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Common Contributing Social Risk Factors of Juvenile Delinquency:

Evidence for Social Control Theory.

A Dissertation

Presented to

The Faculty of the Department of Justice Studies

College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology

Prairie View A&M University

Prairie View, Texas

In Fulfillment of the

Requirements for the Degree of

Doctor of Philosophy

Juvenile Justice

B. Dean Lanham

July 7, 2010
JULY, 2010


The undersigned on this date examined B. Dean Lanham for the awarding of the doctoral
degree and hereby certify that the dissertation was inspected by each of us and was


__________________________________________ (Chair)
Solomon Osho, Ph.D.
College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology

Jon Sorensen, Ph.D.
College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology

Harry Adams, Ph.D.
College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology

William Kritsonis, Ph.D.
Program in Education Leadership


James A. Wilson, Jr., Ph.D.
Acting Dean, Graduate School


Lanham, B. Dean, Common Contributing Social Risk Factors of Juvenile Delinquency:

Evidence for Social Control Theory, College of Juvenile Justice and Psychology, Doctor
of Philosophy (Juvenile Justice), 2010, Prairie View A&M University, Prairie View,

The problem of central concern in the current study was to identify ways to

prevent and/or reduce juvenile delinquency at earlier stages than are the norm today. As

is apparent from the literature, a crucial stage appears to be pre-adolescence (Moffitt,

1993) along with the influence during that time of juvenile associations (Sutherland,

1947, Burgess & Akers, 1969) and parental supervision (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990;

Hirschi, 1969; Nye, 1958; Reckless, 1967; Reiss, 1951; and Sykes & Matza, 1957). The

current study was undertaken in order to provide a better understanding of the social risk

factors and informal social controls at work in juveniles’ associations with their families

and peers in the United States today.

Society has codified its laws as a way of controlling behavior. As families and

friends follow cultural norms and beliefs in their day-to-day lives, these become ways to

informally control behavior, and are referred to as informal social controls. These

controls may be activated through informal measures of social conduct such as parents

admonishing children for committing an act that goes against the parents’ norms and

beliefs. It is hypothesized that certain social risk factors weaken these informal social

controls and predict juvenile delinquency.

A dataset was obtained from the Internet-based National Longitudinal Survey of

Youth (NLSY). The total dataset included a cohort of 8,984 non-institutionalized youths

from across the United States who had reached age 12 to 17 by December 31, 1996.


Demographics in the base year of 1997 included an oversampling of Hispanic (1,901) and

non-Hispanic Blacks (2,335), while there were 4,665 whites and 83 of mixed race. An

attempt was made to group youths by location; however, the only variables available

were urban (6,574), rural (2,030), and unknown (380). The variables were re-coded for

ease of analysis. In order to analyze the data, bivariate, multivariate, and regression

analyses were performed.

The results indicated that when juveniles were associated with gang peers the

probability of delinquency increased 32%. Even more pronounced results were seen

among juveniles with siblings in gangs; their chance of delinquency increased 119%

more than juveniles without gang siblings. The probability of delinquency increased 37%

after the age of 14. The stricter a mother or father’s parenting style, the lower a juvenile’s

propensity for delinquency. Strict mothers appeared to decrease juvenile delinquency by

64%, while strict fathers decreased it by 34%. Living with both parents decreased

juvenile delinquency by 41%. Living with only the biological mother or only the

biological father was found to be less significant in the analysis. It must be emphasized:

living with both parents was significantly different than living with one or the other

biological parent. One of the positive findings that emerged from the study was that when

living with both biological parents, a juvenile’s odds of arrest decreased significantly.

Similar results were found among juveniles living with only the biological mother. The

assumption prior to the NLSY study was that a fathers’ absence meant less restriction on

the juvenile or that the fathers’ strict parenting style was eliminated, thus increasing


I would like to dedicate this work to my wife Jill, and to my children Clint and Sarah, for

their patience and understanding. I offer them each my sincere apology for missing out

on events and functions while pursuing this doctoral degree. I dedicate it also to my

mother Betty for all that she did in raising three sons practically on her own. Without her

influence, I may have traveled a deviant path and never pursued a life in law enforcement

and higher education.


I would like to show my appreciation to my dissertation chair, Dr. Solomon Osho,

and committee members Dr. Harry Adams, Dr. Jon Sorensen, and Dr. William Kritsonis

for their unique understanding and diligence in my work. Dr. Adams brought a unique

perspective to this dissertation. His philosophical approach helped narrow the focus of

my work. He allowed me to test ideas as we debated the different perspectives that have

become central to this dissertation. Dr. Osho and Dr. Sorensen have been mentors and

confidants during my years at Prairie View A&M University. As a professor and friend,

Dr. Osho has been there in times of need. Dr. Sorensen, with his vast experience, has

provided very critical analysis of my work, which has assisted me in my research and my

pursuit of a Ph.D. in Juvenile Justice. Dr. Kritsonis’ attention to detail has been more than


A special thanks to all of my professors, who have endured my practitioner

demeanor and devil’s advocate nature. It was important to my development and academic

discipline to be able to bounce ideas off of my colleagues and professors. The ability to

debate ideas during my time at Prairie View A&M University will allow me to sharpen

my skills in future endeavors.

Special recognition is given to Dr. Kaplan of Texas A&M University for his

responsiveness and understanding. He has allowed me to discuss ideas and has listened as

I developed them. A special thanks to Dr. Wesley Johnson and Dr. Richard Ward,

formerly of Sam Houston State University, who encouraged me to pursue a doctoral

degree during my Masters program. Special thanks are also given to Tiffany Hill and

Milena Halterman, supervisory special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation


Behavioral Science Unit, for their interest and encouragement in my research. It also is

important for me to mention faculty members of the University of Louisiana at Monroe

who believed in my ability: Dr. Robert Hanser, Dr. Attapol Kuanliang, Mr. Alton

Braddock, and Dr. Jeffrey Cass.

