was the second longitudinal study completed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The first longitudinal study was the NLSY79. The repetitiveness of these surveys has demonstrated that the longitudinal studies offer a significant degree of reliability and credibility in the academic environment. The act of administering the interviews and surveys proved to be a limitation for the researcher as well. The personnel from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics dispensed these surveys over a ten year period prior to the researcher initiating this study. Because of this the researcher was unable to monitor the actual interview procedure or the survey process. The author had to rely on the data presented through the NLSY97 with the expectation that the process was dependable and consistent. The survey variables included in the NLSY97 also proved to provide a limitation for this study. In order to test the six previously identified perspectives of divorce, the researcher had to identify and match variables from the study to the aspects identified by Amato (1993), Kelly and Emery (2003), as well as Price and Kunz (2003). The NLSY97 50

survey variables did not present exact replications of necessary data; however the researcher was able to locate data that substantiated the six aspects of divorce. The final limitation identified by the author was the reduced capability of interpreting the survey results. As indicated earlier the surveys were administered and the data was collected prior to the author initiating this research. This prevented the author from participating in the filtering of information or the interpreting of essential data at the time the surveys were conducted and the information was gathered. This limitation, however, does not take away from the validity of this study because the NLSY97 was developed by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and has a long established record in academia. Every researcher has faced challenges when conducting a study. These barriers, however difficult, provide opportunity for the researcher to clarify the purpose and results of the study. This paper is not the exception. The author has identified the limitations in order to provide some transparency to the research.


CHAPTER IV FINDINGS AND CONCLUSIONS Introduction Divorce has become a common occurrence in the modern American family life, increasing from less than 5% a century ago to a current divorce rate of nearly 50% of all first-time marriages (Cherlin, 1992). According to Price and Kunz (2003), half of all the divorced households include children of adolescent age indicating that nearly 40% of all children experience the effects of a broken home. Ultimately, more than 21 million adolescents will be raised in single-parent homes during the most crucial and formative years of their lives (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009). The purpose of this chapter is to illustrate the most damaging effects of the nontraditional family lifestyle on adolescent upbringing as well as discovering what aspect of divorce most likely leads to delinquency among children. The findings and results of this research were derived from data received from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, NLSY97 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009) and filtered through the perspectives of past studies in an effort to discover the leading cause of delinquency among youth raised in nontraditional households. Price and Kunz (2003) explained that divorce, in and of itself, cannot be considered the sole or principal cause of increased delinquent behavior among youth, however, Price and Kunz did identify specific characteristics of divorce that appeared to demonstrate commonality between divorce and delinquency. Price and Kunz identified 52

the following as factors to be considered when researching the effect of divorce on adolescents: (a) levels of pre-divorce hostility, (b) parental relationship with the child, (c) family stability, (d) parental ability to monitor the child, and (e) parental discipline. These five factors overlap with theories or hypotheses presented by other researchers such as Amato (1993) as well as Kelly and Emery (2003). Kelly and Emery presented six theories on independent stressors that significantly led to an increase of delinquent behavior among the adolescent youth from non-intact families. These six theories were described as: (a) the Stress of the Initial Separation Theory, (b) the Parental Conflict Theory, (c) the Diminished Parenting after Divorce or Incompetent Parenting Theory, (d) the Loss of Important Relationships Theory, (e) the Economic Opportunities Theory, and (f) the Remarriage and Repartnering Theory. In this chapter, even though there were slight differences in the above listed aspects of divorce presented by the researchers, the focus of the study and research was built upon Amatos (1993) five perspectives, listed as: (a) the Parental Loss Perspective, (b) the Parental Adjustment Perspective, (c) the Interparental Conflict Perspective, (d) the Economic Hardship Perspective, and (e) the Life Stress Perspective. In addition to the above five listed perspectives, the researcher of this study included Kelly and Emerys (2003) Remarriage and Repartnering Theory. This was done so that all of the identified aspects of divorce were considered in the determination of which aspect had the greatest influence on the development of adolescent youth. The primary research tool utilized for this study was the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth, 1997 (NLSY97). The NLSY97 was a ten year study that annually surveyed a sample of 8,984 respondents from 6,819 households nationwide. These 8,984 respondents and 6,819 households were identified within 147 primary sampling units. As 53

explained earlier in this study, a primary sampling unit was defined as being a major metropolitan city or a single county from the more rural communities. Respondents selected from these sampling units had to meet a specific set of criteria prior to being considered for the survey. Respondents must have been born between the years 1980 and 1984 and could not be more than 18 years of age prior to the first round of interviews in 1997. The youngest of respondents were just 12 years of age which denotes that all respondents were between the ages of 22 and 29 in 2007 after completing the tenth round of surveys. In addition each youth respondent had to have an adult household member included as a participant in the survey. The researcher selected the NLSY97 as the main instrument of data collection for this study so that the results would be nationally, if not universally, representative. In 2007, after ten rounds of surveys, more than 84 % of the original sample or 7,559 respondents continued to participate in the study. The NLSY97s original sample was subdivided into two subgroups or subsamples as illustrated by Table 1. Table 1 Sample Size: Cross-Sectional or Oversample Sample type: Is the respondent a member of the cross-sectional sample or the oversample? 6748 2236 ------8984 1 Cross-sectional 0 Oversample

Refusal (-1) Don't Know (-2)

0 0 0 NON-INTERVIEW (-5)