Table of Contents


ABSTRACT …………………………………………………………..... iii

DEDICATION …………………………………………………………. v

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS …………………………………………… vi

TABLE OF CONTENTS ……………………………………………… viii

LIST OF TABLES…………... ………………………………………... xii



Problem Statement………………………………………………….. 2

Research Question 1………………………………………………… 8

Research Question 2………………………………………………… 9

Research Question 3………………………………………………… 10

Research Question 4………………………………………………… 11

Social Control Process ……………………………………………… 11

Literature on Social Control ………………………………………. 14

Research Purpose …………………………………………………... 16

Organization of Study……………………………………………… 18


Theoretical Basics of Control Theory...…………………………… 22

Formal vs. Informal Control………………………………. 28



Informal Social Control………………………………………. 29

Use of Correlates ……………………………………………………. 36

Age……………………………………………………………... 37

Gender…………………………………………………………. 40

Race……………………………………………………………. 42

Parenting Style………………………………………………... 44

Living Arrangement………………………………………….. 48

Siblings………………………………………………………… 49

Peers…………………………………………………………… 50

Conclusion ………………………………………………………….. 51


Data Source ……...……………………….…………………………. 53

Units of Measurement ...……………………………………………. 54

Outcome Variable………………….......................................... 55

Predictor Variable……………………………………………. 55

Description of Sample ……………………………………………… 56

Recoding …………………………………………………………….. 57

Bivariate Analysis ……………………………….…………….……. 59

Multivariate Analysis …………………………….………………… 60

Limitations …………………………………….………………….… 65

Conclusion …...……………………………………………………….. 67


Frequency and Crosstabs Analysis………………………………….. 69

Juvenile Participants……………………………………………... 70

Parents…………………………………………………………….. 72

Siblings…………………………………………………………….. 74

Peers……………………………………………………………….. 76

Age…………………………………………………………………. 78

Race/Ethnicity…………………………………………………….. 79

Gender…………………………………………………………….. 79

Bivariate Analysis…………………………………………………….. 82

Regression Analysis…………………………………………………... 85

Backward Stepwise Regression Model………………………………. 87

Conclusion…………………………………………………………….. 90


Research Questions…………………………………………………… 94

Discussion……………………………………………………………... 95

Parenting Style……………………………………………………. 95

Living Arrangements…………………………………………….. 98

Gang Siblings……………………………………………………… 99

Gang Peers………………………………………………………… 100

Recommendations…………………………………………………….. 100


Developmental Approach to Parent Training………………….. 102

Parenting Programs……………………………………………… 104

Limitations…………………………………………………………….. 109

Future Research………………………………………………………. 109

Conclusion…………………………………………………………….. 111

References…………………………………………………………………….. 113

Internal Review Board Approval…………………………………………… 133

Vita……………………………………………………………………………. 134

List of Tables Page

Table 1 NLSY 97 Variables Used (N = 8,984)………………………………… 57

Table 2 Frequencies for NLSY97 Data Sample Set…………………………… 70

Table 3 Crosstabs of Delinquency for NLSY97 Variables (N=8,984)………… 81

Table 4 Correlations Matrix of Delinquency for NLSY97 (N=8,984)………… 84

Table 5 Variables in the Equation for the Regression in Step 3 (N=8,984)…… 87

Chapter I

Juvenile delinquency is not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination, nor

are most of the prevailing methods of intervening on behalf of juvenile delinquents. The

problem is finding a way to prevent and/or reduce juvenile delinquency at earlier stages.

The present study seeks to identify some of the factors that lead to delinquency from an

informal social control perspective.

For the purpose of the current study, “informal” is defined as the personal

relationships used to control behavior amongst family and friends. There are no official

records of delinquent behavior or delinquency prevention in these types of relationships,

but secondary data found in surveys of the juvenile population can be used in studies of

juvenile delinquency. “Social” is defined as relationships with family and friends.

“Control” under the current study means the rules governing behavior or the standards

that restrain delinquent behavior. Taken together, “informal social control” means

unofficial measures that regulate behavior.

One of the first recorded efforts to reduce juvenile delinquency in the United

States was in 1899, in Cook County, Illinois. Cook County established one of the first

juvenile courts in the United States to promote the best interests of juvenile delinquents,

who were without informal social controls. Garland (2001) depicts the state of affairs

during this time as a welfare state in which authorities supported certain standards and

social norms. At the time, juveniles from lower- and working-class families had very

little supervision, played in the streets, and formed social groups that the middle class

termed gangs. To middle-class arbiters, the informal social control mechanisms during

that period of industrialization and migration were not working well.


The present state of society, although different in technological and industrial

terms, is not very different. The current criminal justice and juvenile justice systems are

predicated on formal social control, which seeks to control crime and delinquency

through incarceration as a last resort. Staples (1987) cited Black’s (1976) The Behavior of

Law and defined law as “governmental social control.” He stated that laws were

dependent on non-legal (informal) social control, and that juveniles were subjected to less

law than adults due to the fact that they were subjected to more informal social control

(Black, 1976). In other words, the family and its methods of informal social control

should be enough to control or monitor juveniles, ideally leaving less need for the

juvenile and criminal justice systems to control them.

Problem Statement

Juvenile delinquency is a problem in the United States and elsewhere on many

fronts; preventing and reducing it are pressing issues among academics, law enforcement

personnel, and other practitioners.

There appears to be a cyclical effect in the nature of delinquency. Some parents of

deviant juveniles were once deviant themselves. Parents who grew up disadvantaged and

remain in disadvantaged neighborhoods may acquire differential attitudes toward the

establishment and those in power. Since parents tend to pass on their attitudes to their

children, this can continue generation to generation unless a life-changing event occurs

within the family. A large proportion of deviant individuals seem to come from inner

cities and socio-economically disadvantaged societal strata in which gang membership

thrives. Part of the problem in these areas is the ineffectiveness of informal social control.

Although research on social control has been covered throughout the literature,

specific measures of informal social control have not been covered well enough. This is

the heart of the problem addressed in the current study. Most of the literature and

research on the problem of juvenile delinquency discusses, analyzes, and makes

recommendations about how to solve the problem. However, much of this work has

severe limitations, such as limited use of the research. Studies either are limited by the

generalizations of their research results or by research conducted in too general a way to

be useful in preventing specific types of juvenile delinquency.

Generalization of the research means that it can be applied to all settings. For

instance, when studying informal social control, the research must analyze the specific

family and peers relationships that come into direct contact with the juvenile delinquent.

Indirect relationships also may influence those in direct contact with the juvenile or the

values and beliefs within the juvenile’s social network, but those in direct contact have

the most influence, and thus are the basis of the current study.