TOTAL =========> 8984 VALID SKIP (-4) 54

The first subgroup was a cross-sectional sample of 6,748 respondents that was originated in order to be a closer representation of people living in the United States at the time of the first round of the survey in 1997. The second subgroup, or supplemental sample, consisted of 2,236 respondents that were selected to provide an oversample of black and Latino persons living in the United States at the beginning of the survey. A complete breakdown of the survey sample found nearly an even split by gender where 51%, or 4,599 of the original 8,984 respondents, were male and 49%, or 4,385 respondents were female. A dissection of the original sample by race and ethnicity showed that 4,665 respondents, or 51.9%, were non-black and non-Hispanic; 2,335 (26%), were black; 1,901 (21.2%) were Hispanic or Latino; and 83 (0.9%) where of mixed origin or race. At the completion of the surveys tenth round 3,803 (50.3%) of the remaining 7,559 respondents were male and 3,756 (49.7%) were female. When the sample was split by race or ethnicity it was discovered that 3,855 respondents (50.9%) were non-black and non-Hispanic; 2,307 (26.9%) were black; 1,596 (21.1%) were Hispanic or Latino; and 71 (0.9%) were of mixed race or origin. Even though there was a 1,425 respondent drop-off, the gender and ethnic breakdown of the survey sample fluctuated very little after ten years and ten rounds of surveys. The breakdown of the sample from each of the ten rounds of the NLSY97 by subgroup, race/ethnicity, and gender is illustrated on the next page in Table 2. Although biographical data such as the information listed in Table 2 had very little impact on the findings in this study, the researcher recognized that it was important to validate that the NLSY97 sample was truly representative of the whole population. As


Table 2 NLSY97 Sample Sizes by Subsample, Race/Ethnicity & Gender

Cross-sectional Sample Supplemental Sample

Total Cross-sect. Non-black, Black, Hispanic Mixed Supp. Black, Hispanic Mixed sample total non-Hisp. non-Hisp. or Latino race total non-Hisp. or Latino race Round 1 Male Total Male Total Male Total Male Total Male Total Male Total Male Total Male Total Male Total Male Total 4599 8984 4283 8386 4169 8208 4116 8080 3988 7882 3997 7896 3928 7754 3732 7502 3666 7338 3803 7559 3459 3289 6748 3213 3066 6279 3143 3029 6172 3097 2957 6054 3011 2907 5918 2995 2903 5898 2951 2831 5782 2816 2784 5600 2734 2703 5437 2850 2774 5624 2413 2252 4665 2238 2095 4333 2193 2076 4269 2153 2027 4180 2110 1991 4101 2083 1973 4056 2060 1916 3976 1966 1866 3832 1910 1820 3730 1988 1867 3855 537 544 1081 504 517 1021 490 503 993 485 489 974 455 478 933 466 486 952 460 482 942 433 491 924 424 473 897 445 490 935 469 452 921 433 417 850 421 412 8330 Round 4 422 402 824 Round 5 410 401 811 Round 6 410 408 818 Round 7 395 396 791 Round 8 383 390 773 Round 9 367 376 743 385 380 765 33 34 67 32 37 69 932 969 1901 953 982 1935 523 561 1084 535 567 1102 409 406 815 418 413 831 -2 2 -2 2 Female 3672 34 37 71 916 986 1902 506 563 1069 410 421 831 -2 2 Female 3770 36 37 73 977 995 1972 555 564 1119 422 429 851 -2 2 Female 3826 36 36 72 1002 996 1998 567 568 1135 435 426 861 -2 2 Female 3899 36 37 73 977 987 1964 541 558 1099 436 427 863 -2 2 Female 3894 37 39 76 1019 1007 2026 580 570 1150 439 435 874 -2 2 Female 3964 Round 3 39 38 77 1026 1010 2036 572 568 1140 454 441 895 -1 1 Female 4039 Round 2 38 37 75 1070 1037 2107 599 584 1183 471 451 922 -2 2 Female 4103 40 41 81 1140 1096 2236 632 622 1254 508 472 980 -2 2 Female 4385

Round 10 Female 3756


demonstrated by Table 2, the sample remained a characteristic reflection of society for the entire ten rounds, from 1997 until 2007. Additional survey and respondent self-reported information was extracted from the NLSY97 by the researcher in order to create the foundation of this study. The extracted data was then processed and correlated in an effort to develop a statistical and reliable conclusion. In order to examine or identify which of the six leading aspects of divorce, as introduced by Amato (1993) and Kelly and Emery (2003), most likely leads to delinquent behavior among the adolescent youth of divorced parents the researcher utilized a five-step process. This system included the following five steps: 1. The researcher reviewed previous studies, articles, and journals in order to verify findings that concluded adolescent children from nontraditional or non-intact households were statistically more likely to develop antisocial and delinquent mannerisms than youth raised in a traditional intact family. 2. The researcher then extracted data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, NLSY97 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009), that specifically identified household structure, life stressors, economic conditions, and youth delinquent behaviors. 3. The researcher split the extracted data based on whether the children were from a family of divorce or a traditional family. 4. The researcher then utilized the data obtained via the NLSY97 in order to identify trends in the delinquent youths economic and demographic environment filtered through the six perspectives of divorce presented by Amato (1993) and Kelly and Emery (2003). 57

5. Finally, the researcher isolated and identified the most common factors among juvenile delinquents and their environmental upbringing. Through this process the researcher was able to determine whether or not there was an association between the adolescents upbringing and the increased possibility of delinquent behavior. In furtherance, the researcher was able to identify which aspect of divorce was most closely connected with delinquency among youth who suffered the effects of divorce. Findings The researcher began the data analysis by determining how many of the NLSY97 original youth respondents suffered from the divorce of the households parents. The foundation of this paper rested upon the ability of the researcher to distinguish and isolate youth of non-intact families from the children of the more traditional fully intact families. The data summarized on the following page in Table 3, Have Youths Parents Divorced (Each Other or Someone Else) In Last 5 Yrs, shows the response from round five of the NLSY97, conducted in 2002. The table details the responses of 7,861 youths showing that 617 (7.8%) of the children experienced the divorce of a parent or parents within the first five years of the study. Because the NSLY97 allowed for multiple responding youth from the same household there is no way to determine if any of the respondents are reporting on the same divorce occurrences. Likewise there is no way to determine if each of these divorces were unique or if the children who did not report experiencing a divorce were from the same households or not. The inability to determine whether divorces were double reported or not should have no interference with data results because the youth reporting the divorce still experience the hardships associated with the marital break-up regardless of what household they derive from. 58