Much of the existing research into juvenile delinquency utilizes too many

variables in its analysis, which tends to confuse the issues of how or why juvenile

delinquency begins or manifests itself. The present research is intended to narrow the

focus on the primary variables of informal social control. The key is to determine which

factors of informal social control are key contributors to or preventive of juvenile


The present study focuses only on the direct relationships of informal social

control that affect juvenile delinquency; namely parents and parenting styles, siblings,

and peer gang membership as contributing factors. The research covers those factors or

variables directly related to or influences on informal social control and the outcome

variable delinquency. Difficulty in determining which variables to use stemmed from the

extremely dynamic environment in which delinquency occurs.

Starting at the beginning was a requirement, and it meant, literally, starting at the

beginning of a juvenile’s life and examining the factors related to his or her upbringing.

Then and only then could the research move to the next step and analyze other variables

related to juvenile delinquency. Thus the key factors of informal social control could be

included in that next step: the analysis of juvenile delinquency. In the present study,

delinquency is used to indicate the failure of informal social control, as differentiated

from formal social control. Arrests represent the beginning of formal social control and

the end of an opportunity for informal social control.

The study of juvenile delinquency must be narrow enough to bring focus to the

issue and the analysis of it. The current study achieved focus through concentration on

variables directly related to juveniles’ social development. The family was analyzed as

the first and foremost agent of informal social control. The family sets the proverbial

table of informal social control. If parents fail to set the proper standards of conduct for a

juvenile early in life, the outcome is uncertain in even the best-case scenario. Other

factors within the family relationship being analyzed include parenting styles and gang

affiliation, as these factors relate to family involvement, norms, and beliefs.

Peer associations and activities also are analyzed. Peers are another factor in early

life that has a great effect on a juvenile’s behavior pattern. If parents set the table

properly, the juvenile will, most likely though not in every case, choose peers of whom

the parents will approve.


Once each step in the analysis was complete, a final analysis was undertaken to

determine the key factors that lead to juvenile delinquency. Given, again, how dynamic

life is, a more thorough study of juvenile behavior and the factors that lead to

delinquency was warranted. Key types of informal social control were one aspect of this

process of analyzing juvenile behavior. Another part of the process was to analyze

control theory.

Control theory explains why individuals do not commit delinquent acts. In other

words, control theorists see delinquency as a somewhat normal behavior emerging from

unmet wants and needs (Hirschi & Gottfredson, 1983). Their focus is on the control

factors that prevent people from committing criminal or delinquent acts. The present

study seeks to answer this perspective by using measures of informal social control.

Informal social control has a variety of factors, perspectives, and interwoven theoretical

implications that may be applied to the prevention of juvenile delinquency, as detailed in

the next chapter. In fact, numerous theories have used social control theory as their basis.

The present study uses social control as a master theory and informal social control as the

measure to prevent or reduce juvenile delinquency.

There are two main types of social control: informal and formal. Informal social

controls embody the values, beliefs, and customs, often called norms, within one’s

immediate culture or subculture; they include self-control, diligence, morals, religious

practices, and standards of conduct (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990; Hirschi, 1969; Nye,

1958; Reckless, 1967; Reiss, 1951; and Sykes & Matza, 1957). These norms may be

taught and conditioned into a juvenile through negative or positive stimuli from peers or

family members including parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. The various

agents of informal social control are equally important.

The current study is only concerned with informal social control, defined as

family and peer influence that directs juvenile behavior toward positive societal norms

and values. When informal social controls fail to pass on positive norms to a juvenile,

formal social controls usually come into play. The most recognized forms of formal

social control are the legal codes that regulate social behavior. These codes are enforced

by the government through law enforcement agencies, correctional facilities, and

probation and parole departments.

Parent-child relationships are essential forms of informal social control,

specifically as agents for preventing juvenile delinquency. Fishbein (2001) states, “[in a]

poor familial environment, characterized by family dysfunction, neglect or abuse,

inconsistent parenting, or lack of supervision, the socialization process is further

compromised, exponentially increasing risk for an antisocial outcome” (p. 70). Therefore,

the nuclear family should be considered a vital component in fighting crime and

delinquency among our youth. It also can be considered a force that drives juveniles

toward delinquency and/or gangs. Overbearing or overly authoritative parenting may lead

juveniles to seek refuge with other peers of similar circumstances as an escape from the

family environment. Communication and trust in the parent-child relationship are central

themes throughout the literature on informal social control. Butler et al. (2007) state, “the

interaction between family processes (attachment, parent-adolescent communication,

parenting practices, family stability) and highly disadvantaged circumstances appears to


be particularly potent in promoting the development of severely delinquent behavior” (p.


The central impetus of the current study is to determine what factors of informal

social control contribute to juvenile delinquency. These factors, along with other possible

factors, have been tested to determine their effectiveness in preventing or reducing

juvenile delinquency. Other factors, such as the age, race, or gender of the juvenile, can

be utilized as control variables in the study of delinquency and arrest rates.

In order to measure informal social control, survey data was located that

contained questions reflecting measures of delinquency congruent to the different types

of informal social control, namely parenting styles (too strict versus too lenient), family

bonding, living arrangements, and peer associations.

There is no doubt that to a child up to the age of 4 or 5, a key social relationship is

with his or her primary caregiver (in most cases a parent or other family member). Once

the youth begins to separate from the parents, attend school, and explore the world of

playmates and peers, he begins to socialize and take on different roles. These key

relationships were analyzed to determine specific risk factors that may or may not impact

informal social control.

Moreover, how does the parental relationship stack up to the peer relationship in

promoting or preventing juvenile delinquency? Do siblings play a role in breaking

parental social bonds? In other words, which relationship becomes more significant in

creating or preventing a juvenile delinquent? In the current study it was assumed that

among juveniles between the ages of 12 and 17 peer and sibling relationships are more

significant in creating juvenile delinquency than parental relationships. It also was


assumed that once juveniles reach high school age, they are less likely to seek parental

advice in order to attain their own autonomy (Adams, 2008). In turn, the juvenile will

seek acceptance in peers and sibling relationships. This was even more relevant among

peers and siblings who belong to gangs.

Juveniles who live in large communities are sometimes pressured to join gangs.

Other times they may join a gang just because their peers or siblings belong to gangs.

Oftentimes a juvenile joins a gang as an escape from family life or as a place of

acceptance that feels more like a family than his or her own. In these situations, parental

informal social control was less effective than other forces exerted.

The hypothesis in the current study is that social risk factors weaken informal

social control, which can predict juvenile delinquency. In order to test the hypothesis, a

few research questions (RQ) are in order:

RQ1: Are strict or lenient parenting styles a significant factor in preventing

juvenile delinquency?