Table 3 Have Youth's Parents Divorced (Each Other or Someone Else) in Last 5 Yrs

In the last five years, have your parents divorced, either from each other or from their former spouse? UNIVERSE: All 617 7244 ------7861 1 YES 0 NO

Refusal (-1) Don't Know (-2)

8 27 NON-INTERVIEW (-5) 1088

TOTAL =========> 7896 VALID SKIP (-4) 0

The information included above, in Table 3, is incomplete for the purposes of this study. As a result, the researcher also extracted information concerning household makeup. The data presented in Table 4 was extracted from round one of the survey in 1997. Table 4 Does Youth Live with Both Biological Parents Does youth live with both biological parents? 4395 4589 ------8984 1 Yes 0 No

Refusal (-1) Don't Know (-2)

0 0 0 NON-INTERVIEW (-5) 0

TOTAL =========> 8984 VALID SKIP (-4)


The data in Table 4 shows that 4,589 or 51% of the original respondent youth did not live with both biological parents. The researcher then combined the results from these two tables into a comparative frequency table in order to determine which of the original survey respondents not only experienced the divorce of their parents but were also raised with just one biological parent in the home. The information included in Table 5 illustrates the isolation of respondents who not only experienced a parents marital dissolution but also have just one residential biological parent. Only 7,861 of the original 8,984 youth responded to both of the questions. Of the 7,861 respondents just 355 (4.5%) of the youth responded that they not only experienced a divorce but that they live with just one biological parent. Table 5 Biological Parent vs. Divorced Household YOUTHS PARENTS DIVORCED IN LAST 5 YRS 2002 YOUTH LIVES WTH BOTH BIO PARENTS NO NO 3643 46.34 50.29 91.12 355 4.52 57.54 8.88 3998 50.86 Frequency Missing = 1123 60 YES 3601 45.81 49.71 93.22 262 3.33 42.46 6.78 3863 49.14 7244 92.15 Total


617 7.85


7861 100.00

During the processes of this study, the researcher compared numerous additional variables against the information provided in Tables 3 and 4 in order to test the divorce affected perspectives provided by Amato (1993) as well as Kelly and Emery (2003). This was done in an effort to determine which of the perspectives most commonly led to the developmental distress of the sampled youth. Although much of the data extracted from the NLSY97 has been repeated throughout the findings of this research, the information has proven to be valid and substantial in supporting a conclusion. Criminal Behavior and Parental Loss The absence of contact with either parent following a divorce has been described as a leading source of developmental distress among adolescents often leading to the manifestation of delinquent behaviors. Delinquency is often demonstrated through criminal activity such as theft, property damage, and illicit narcotic sales. The following three tables represent the comparative frequency of parental loss in connection to the above listed criminal endeavors. The data shown in Table 6 details that 447 or nearly 10% of the 4,572 youth surveyed who live with just one biological parent have stolen items valuing more than $50. This finding shows that children living with just one biological parent are nearly twice as likely to commit a theft as are children from a fully intact traditional family. Just 5.57% or 244 of the 4,384 youth who resided with both biological parents at the time the survey was administered admitted to stealing an item worth more than $50. The data summarized in Table 6 revealed that youth respondents who had just one biological parent remaining in the household following a divorce were 4.21% more likely to commit a theft than the adolescents who reported that both biological parents remained together within the home. Table 6 is presented on the following page. 61

Table 6 Lives with Both Parents and Theft YOUTH LIVES WITH BOTH BIO PARENTS EVER STEAL ANYTHING >$50? Total




4125 46.06 90.22 49.91

447 4.99 9.78 64.69

4572 51.05


4140 46.23 94.43 50.09

244 2.72 5.57 35.31

4384 48.95


8265 92.28 Frequency Missing = 28

691 7.72

8956 100.00

Another form of delinquency is displayed through a youths willingness to commit a property damage crime. The figures presented in Table 7 details the result of this comparison. Similar to Table 6, the data included in Table 7 supports the supposition that children who are raised apart from one of their parents are more likely to engage in delinquent mannerisms. Of the 4,570 single-parent youth who answered the survey questions concerning property damage, 1,369 (29.96%) self-reported committing a property damage crime. 62


NO NO 3201 35.74 70.04 49.00

YES 1369 15.28 29.96 56.48 4570 51.02


3332 37.20 75.95 51.00

1055 11.78 24.05 43.52

4387 48.98


6533 72.94 Frequency Missing = 27

2424 27.06

8957 100.00

The next table is a culmination of the surveyed youths relationship with and willingness to sell narcotics. Table 8 describes the data establishing that the adolescents from single-parent households were again nearly twice as likely to engage in illegal drug sales as children from non-divorced, two-parent families. 392 (8.58%) of the 4,750 surveyed youth with just one biological parent at home reported participating in the sale of narcotics compared to just 204 (4.65%) of the two-parent youth.


Table 8 Lives with Both Parents and Drug Sales YOUTH LIVES WITH BOTH BIOLOGICAL PARENTS YOUTH EVER SELL DRUGS? NO NO 4178 46.66 91.42 49.99 4180 46.68 95.35 50.01 8358 93.34 Frequency Missing = 30 Delinquency and Parenting Styles Following a divorce, the parents, similar to the youth, go through a period of adjustment. Often the parental adjustment period affects the long-term parenting style employed within the household. The inappropriate dissemination of discipline as well as the amount of supervision a parent provides for a child is also a consideration leading towards delinquent behavior. Table 9 is an account of theft committed by youth of a single-parent household, categorized by the individual parenting style of the resident parent. The four parenting styles were identified as uninvolved, permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative. These four labels were selected as a categorization of the degree of control established by the parent over the youth. Uninvolved represented the smallest amount of control while 64 YES 392 4.38 8.58 65.77 204 2.28 4.65 34.23 596 6.66 4570 51.04 Total


4384 48.96


8954 100.00

authoritative represented the greatest amount of control. According to the NLSY97, youth who self-reported that the resident parent employed an uninvolved parenting style were considerably more likely to commit a theft than the youth of authoritative parents. Table 9 shows that 15.13% of youth in the uninvolved category reported committing thefts over $50.00 while only 6.76% of the adolescents with an authoritative parent admitted the same. Table 9 Parenting Style and Theft

Controlling for Single-Parent PARENTING STYLE YOUTH EVER STEAL ANYTHING >$50? NO UNINVOLVED 432 10.26 84.87 11.33 1287 30.57 91.34 33.74 537 12.76 86.47 14.08 1558 37.01 93.24 40.85 3814 90.59 Yes 77 1.83 15.13 19.44 122 2.90 8.66 30.81 84 2.00 13.53 21.21 113 2.68 6.76 28.54 396 9.41 509 12.09 Total


1409 33.47


621 14.75


1671 39.69


4210 100.00


The next variable extracted from the NLSY97 was the youths inclination to commit a property crime. After controlling for single-parents, the property damage variable was examined in relation to the parenting style of the resident parent. Similar to information provided in Table 9, the parenting style was separated into four categories based upon the parents degree of control over the youth. Table 10 summarizes the data showing that the least controlling parenting style employed by the parent led to the greatest degree to which the youth was willing to exhibit delinquent behavior. Table 10 Parenting Style and Property Damage Controlling for Single-Parent PARENTING STYLE PURPOSELY DESTROY PROPERTY NO UNINVOLVED 306 7.27 60.12 10.30 1019 24.22 72.42 34.30 380 9.03 61.39 12.79 1266 30.09 75.72 42.61 2971 70.62 66 YES 203 4.83 39.88 16.42 388 9.22 27.58 31.39 239 5.68 38.61 19.34 406 9.65 24.28 32.85 1236 29.38 509 12.10 Total


1407 33.44


619 14.71


1672 39.74


4207 100.00

In Table 10 the summarized variables revealed that of the four identified parenting styles, uninvolved, permissive, authoritarian, and authoritative; the youth who reported having parents who employed the uninvolved style most often were more likely to be delinquent. 39.88% of the youth who reported having uninvolved parents committed some type of property damage crime. Similar to the youth committing thefts, the youth with uninvolved parents who reported destroying property proved to be considerably more significant than the 24.28% of youth with authoritative parents. Youth with uninvolved parents were 15.6% more likely to commit property damage than the youth with a single-parent employing the more controlling authoritative style. In addition Table 10 showed that the adolescents raised under each of the four parenting styles were more likely to commit a property damage crime than a theft or drug sale. The researcher examined the third delinquent behavior, drug sales, through the lenses of the four previously identified parenting styles, controlled for the single-parent divorced household. The figures exhibited within Table 11 followed the same pattern of the two previous tables making it possible to recognize that the youth with uninvolved parents were more likely to engage in illegal narcotic sales than were children of authoritative or controlling parents. The information provided on the following page through Table 11 shows that 17.75% of the youth with uninvolved single-parents selfreported their own involvement in drug sales while just 4.96% of the youth in authoritative households reported selling drugs. This table is significant in that it shows that adolescents with uninvolved, lenient parents were more than three times as likely to sell drugs as the respondent youth who claim to have authoritative or controlling parents.


Table 11 Parenting Style and Drug Sales Controlling for Single-Parent PARENTING STYLE YOUTH EVER SELL DRUGS? NO UNINVOLVED 417 9.91 82.25 10.82 1293 30.73 91.83 33.54 556 13.22 89.68 14.42 1589 37.77 95.04 41.22 3855 91.63 YES 90 2.14 17.75 25.57 115 2.73 8.17 32.67 64 1.52 10.32 18.18 83 1.97 4.96 23.58 352 8.37 507 12.05 Total


1408 33.47


620 14.74


1672 39.74


4207 100.00

High Conflict Environment Amato (1993) identified interparental conflict as one of the leading causes for developmental distress among youth from households experiencing marital dissolution. High conflict environments, both pre- and post-divorce, have been shown to add to adolescent maladjustment leading to increased delinquent behaviors. Household conflict


was the next variable examined in relation to the youth respondents tendency to commit activities such as theft, property damage, or illegal drug sales. Table 12 Conflict and Theft Controlling for Single-Parent VICTIM OF VIOLENCE IN HOME YOUTH EVER STEAL ANYTHING >$50? NO NO 3330 83.10 90.86 91.96 291 7.26 85.09 8.04 3621 90.37 Frequency Missing = 582 YES 335 8.36 9.14 86.79 51 1.27 14.91 13.21 386 9.63 3665 91.46 Total