Parenting styles as stated by Fishbein (2001) may be one of the most important

factors to consider. Each type of style was analyzed. A parent who is lenient or

inattentive may be allowing their children to associate with the ‘wrong crowd,’ that is,

individuals who are likely to lead the child toward poor social/behavioral choices. On the

other hand, parents who are overbearing or authoritative also may push a child to seek the

wrong crowd.

It should be noted that two types of strict parenting are covered in the current

study: authoritarian and authoritative. Authoritarian parenting styles are observed in

parents who are overbearing and demanding, and who expect their orders to be followed

without question. Whether intrusive or not, these parents are pushy and do not allow the

juvenile the opportunity to attain autonomy. Authoritative parenting styles are observed

in parents who assert strict standards of conduct on the juvenile but are less intrusive than

authoritarian parents. The latter type of parent is more likely to allow the juvenile to

attain some type of autonomy.

On the opposite side of the parenting spectrum are lenient parenting styles:

uninvolved versus indulgent. Uninvolved parenting styles are observed in parents who

appear to care little or not at all about what the juvenile is involved in; they neglect their

parenting responsibilities. Indulgent parenting styles are observed in parents who act

more like buddies with the juvenile than parents. These parents are open to the juvenile’s

needs but do not demand a standard of conduct, and are more likely to allow the juvenile

full autonomy.

In order to study these parenting styles it is necessary to combine them into a

dichotomous variable. It is hypothesized that strict parenting leads to juvenile

delinquency more than lenient parenting. The current study reviews both maternal and

paternal parenting styles in order to ascertain which is more likely to produce delinquent


RQ2: How do juvenile living arrangements affect juvenile delinquency?

Does the juvenile live with the mother and father, only the mother, only the

father, or neither the mother or father? Many variables can be tested in this category

alone, and the study specifically examines family members as a social risk factor for

juvenile delinquency. It was assumed that living with both parents was significant in

reducing juvenile delinquency, and that living with just the mother was more significant

than living with just the father. How would this stack up against the parenting styles?

It may be found that single parent households are stricter than dual-parent

households. The opposite may be true as well. Some parents may fear that the juvenile

may turn to delinquency as a way to cope with the absence of one parent, and as a result,

may be lenient and allow the juvenile more freedom. It really depends on the parent-child

relationship. The key was to determine whether or not single-parents contribute to the

risk factors for delinquency. It was also important to determine whether or not both

parents being present actually decrease the risk factors of delinquency.

RQ3: Are siblings who belong to gangs likely to increase the risk for juvenile

delinquency for their sibling(s)?

Adolescents learn most of what they know and do from their parents very early in

life. However, they also learn a large part of their behavior growing up from siblings.

This sibling interaction is vital to adolescents’ behavior and continues to be into young

adulthood. If specific deviant behavior is not corrected early enough, the affected juvenile

may continue the behavior into adulthood.

Juveniles are likely to seek increased acceptance from their siblings as they get

older. If the sibling joins a gang, the pressure for the juvenile to join the same gang can

increase greatly. With more than one sibling in a gang, the pressure increases

exponentially. Even if the juvenile does not join a gang, he might still behave in a deviant

manner. Further, if the juvenile sees that siblings are not being punished for their deviant

behavior, he or she may become more deviant.


Another factor that may lead a juvenile to gang membership and delinquency is

exposure to violence in the home or community. Siblings who are gang members may

actually run the household. Parents who fear their children due to their gang membership

may allow them to do whatever they want, which may lead to violence in the home. In

order for a sibling to escape that violence, they may turn to the same or another gang. The

key is to determine whether or not sibling gang members create a risk factor for other


RQ4: Are gang peers a risk factor likely to increase juvenile delinquency in their


Once adolescents begin to seek acceptance from peers, they are more likely than

not to act out behaviors similar to the peers’. Once they become juveniles, most of their

deviant peers encourage them to act in a manner similar to themselves. For the juvenile to

gain acceptance from these peers, they most likely will mimic the peer’s behavior.

For juveniles who come from dysfunctional families, this may seem to be the only

way to gain acceptance from someone outside the family. Once a relationship is built

with deviant peers, other (more socially positive) peers may object to the relationship and

distance themselves from the deviant association, thereby cementing the deviant

relationship between deviant peers.

Social Control Process

The juvenile justice system was created to deal with the unique nature of youths.

This unique nature includes but is not limited to immaturity due to age, lack of

experience and education, and lesser exposure to or influence by the norms of society.

When informal social control agents (family and friends) fail to impart values, beliefs,

and customs to the juvenile, the formal social control agents (the police and the juvenile

justice system) intervene. These formal social control agents then enforce formal social

controls on the juvenile by way of sanctions codified into law through legislative acts.

Harsh sanctions include but are not limited to citations or incarceration in secured and

non-secured facilities. Less restrictive sanctions include calls to the juvenile’s parents,

verbal warnings, referrals to a social service, and rides to a juvenile facility where a

parent must pick up the juvenile. The ride to a juvenile facility normally is used as a scare

tactic and preventive measure to show a juvenile where he may eventually reside if he

does not change his ways.

Again, informal social control occurs as family and friends influence a juvenile’s

values, beliefs, and customs. Cultural norms within the family normally prevent juveniles

from breaking the rules and laws within their community, city, state, and nation.

However, under certain conditions of strain, such as economic hardship or family

emergencies, the lack of positive informal social controls may allow a juvenile to commit

certain sub-culturally accepted deviant acts that go against the laws of the state. An

example of a sub-culturally accepted norm would be stealing or selling drugs in order to

gain money to contribute to the household economy or to secure food. Another example

would be parent(s) who are former or current gang members pushing the juvenile into the

same gang culture.

In order to better understand juvenile delinquency, it is necessary to define terms

such as cultural norms, sub-culture norms, and deviant subculture norms. Cultural norms

can be understood as the values, beliefs, and customs that the dominant society of the

nation as a whole accepts as normal practices, in obedience to the laws and customs of

the United States, the state, and the city in which a person lives. Sub-culture norms can

be understood as a system of values, beliefs, and customs that are distinctly different

from the larger or dominant society. Subcultures may be differentiated by age, race or

ethnicity, sexual orientation, religious practices, political affiliations, music, or

geographical location of residence. Deviant sub-culture norms can be further

distinguished by membership in a gang, drug and/or alcohol use, delinquent peer

association, and a style of clothing, hair, and symbols or tattoos associated within a

deviant subculture. Individuals exhibiting these characteristics are viewed as law

violators who circumvent the rules of society for their own needs; breaking laws seems to

come naturally to them (Durkheim, 1897; Hirschi, 1969). It must be understood that

deviant subcultures play a pivotal role in creating social risk factors and contributing to

the weakening of informal social controls.

The current study concentrates on the failure of informal social controls

specifically regarding juvenile associations with family, friends, or peers. Why do

informal social controls fail? It may be that they are applied in an inconsistent and

negative manner. The juvenile’s basic motivation may be rebellion, peer influence, or

other factors. In addressing these issues the study is able to make recommendations to

prevent and reduce juvenile incarceration and the cost associated with the juvenile justice


The focus here is on informal social controls and the social risk factors associated

with juvenile delinquency. Programs that assist parents in need must mentor the parents

and the juvenile. Juveniles form their basis of life norms and values during their early

stages of life. The money currently being spent handling juvenile delinquents on a path

through the law enforcement, legal and penal systems is expended after their acts of

delinquency, which is a reactive attempt to stop delinquency. Once a juvenile is deemed

deviant, they are arrested and locked up in juvenile facilities or given rehabilitative

services. The money involved would be better spent on delinquency prevention,

particularly on teaching parents how to become positive, proactive mentors.

Literature on Social Control

The literature review covers the theories and definitions associated with control

theory, conformity, and informal social control. An important point covered is the effect

of conditioning as a form of social control. Conditioning is a way to elicit a response or

change a person’s unwanted behavior to what the dominant culture of society considers

normal behavior. It is based on Pavlov’s (1927) salivating dog and classical conditioning,

which led to operant conditioning (DeMatteo et al., 2006). Jeffery (1965) specified that

most social behavior is operant in nature and used in everyday life (p. 294). Operant

conditioning is the basic form of informal social control used by parents early in a child’s

life. When a mother tells her child “No,” it sends a signal to the child that punishment

may be forthcoming if he or she continues a current behavior. If the mother tells the

juvenile “Good job,” the child knows this to be a positive response to an action. Through

a system of rewards and punishment as described by Burgess and Akers (1966) in

Differential Reinforcement Theory, this system rewards good behavior and punishes bad

behavior. These are important concepts as parents use them to reinforce their children’s

social behavior and prevent or intervene before juvenile delinquency begins.

Prevention is a vital key in the reduction and elimination of juvenile delinquency.

It also can serve to reduce recidivism and chronic behavior, or prevent the continuum

from delinquent behavior into adult criminality. Researchers have noted that most current

programs fail to curb the tide of delinquency and recidivism (Welsh & Farrington, 2006;

Greenwood, 2006; Howell, 2003). In order to determine effective prevention and

intervention strategies for offenders, it is necessary to understand the factors involved.

Delinquency may culminate or strengthen as the child grows, a process achieved

by way of conditioning through the lack of effective informal social controls. It is

therefore important to identify the process of informal social control and the effects of

social risk factors in a more productive manner. Moffitt (1993) stated that some youths

begin deviant behavior late and age out of delinquency (adolescent limited), while others

begin deviant behavior early in their childhood and continue into adulthood, becoming

what are commonly referred to as life-course-persistent offenders. The point was to

identify specific social risk factors that could be tempered by informal social control to

prevent either adolescent limited or life-course persistent offenders from starting down

that path in the first place. Informal social control, applied properly, may provide answers

to these specific problems and a viable preventive system.

Howell (2003) presents a concept of the cyclical nature of control that may be

applied to informal social control. Parents who are too lenient or too overbearing may

lead a juvenile toward deviant peers. These peers in turn may lead the juvenile to other

social risk factors for delinquency. Deviant conduct then leads to more informal social

control or a different parenting style. Greenwood (2006) refers to “deviant peer

contagion,” wherein juvenile peers learn more deviant behaviors from each other, which

is a weakening point to informal social control. This is exemplified by Sutherland’s

(1947) differential association theory, which states that not only are criminal behaviors

learned, but they are learned by juveniles from other juveniles. Part of the research was to

analyze these associations or social risk factors for “peer contagions” that may contribute

to the failure of informal social control and in turn to juvenile delinquency.

Wilson and MacKenzie (2006) determined that boot camps with militaristic

features, rigorous and rigid schedules, and physical training were ineffective in reducing

recidivism. This same concept may be true of rigorous and overbearing parental informal

social control, a parenting style that may be ineffective or contribute to juvenile

delinquency. The current study may predict what parenting styles contribute to

delinquency. Petrosino, Petrosino, and Buehler (2007) suggested that scared straight

programs are not only ineffective but actually cause harm to participants. This also may

be true for parents who attempt to scare their children into behaving. Once the juvenile

realizes that these tactics no longer work, they may become more prone to juvenile


In view of these failed programs, it must come down to reaching juveniles as

early as possible, before delinquent behavior becomes ingrained into their personality and

way of life through counterproductive informal social control. Strang and Sherman

(2006) believed that the only effective programs were those involving restitution and/or

intensive supervision linked to family environments. It is hopeful that recommendations

can be made for parental training programs that include positive and proactive measures

of informal social control.

Research Purpose

The purpose of the research is to better determine how specific social risk factors

of informal social control contribute to juvenile delinquency. An emphasis is placed on


family and peer associations as the most probable causes of delinquency. It is necessary

to evaluate measures of informal social control, with juvenile delinquency used as an

outcome variable. It is normal for a parent to be the only one to deal with delinquent

conduct, which means the juvenile delinquent will most likely go unreported; that is,

large numbers of delinquent acts go unreported unless a complaint is made or the juvenile

is arrested. It is postulated that certain counterproductive practices of informal social

control are significant early contributors to juvenile delinquency.

In order to evaluate the effectiveness of informal social controls, the current study

used secondary data gained from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth’s (NLSY)

“Family Process” obtained from the Bureau of Labor Statistic, U.S. Department of Labor,

Child Trends, Inc., and Ohio State University. Correlation and regression analyses were

conducted to verify the strengths and weaknesses of variables such as family relations,

peer relations, and arrests. Age, gender, and race were utilized as control variables.