342 8.54


4007 100.00

The findings presented in Table 12 support the results of the material produced in the previous tables illustrated throughout this paper. After controlling for singleparenting, 14.9% of the youth who reported experiencing violence in the home also reported stealing an item worth more than $50. This is juxtaposed to the 9.14% of youth who did not experience violence in the home but also admitted to committing a theft. In similar fashion 36.26% of youth experiencing violence in the home reported committing property damage crimes. Table 13 records the findings of crossing the variable of household conflict with the variable identifying the youths tendency to 69

purposely destroy property. After controlling for single-parenting, these variables confirmed the perspective that claims high-conflict households lead to delinquent behaviors (Amato, 1993; Kelly & Emery, 2003; Price & Kunz, 2003). Table 13 Conflict and Property Damage Controlling for Single-Parent VICTIM OF VIOLENCE IN HOME PURPOSELY DESTROY PROPERTY NO NO 2582 64.47 70.49 92.21 218 5.44 63.74 7.79 2800 69.91 Frequency Missing = 584 The sale of drugs by youth raised in a single-parent household following a divorce is more than twice as likely when these youth also experience violence in the household. Table 14 presented the data revealing that 16.37% of the single-parented children who also suffered from household violence participated in the sale of illegal drugs as compared to just 7.75% of the children who did not experience household violence. The information incorporated in Table 14 supports the findings that included household conflict as a variable contributing to the increased likelihood of delinquent manifestations among the children of divorced parents. Criminal activity such as theft, property damage, 70 YES 1081 26.99 29.51 89.71 124 3.10 36.26 10.29 1205 30.09 3663 91.46 Total


342 8.54


4005 100.00

and drug sales have been identified by the author as outward expressions of the youths maladjusted development. Table 14 Conflict and Drug Sales Controlling for Single-Parent VICTIM OF VIOLENCE IN HOME YOUTH EVER SELL DRUGS? NO NO 3380 84.37 92.25 92.20 286 7.14 83.63 7.80 3666 91.51 Frequency Missing = 583 YES 284 7.09 7.75 83.53 56 1.40 16.37 16.47 340 8.49 3664 91.46 Total


342 8.54


4006 100.00

Financial Hardship and Life Stress According to previous research (Amato, 1993; Kelly & Emery, 2003; Price & Kunz, 2003) the negative life stresses of economic hardship following a divorce have often resulted in a reduction of the psychological well-being of children. As the information included in Table 15 reveals, the data extracted from the NLSY97 supports the economic hardship perspective. After controlling for the single-parent, Table 14 illustrates the comparison between the variable of theft and the variable indicating the employment status of the household parent over the last five years. 71

Table 15 Unemployment and Theft Controlling for Single-Parent PARENT UNEMPLOYED MORE THAN 6 MOS. IN LAST 5 YRS YOUTH EVER STEAL ANYTHING >$50? NO NO 3088 77.14 90.72 85.35 530 13.24 88.48 14.65 3618 90.38 Frequency Missing = 586 The information provided in the above table discloses that 11.52% of the youth surveyed who admitted to committing a theft also reported that the residential parent was unemployed for a period lasting more than six months within the last five years. Of the remaining children, whose parents never experienced a break in employment, only 9.28% reported committing a theft. Unemployment, however, appeared to have less of an effect on the execution of property damage crimes. Information summarized in Table 16 divulged that the children whose parents suffered a break in employment did show an increased propensity for committing this delinquent act. 32.89% of all respondent youth, whose single residential parent spent a period of more than six months in the last 5 years unemployed, admitted to purposely damaging property. 72 YES 316 7.89 9.28 82.08 69 1.72 11.52 17.92 385 9.62 3404 85.04 Total


599 14.96


4003 100.00

Table 16 Unemployment and Property Damage Controlling for Single-Parent PARENT UNEMPLOYED MORE THAN 6 MOS. IN LAST 5 YRS PURPOSELY DESTROY PROPERTY NO NO 2398 59.94 70.49 85.64 402 10.05 67.11 14.36 2800 69.98 Frequency Missing = 588 After controlling for single-parenting, Table 16 presented data revealing that 29.51% of youth whose parents never experienced unemployment committed a property damage crime. Although 29.51% seems to be significant, the youth with parents who did undergo a period of unemployment were 3.38% more likely to commit similar acts of delinquency. The next table illustrated the comparison frequency of youth drug sales with the variable of parental unemployment, after controlling for single-parents. In concurrence with the previous tables, Table 17 included data showing that unemployment has had an effect on the propensity of delinquent behavior among the youth surveyed. YES 1004 25.09 29.51 83.60 197 4.92 32.89 16.40 1201 30.02 3402 85.03 Total


599 14.97


4001 100.00


Table 17 Unemployment and Drug Sales Controlling for Single-Parent PARENT UNEMPLOYED MORE THAN 6 MOS. IN LAST 5 YRS YOUTH EVER SELL DRUGS? NO NO 3124 78.06 91.80 85.29 539 13.47 89.98 14.71 3663 91.53 YES 279 6.97 8.20 82.30 60 1.50 10.02 17.70 339 8.47 3403 85.03 Total


599 14.97


4002 100.00

The information contained within Table 17 revealed that 10.02% of the respondent youth, whose single-parent experienced a job loss lasting longer than six months within the last five years, chose to sell illegal narcotics. The findings also revealed that children whose parents never suffered from unemployment were 1.82% less likely to sell drugs than children whose parents did endure a period of unemployment. The findings included in Table 17 disclosed that the loss of economic resources as well as the stressors of divorce and unemployment tends to increase the likelihood of developmental distress for the adolescent. Repeated Divorce Kelley and Emery (2003) explained that the repetitive repartnering and remarriage of an adolescent youths parents was a primary aspect or perspective of divorce that 74

directly contributes to the development of criminally delinquent behaviors among adolescents. These repeated relationships and multiple divorces have been found to impede an adolescents proper mental, emotional, and social adjustment following a parental separation or divorce. Table 18 contains figures revealing that the comparative frequency of thefts among youth experiencing the first time divorce of the biological parents and the secondary divorce of a parent. Of the adolescent youth who reported a parents secondary divorce, 9.09% revealed that they had stolen, on at least one occasion, an item valued more than $50. In comparison with the 8.04% of respondent youth experiencing the first-time divorce of their biological parents, the adolescent children experiencing multiple or repetitive divorces were 1.05% more likely to steal. Table 18 Divorce and Theft WHO GOT DIVORCED? YOUTH EVER STEAL ANYTHING >$50? NO MY PARENT AND OTHER 220 35.77 90.91 39.08 343 55.77 91.96 60.92 563 91.54 Frequency Missing = 8369 YES 22 3.58 9.09 42.31 30 4.88 8.04 57.69 52 8.46 242 39.35 Total