Correlation analysis was used to identify potential confounding effects of the

relationships of variables as well as multi-collinearity. A regression model was required

to analyze the variable relationships simultaneously and establish the strength of

relationships or the lack of relationships among the predictor variables and the outcome

variable. The ultimate task was to determine the correlational effect or effectiveness of

certain informal mechanisms of social control within the social risk factors of juvenile

delinquency. The analysis also eliminated variables through a forward and backward step

regression analysis. For example, the analysis examined family variables such as (1)

parenting style, (2) living with parents, (3) gang sibling, and/or (4) sibling and peer

associations in gangs.

Organization of Study

The conclusion of the study determines whether specific programs can be

implemented to teach parents how to properly use informal social control measures in the

best interest of the juvenile, or whether other measures may be necessary. Respecting the

best interest of the juvenile should mean utilizing the least restrictive and most positive

programs on the juvenile that produce a supportive and mentoring environment.

Reviewing the literature and the results should supply alternative means for the

prevention of juvenile delinquency.

Chapter two covers the literature on social control and includes informal social

control. Emphasis is placed on the authors and foundations of social control as applied to

juvenile delinquency. The literature is presented in chronological order for better

coverage of the issues central to the present study.

The methods covered in chapter three include descriptive, correlational, and

multiple regression analysis. The chapter begins with a discussion of the secondary

dataset obtained from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY 97) in

conjunction with the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research

(ICPSR 3959). The variables utilized are discussed at length to include their descriptions,

definitions, recoding, and the steps in the analysis of the variables.

Chapter four details the results of each type of analysis: frequency and crosstabs,

bivariate, forward and backward logistic regression, and a final binary logistic regression

model. When necessary, tables are presented for a better perspective of the data. Each

variable was discussed as to its strengths or weaknesses. The final analysis verifies the

strength of the previous analyses.


The fifth chapter provides an overview or discussion of the previous chapters. It

also details some specific problems or limitations of the current study and possible means

of overcoming these problems in the future. Recommendations are made for policies and

procedures to create effective programs that meet the specific needs of the juvenile.

It is necessary to incorporate programs that meet the needs of the family and the

juvenile in order to effectively prevent and ameliorate adolescent limited and life-course

persistent offending. Can a program be split into a parenting program and an individual

program for the juvenile and still incorporate the family as the overall target?

One way to accomplish the task at hand may be through early parenting programs.

Effective parenting through informal social control can prevent adolescent and juvenile

delinquency at the onset. The need of assistance is even more important for those parents

who did not have effective parenting growing up or the proper, adequate support in

raising their own children.

Chapter II

Literature Review

The current review presents an overview of informal social control and the risk

factors associated with juvenile delinquency. It begins with the historical background

which set the stage for the concept of informal social control. As much as possible the

literature review is presented chronologically so that readers can track the evolution of

ideas and perspectives. Discussions of social risk factors as they pertain to informal social

control and juvenile delinquency are interwoven throughout.

As part of the literature review, it was appropriate to study numerous articles and

books about theories relevant to informal social control and its causes and effects. The

material covered descriptive analysis, juvenile processes, conditioning as a form of

informal social control, and contemporary issues.

The historical literature about control theory and informal social control provided

the best starting place for the review. The basic premise of control theory is to provide a

theoretical basis as to why individuals do not commit delinquent or criminal acts, or

moreover, what factors control or prevent a delinquent or criminal act. One of the

primary reasons juveniles do not commit delinquent acts is their upbringing, or parental

controls. Parents play a vital role in social control. As posited since Locke (1690) in the

“Two Treatise of Government: Of Parental Power,” parents use discipline as they see fit.

Locke spoke of the father’s duty and obligation to society to care for and nurture his

children. At the same time he acknowledged that the mother has the same duty. He also

touched on aspects of authoritarianism or authoritative parenting. In describing the duties

of parenting, he detailed the obligation of nourishment and “preservance” of the child and


the child’s obligation to honor the parents. He specified that a child should be free to

enjoy life, and the parents should not be free to command or “require absolute obedience

and submission” of the child (Locke, 1690, p. 38).

Locke (1690) further elaborated on the parents’ duty to prevent “ignorance and

infirmities,” which necessitated “restraint and correction” on older children and not the

younger children (p. 39). The premise of this statement was that younger children were

still learning, while older children had already learned what was expected of them.

However, Locke also alluded to the fact that it was a father’s right of nature to exercise

power and authority over his children and should remain his and only his right. Literally,

he meant that the State had no right to dictate power or authority over a father’s right of


Another relevant and early contribution came through Rousseau’s (1763) social

contract theory. It must be understood: the social contract was intended to reform social

inequality, to spark the political processes now known as social control. Rousseau

stipulated that citizens entering into a social contract with each other would be regulated

by law in the protection of persons and property. Under the social contract, each

individual gave up some form of natural freedom to the authority of the state representing

each said individual as a whole (Rousseau, 1763); thus each fell under a form of social


The emphasis of the theory was on relinquishing natural freedom and substituting

conventional freedom (Rousseau, 1763). This, of course, was a way to gain strength in

numbers, in order to defend not only one’s self, but a group as a whole. Under

Rousseau’s social contract each member must not only benefit from the contract but be

obligated to it as well. To that end, the social contract could not be terminated, as all

those who agreed to the association were equally benefitted by and obligated to the

contract. Some other notable contributions in the field of control theory include: Emile

Durkheim’s (1897) anomie theory, Albert J. Reiss’ (1951) control theory, David Matza

and Gresham Sykes’ (1957) techniques of neutralization and drift, F. Ivan Nye’s (1958)

theory on self-control, Walter Reckless’ (1967) containment theory, Hirschi’s (1969)

social bonding theory, Travis Hirschi and Michael Gottfredson’s (1990) self-control

theory, and, more recently, Sampson and Laub’s (1993) informal social control theory.

Applying this same concept to modern society, we can stipulate that society

agrees to conventional norms whereby all benefit. If a juvenile goes against these

conventional norms or falls prey to social risk factors, then the parents are obligated as

the first line of defense to employ informal social control to prevent or intervene in

delinquency before it becomes a problem. It is the parents’ duty to bring the juvenile back

in line with the conventional norms of society.

Theoretical Basics of Control Theory

Durkheim (1897) was one of the first authors to write about the degradation of

societal norms. His theory of anomie posits a lack of rules or absence of norms, which

leads to deviant behavior (Schafer, 1969). Durkheim believed that deviance was a normal

part of society due to the lack of social boundaries and that it helped maintain social order

through social reaction (Williams & McShane, 1988). He felt that social bonds were

being torn apart in large part due to the industrial and technological advances at the turn

of the 20th century. Families no longer lived under the same roof, much less in the same

community. He believed that an integrated and regulated family led to a unified practice

of beliefs, stronger social bonds, and stronger ties to conventional norms. Under

Durkheim’s premise there were two types of persons: an “egoistic self,” primal in nature,

self-interested, and reliant on impulse for guidance; and the “social self,” a productive

member of society. Without regulations, some primal members of society would never

become productive members.