373 60.65


615 100.00


Multiple divorces have also been shown to have an effect on youth in relation to property damage crimes. Table 19 displays the results of comparing the propensity of adolescent youth to purposely destroy property following the initial divorce or secondary divorce of a parent. According to the information provided in Table 19, 32.64% of the youth who reported experiencing multiple divorces also reported committing a property damage crime as compared to 31.1% of the respondent youth who reported the first divorce of their parents. This findings presented in this table appears to support Kelly and Emerys (2003) perspective that remarriage and repartnering has a negative effect on adolescent youth leading to the development of anti-social mannerisms such as purposely destroying the property of another. The crime of property damage, as revealed in Table 19, proved to be more common among the youth of divorce than theft or drug sales. Table 19 Divorce and Property Damage WHO GOT DIVORCED? PURPOSELY DESTROY PROPERTY NO MY PARENT AND OTHER 163 26.50 67.36 38.81 257 41.79 68.90 61.19 420 68.29 Frequency Missing = 8369 76 YES 79 12.85 32.64 40.51 116 18.86 31.10 59.49 195 31.71 242 39.35 Total


373 60.65


615 100.00

Table 20 is a comparison frequency chart presenting the association between illegal drug sales and the initial or secondary divorce of the respondent youths parent. In contrast to the information presented in the previous two tables, the secondary divorces did not appear to increase the likelihood of delinquent behavior over the initial divorce. 8.85 % of the youth who reported experiencing the initial divorce of their biological parents admitted to participating in the sale of illegal drugs. Although 7.44% of the youth from parents with repeated divorces reported selling narcotics, this is 1.41% less often than adolescents from single divorce households. Table 20 Divorce and Drug Sales WHO GOT DIVORCED? YOUTH EVER SELL DRUGS? NO MY PARENT AND OTHER 224 36.42 92.56 39.72 340 55.28 91.15 60.28 564 91.71 Frequency Missing = 8369 YES 18 2.93 7.44 35.29 33 5.37 8.85 64.71 51 8.29 242 39.35 Total


373 60.65


615 100.00


Conclusions In order to determine an appropriate conclusion based on the findings of this study, the researcher had to rely solely upon the secondary data obtained from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth 1997, NLSY97 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2009). Many limitations to the methodology were identified and listed by the author earlier in this paper, however as the study continued the author encountered additional obstacles to the research. The most significant methodological obstacle was the lack of congruent variables within the NLSY97 survey. The variables listed within the survey did not translate aptly to test the six perspectives of divorce completely. The researcher did, however, extract a sufficient amount of information to enable the development of conclusions concerning the effects of divorce on adolescent delinquency and criminal behavior. Figure 1 illustrates the researchers application of the NLSY97s individual variables to the six aspects of divorce identified throughout this paper.
Parental Loss Lives with Both Parents Parenting Style Parental Adjustment Interparental Conflict Conflict Economic Hardship Unemployment Parental Life Stress Divorce Remarriage and Repartnering Drug Sales Delinquency Property Damage Theft

Figure 1. Application of NLSY97 Variables to Study 78

In an effort to determine which aspect of divorce was most likely associated with an increase in criminally delinquent behavior among adolescent children under the age of eighteen, the researcher created a comparison chart measuring each individual variable identified in the comparative frequency tables presented above. First impressions of the data displayed in Figure 2 demonstrates that the most indicative aspect of divorce leading to delinquent behavior is the parenting style of the divorced parents. Parenting styles are correlated directly with Amatos (1993) and Kelly and Emerys (2003) Parental Adjustment Perspective leading to an initial conclusion that parental adjustment following a divorce was the primary aspect in manifesting delinquency. The information illustrated in Figure 2 exposes a parents uninvolved approach to parenting as a primary contributor of increased delinquent behaviors among children. After viewing the chart more closely, however, the differences between the five variables examined are very slight and each appears to contribute significantly to an increase in criminally delinquent behavior. Although parental adjustment may prove to be the principal aspect or perspective of divorce leading to the maladjustment of adolescents, the information presented in Figure 2 shows that there is support for all characteristics of divorce.
45 40 35 30 25 20 15 10 5 0 Parental Loss Parenting Styles High Conflict Households Financial Harship and Life Stress Repeated Divorce

Theft Property Damage Drug Sales

Figure 2. Comparison Chart: Delinquency Behaviors and Divorce Aspects 79

Based on the findings of this study, the researcher has determined that no single perspective on the aspects of divorce can fully explain the increase of delinquency among adolescents. However, the researcher did conclude that certain groupings of these perspectives may prove to have a major effect upon children from divorce. Figure 3 shows the authors view, based on this research and the work of other scholars such as Amato (1993) and Kelly and Emery (2003), of how divorce effects the development of adolescent youth. The researcher explains that the six leading aspects of divorce should be divided into two major categories or groupings labeled Absence of Resources and Behavioral Stressors. The Absence of Resources grouping would include the divorce aspects identified as Financial Hardship and Loss of Biological Parent exclusively. The Behavioral Stressors grouping consists of the aspects labeled as High Conflict Households and Parental Development exclusively. The final two perspectives, Repetitive Partners and Divorce along with Environmental Stress, would be shared by both groupings. By considering each of these individual perspectives as part of a greater whole the researcher believes a more practical explanation for increased delinquency could be determined. The overwhelming presence of an entire grouping, such as the Absence of Resources, as opposed to the presence of just one individual aspect of divorce could provide a better explanation for the lack of childhood well-being. In contrast, the absence of one complete grouping may provide an environment conducive for the healthy upbringing of children from divorced households.