Not long after the turn of the 20th century the Chicago School began to study the

effects of industrialization, urbanization, and immigration on American society and the

failure to control deviant behavior. Many perspectives that emerged from the Chicago

School included Robert Ezra Parks and Ernest Watson Burgess’ (1924) concentric zones

and zones of transitions; George Herbert Mead’s (1910/1912) social consciousness,

(1913) social self, and (1924) concept of self and social control; Shaw and McKay’s

(1931) social disorganization; Sutherland’s (1947) and Cressey’s (1978) differential

association theory; and Reckless’ (1967) containment theory. Most of these authors and

theories contributed to our current understanding of juvenile delinquency and, more

importantly, social controls.

Control theorists attempt to explain why individuals do not commit delinquent or

criminal acts. These theorists see delinquency as a somewhat normal behavior emerging

from unmet wants and needs (Hirschi & Gottfredson, 1983). Williams and McShane

(1988) laid out the evolution of social control theory using Durkheim’s (1895) depiction

of society controlling social behavior as the starting point. At the heart of their discussion

was the foundation laid by Reiss (1951) of the common threads of what is now called

social control theory: (1) “lack of proper internal controls developed during childhood;

(2) a breakdown of those controls; and (3) an absence of, or conflict in, social rules

provided by important social groups” (p.11). The focus was on the control factors that

prevent people from committing delinquent or criminal acts.

The major point in the current study is that of control theory as a restraint of

social risk factors and juvenile delinquency. It emphasizes direct control through rule

setting, monitoring, sanctioning, conditioning, and reinforcement of juvenile behavior.

Although these controls are similar in social learning theory, control theory here focuses

specifically on factors that prevent delinquency, whereas social learning theory focuses

on preventive measures and the pressures as they apply to delinquency (Hirschi, 1969;

Burgess & Akers, 1966).

In the category of direct control, Nye (1958) included control by parental threat of

punishment and reward. Agnew (2008) stipulated that juveniles must know and

understand the rules set by their parents or guardians. These rules should allow the

juvenile to attain some degree of autonomy (Adams, 2008). Rules that are too strict may

lead the juvenile to seek redress in the form of rebellion. Rules that are too lenient may

allow the juvenile a quick and easy avenue to delinquency.

Parents can monitor their children either directly or indirectly. As with strict rule

setting, too much direct monitoring could prevent a juvenile from reaching full

autonomy. By the same token, too little direct monitoring could lead the juvenile to

delinquency. The point is to provide the appropriate level of monitoring to an event and

to ensure that rules are applied fairly and consistently. Nye (1958) stated that the family

is the most important component of social control in preventing delinquency, and

reiterated the value of monitoring juvenile behavior.


If or when a juvenile violates the rules, they should know that consequences are in

order. The consequences or sanctions should be proportional to the act (Bentham, 1843).

Too harsh or too lenient a sanction might leave the juvenile feeling fearful or resentful of

authority (Laub & Sampson, 1993). This process ensured that informal social controls

were reinforced and that certain behaviors were not permitted.

Reinforcement of behavior through informal social control occurs on two fronts.

As Burgess and Akers (1966) explained, it occurs through positive and negative stimuli, a

process detailed later as social control through operant conditioning (DeMatteo et al.,

2006). Basically, this is a process of rewards and punishment. Parents who monitor their

children effectively are able to reward or punish the children in a fair, concise, and timely


One type of punishment is the loss of something the juvenile values. Toby (1957)

detailed the stake in conformity as a loss of something meaningful to the juvenile. For

some juveniles this might mean loss of the privilege of playing video games, watching

television, or playing with friends. For others it might mean loss of education, grades,

reputation, or the respect of family or friends. However, the same mechanism can be a

factor in committing a delinquent act. A juvenile may commit such an act to build a

reputation or garner respect from other delinquents, as emphasized by social learning

theory (Sutherland, 1947; Burgess & Akers, 1966). The juvenile also may experience the

loss of family and peers by his or her own removal from an immediate lifestyle (Toby,

1957). This loss of attachment or involvement, as emphasized by Hirschi’s (1969) social

bond theory and Short and Strodtbeck’s (1965) theory of attachment, kept juveniles from

committing delinquent acts. If a juvenile never had significant attachment or


involvement, he was more likely to become delinquent. Short and Strodtbeck (1965) and

Hirschi (1969) determined that weakening bonds, and subsequent weakening of

conventional values and norms, normally gained through attachment to social groups,

enabled delinquency. He also stated: “once a cause has operated, not much can be done to

prevent delinquent acts; that restriction, supervision, and the threat of punishment are

unlikely to be effective” (Hirschi, 1977).

During their upbringing, juveniles’ belief systems must be reinforced, as

stipulated by Burgess and Akers’ differential reinforcement theory (1966). Parents who

instilled a moral belief that delinquency was wrong ensured a higher probability that the

juvenile would act within society’s norms of behavior. On the other hand, parents who

failed to instill this moral sense would more likely instill an amoral belief system,

increasing the probability that the juvenile would commit delinquent acts and succumb to

social risk factors (Agnew, 2008).

The last type of direct control, as discussed by Agnew, is self-control (Reiss,

1951; Nye, 1958; Reckless, 1967; and Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990). Juveniles who were

able to refrain from delinquent conduct were said to have self-control. Gottfredson and

Hirschi (1990) stipulated that juveniles with low self-control were more likely to commit

delinquent acts. Their point was that juveniles tend think in terms of quick returns rather

than long-term consequences. They also emphasized humans’ natural state of low self-

control; self-control is a quality that must be taught.

Both Nye’s (1958) and Reckless’ (1967) theories of social control interpreted

external forces as the leading cause of delinquency. Quite simply, these external forces

were those social risk factors with a tendency to lead juveniles toward delinquency and

crime. Reckless’ (1967) containment theory emphasized a delinquent subculture pulling

the juvenile toward delinquency, while an outer containment (parents) or inner

containment (self concept and the conscience) maintained control over delinquent

tendencies and ensured high self-control.