Absence of Resources
Financial Hardship Loss of Biological Parent


Repetitive Partners and Divorce Environmental Stress


High Conflict Households Parental Development

Behavioral Stressors

Figure 3. Myers Developmental Distress Model (MDDM) The Myers Developmental Distress Model (MDDM) can also be expressed in the formula a (b) = d2, where a represents Absence of Resources, b represents Behavioral Stressors, and d2 represents Developmental Distress. Prior to utilizing this formula, one must determine whether there is a high probability that either behavioral stressors exist or there is an absence of resources. A high probability of conditions would be represented by the value of one (1). Zero (0) would then represent a low probability. If a is zero and b is one, then d2 is zero [0 (1) = 0] indicating that there is a low probability of developmental distress leading to delinquency among the youth. However if both a and b have a value of one then d2 has a value of one [1 (1) = 1] demonstrating a high probability of developmental distress among the children. Increased developmental distress would lead to an adolescent youths increased probability of exhibiting criminally delinquent behavior. The researcher of this study believes that future studies on divorce and delinquency could build upon the Myers Developmental Distress Model (MDDM). 81

Implications and Recommendations Although the results of this study failed to provide the appropriate amount of support necessary to achieve the desired outcome of identifying the specific aspect or aspects of divorce that most directly leads to delinquency among the youth of non-intact families, the researcher felt that the study may still provide a noteworthy contribution to society and the social sciences. First, this paper supports previous research by identifying divorce as a primary contributing factor to delinquency among adolescent youth. Second, the researcher also believes that this study confirmed that the children of divorce are significantly more likely to demonstrate delinquent behavior than their traditional counterparts. Finally, the researcher provides recommendations to neuter the effects of divorce on children in the hope that the criminal behavior displayed by these children would be greatly reduced. The researchers four recommendations are increasing economic security, promoting family and child counseling, increasing parental involvement in the childs life, and attempting to reduce the rate of separations or divorces. Recommendations for researchers and future studies conclude this paper; however the author of this study fervently believes that the Developmental Distress Model should be accepted as the foundation of further research on the effects of divorce on adolescent youth. Economic Security This study, along with previous research (Amato, 1993; Kelly & Emery, 2003; Price & Kunz, 2003) pointed to family economic distress as a contributing factor to childhood delinquency. Reduced family revenue often meant that the single-parent would have to work multiple jobs, leaving little supervision for the child at home. On the other hand, the parent may forego future earning opportunities to stay home and provide the 82

supervision and care necessary to raise a child appropriately. These single-parents often turn to public assistance just to survive on the bare minimum of means. In either case the child suffers from reduced parental support or reduced economic resources. The goal of society should be to assist these single-parents in becoming economically self-supportive. An example would be a publicly funded welfare-to-work program. Although there would be some expense to the government and taxpayers upfront, these costs would be an investment. The lack of adequate benefits and pay available to the economically depressed and often undereducated single-parent has become a major hindrance to employment. A welfare-to-work program may provide job training allowing the parent to find higher quality, higher paying employment than they would be able to find without professional training. The single-parent would then be able to survive, with increased resources to the family, on just one job allowing for more supervision of the household children. The governmental cost of a welfare-to-work program could ultimately be recouped through the parents increase in taxable wages, the long-term decrease in government benefits, and the reduced strain on the criminal justice system. The higher standard of living experienced from economic security, absent of welfare, may also increase the psychological well-being of both the parent and the children ultimately leading to reduced incidences of delinquent behavior. One of the most destructive side effects of divorce and single-parenthood is the lack of sufficient child support payments. According to the U.S. Bureau of Census (1987) on average more than one-third of all divorced mothers have never been awarded child support and, for more than a quarter of a century, 25% of all single-parents receive no child support annually. Even though child support generally amounts to just a small amount of income to the custodial parent a side benefit of increased payments is often 83

increased contact with the noncustodial parent. Increased parental involvement along with increased economic security will prove to have a dramatic effect on the childs health, psychological adjustment, behavior, and academic achievement. Family and Child Counseling The psychological well-being of all family members following a divorce, whether high-conflict or not, must be taken into consideration in any attempt at delinquent behavior intervention. For decades researchers, such as Wallerstein and Kelly (1980), have promoted psychological intervention and counseling for the children following the dissolution of their parents marriage. Even though just a few of these children suffer from maladjustment leading to increased anxiety, increased stress, and externalized behaviors; a concentration on therapeutic intervention will generally decrease the effect and scope that the family dissolution has on a child. Often divorced parents suffer a period of maladjustment following a divorce leading to isolation from the children. Hetherington (1999) explained that parents may suffer from increased anger, depression, and self-doubt. These feelings, experienced by the parents, often lead to an emotional separation from the children and reduce the parents ability to supervise and care for the children appropriately. In order to mitigate the effects of maladjustment following a divorce all family members can attend counseling individually or as a group. Individual counseling for children is designed to alleviate the stresses of divorce by allowing the children to express their feelings and concerns, manage their anger, and develop much needed problem-solving skills. Small groups offer another option for grieving children. Counseling in a small group offers an advantage to the children because they have the opportunity to share their experiences as well as recognize the fact that they are not the only children going through a family break-up. The most beneficial 84

aspect of small group therapy may be that children often feel more comfortable talking with their peers than an authority figure concerning their feelings. Counseling for the divorcing parents should be designed to assist in developing communication and parenting skills in reference to their children. An additional focus of family or parent counseling should be placed on the reduction of conflict within the home. Each of these three deficiencies; communication, parenting, and conflict, have been identified by Amato (1993) and Kelly and Emery (2003) as leading factors leading to delinquent behavior among the children of divorce. Any effort to improve the parents approach in these three areas will assist in developing a positive and secure psychological well-being among the adolescent child. Increased Parental Involvement Scholars such as Price and Kunz (2003), Kelly and Emery (2003), and Amato (1993) have all agreed that one of the chief negative aspects of divorce is the denigration of the parent-child relationship. Due to the mounting evidence provided by these researchers and other child developmentalists, custody arrangements across the nation have begun to shift away from the traditional view that designated the mother as the primary custodial parent with father visitation rights to a more amiable and equal form of joint physical custody. The emphasis is placed upon recognizing the importance of maintaining secure relationships with both parents (Maccoby & Mnookin, 1992). Joint physical custody provides both parents legal responsibilities and rights giving the children increased significant time with each parent juxtaposed with the more traditional joint legal custody that also gives both parents legal rights over the children but the children reside with just one of the parents.


According to Bowman and Ahrons (1985) increased arrangements involving joint physical custody has had a dramatic effect on the father-child relationship. Bowman and Ahrons claimed that joint physical custody has been shown to increase payments of child support as well as, and more importantly, intensify father contact and involvement. Following the divorce, parents who have been awarded joint physical custody have appeared to be more satisfied than parents with more traditional arrangements mainly due to the benefit of having frequent access to the children. In addition, studies have shown that the children involved in these joint custody arrangements are significantly better adjusted than children from conventional agreements (Shrier, Simring, Shapiro, & Greif, 1991). More equitable custody arrangements would appear to be essential in order to assist in reducing the development of anti-social or delinquent behaviors among children raised in single-parent households. Reduce Rate of Separation or Divorce As stated previously in this paper the number of divorces in America has increased from a rate of just 5% in the beginning of the 20th century to a current rate of nearly 50% (Cherlin, 1992). Glendon (1989) explained that the rising divorce phenomenon can be traced back to and correlated with the establishment of the no-fault divorce in the 1970s. The no-fault divorce allows for one marriage partner to petition for divorce whether the other partner desires a divorce or not. In addition the no-fault divorce allows for a permanent separation without cause on either partners behalf. Glendon argued that divorce rates increased once restrictions were eased allowing for more accessible and convenient divorces. This rise in divorce rates, however, does not necessarily signify a rise in overall separations. According to Glendon, Sweet, and Bumpass (1990), during periods of more restrictive divorce laws, marriage abandonments 86

and informal separations were much more common specifically among families of low economic status. This accentuated two problems for adolescents whose parents were not allowed to legally separate. First, these children were often forced to remain in highconflict households and secondly, an increased amount of children were raised in singleparent households with no child-support payments and little to no contact with the absent parent. Each of these conditions has been shown to effect adolescent development negatively (Amato, 1993). The goal should be to reduce the amount of marital separations as a whole, without being singularly focused on divorce rates. Concurrently, there should be a concentration on increasing marital security, stability, and happiness. Governmental bodies can implement policies to strengthen the institution of marriage as easily as laws were passed easing restrictions on divorce. One powerful tool that the government can utilize is the current tax code. Tax credits and benefits should be designed to encourage the institution of marriage and strengthen the financial benefits of remaining married as well as the caring for children. In addition to providing tax benefits, Furstenberg and Cherlin (1991) have suggested the development and implementation of programs that prepare couples for the hardships of marriage. Furstenberg and Cherlin suggested that these marriage preparation programs, whether sponsored by the government, church, or other social organizations, should concentrate on counseling couples and enriching the marriage experience. Marriage enrichment and preparation programs as well as government encouragement through tax laws and social policies could have a dramatic long term effect on the institution of marriage. Through the reduction of marital divorce or separation society will experience an increased population of psychologically welldeveloped adolescent youth. 87

Future Research Even though a great deal of research exists concerning the effects of divorce on children, a great deal of knowledge still needs to be explored. Each of the earlier listed aspects, theories, or perspectives of divorce provided by Amato (1993), Kelly and Emery (2003), and Price and Kunz (2003) should be examined individually as a distinct study. Further examination of each perspective will greatly enhance and broaden the understanding of marital dissolution and parent-child relationships. This study did not break out distinctions based on race or gender. Future research can further this study by splitting variables based upon these biographical characteristics. Information on how divorce affects children from different gender or racial categories would be edifying from a criminal justice, sociological, and even clinical point of view. Finally future research should be conducted considering the effects of divorce and the development of criminally violent behaviors such as battery, sexual-battery, or homicide. It is essential that society begins to concentrate on developing systems that will assist in reducing separation in the social and psychological development between adolescent children raised in the less traditional single-parent household following a divorce and the children from the more traditional intact two-parent home. It should be noted, however, that many single-parent households function competently. In addition the great majority of children raised in these homes grow to be perfectly stable and productive members of society. Care should be taken not to broadly blame single-parents as the cause of societys ills and for the problems of adolescent youth. On the other hand, divorce is a reality in American life and the great majority of these divorces involve families with developing children. Because children will continue to suffer the effects of


divorce it is incumbent that measures are taken to intervene, alleviate, and ease their transition into adulthood.


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