Sykes and Matza’s (1957) techniques of neutralization and drift inferred that

juveniles justify their delinquent conduct, and that juveniles drifted in and out of

delinquent conduct. They introduced the term “subterranean values” to mean a set of

beliefs whereby juveniles rationalize delinquency (Akers & Sellers, 2004). Some of the

more notable techniques of neutralization included denial of responsibility, denial of a

victim’s existence, denial of injury to another, condemnation of the condemner, and

responsibility to a higher authority (Sykes & Matza, 1957).

Hirschi’s (1969) social bond theory was considered the “crème de la crème” of

control theories. Emphasized by Akers and Sellers (2004): “his book presented an

internally consistent, logically coherent, and parsimonious theory that is applicable to any

type of criminal or deviant behavior, not only delinquency” (p. 117). Control Theory of

Delinquency was predicated on an individual’s ability to bond with society; if this ability

was weakened or broken it led to delinquency. Hirschi detailed what he considered

essential bonding elements: (1) attachment, (2) commitment, (3) involvement, and (4)

belief. He then discussed the relations of the elements (1) attachment and commitment,

(2) commitment and involvement, and (3) attachment and belief.

Tying the elements of bond theory to conventional society and to delinquent

behavior, Hirschi (1969) detailed attachment by showing the tautological nature of past

theories, and described it as a tie to conventional society and a conscious effort to bond

with others. His description of commitment covered fear and the risk of losing the time

and energy invested in acquiring a reputation for virtue. Some of the conventional lines

of commitment included an education and business ownership, thus a commitment to

conformity. Involvement takes time. Hirschi alluded to the fact that time is limited,

making it implausible that one would fulfill all of his or her dreams. A person engrossed

in conventional activities had little time for deviant behavior. Hirschi also touched on the

use of recreational activities and military draft as means of reducing delinquency. He

defined belief as a common value system. He insisted that control theory removed the

moral obstacles which led to delinquency, and that basically a delinquent’s moral belief

system had been weakened.

Whether utilizing Hirschi’s (1969) social bond theory, Gottfredson and Hirschi’s

(1990) theory of self-control, Nye’s (1958) theory of indirect control, Reiss’ (1951)

control theory, or Reckless’ (1967) containment theory, the failure or weakening of

parental controls (informal social controls) creates a higher probability for social risk

factors and, ultimately, juvenile delinquency. The emphasis under discussion in the

current study is that of informal social control. Before discussing informal measures it

was important to discuss how these theories are related and what forms they take in the

field of juvenile delinquency.

Formal vs. Informal Control. There are two main types of social control:

informal and formal. The first form of control a juvenile comes in contact with or

becomes familiar with is informal social control through family and friends. If or when

informal social control fails to instill accepted patterns of behavior in the juvenile, then

formal social control takes over. This is accomplished by way of local, state, or federal

law enforcement taking control of an event or situation. It normally involves a local

police officer or a local social service agency speaking to the juvenile and the parent(s),

investigating the event, and determining whether or not the juvenile needs further

supervision that the parent(s) is unable to provide.

Informal Social Control. Charles Horton Cooley (1909/1918) introduced one of

the first formulations of informal social control through primary group associations.

Parent-child relationships were essential informal social controls for preventing juvenile

delinquency. Fishbein (2001) stated, “[in a] poor familial environment, characterized by

family dysfunction, neglect or abuse, inconsistent parenting, or lack of supervision, the

socialization process was further compromised, exponentially increasing risk for an

antisocial outcome” (p. 70). Therefore, the nuclear family should be considered a vital

component in fighting crime and delinquency among youth. However, it must be noted

that today’s nuclear families commonly have fewer family ties in geographic proximity to

turn to in a time of crisis. The nuclear family also can be considered a force that, in

certain scenarios, drives juveniles toward delinquency and/or gangs.

Overbearing or overly authoritative parenting may lead juveniles to seek refuge

with other peers of similar circumstances. Communication and trust in the parent-child

relationship have been central themes throughout the research literature. Butler et al.

(2007) stated, “the interaction between family processes (attachment, parent-adolescent

communication, parenting practices, family stability) and highly disadvantaged

circumstances appears to be particularly potent in promoting the development of severely

delinquent behavior” (p. 735).


Children learn primarily from observation. They learn to mimic their parents,

associates, and figures they see in the media. It is important to understand how behavior

toward adolescents is reflected by children at a later age. Pardini and Loeber (2008)

indicated that dysfunctional parent-child relationships were the best predictors of

delinquency over time. Numerous studies were conducted on the risk factor of

appearance of callousness or lack of emotions in juveniles. Farrington and Loeber (1999)

identified an antisocial father, broken family, poor parental supervision, and parental

disharmony as risk factors and significant predictors of delinquency.

Shaw and McKay (1942) also detailed the effects of stress, a lack of coping skills,

environmental and familial factors, peer pressure, and associations on delinquency and

crime. Juveniles were more impressionable and vulnerable to social risk factors outside

their families’ informal social control. Cultures have varied styles and emphases in their

social control systems. Informal control in one culture may oppose that of another


As Miller (1958) indicated, belonging and achieving status within a group gave

meaning to an individual, especially if the individual found himself among others

experiencing similar difficulties away from family life. Peers with common goals, values,

and beliefs tend to share a sense of belonging and influence an individual’s decisions.

Juveniles think and make decisions based on short-term goals and ways to achieve those

goals. Younger juveniles do not have the means (car, insurance, money) to gain work or

money for their wants and needs (car, spending money, jewelry); they must find

alternative ways to achieve their goals. Juveniles unable or unwilling to achieve their

goals by legitimate means; learned alternative means from family members or older

group members within their peer groups.

Travis Hirschi’s (1969) social control theory emphasized the bonding of

individuals to groups; this was Hirschi’s theoretical perspective on social networking.

Emile Durkheim’s (1897) perspective on social factors regulating and integrating

individuals and groups within a conventional social order showed that more informal

control meant less need for formal control.

Other informal social controls were detailed by Agnew’s (1992) strain of social

relationships and their effect on crime and delinquency. His theory, as did Burgess and

Akers’ (1966) differential reinforcement theory, emphasized the presence of negative

stimuli or the absence of positive stimuli in creating strain and in turn inducing negative

reactions such as blame, frustration, fear, anger, and the need for satisfaction through

revenge or rebellion. These same reactions were detailed by Sykes and Matza’s (1957)

techniques of neutralization. Adolescents who succumb to social risk factors and

delinquency lacked coping strategies, engaged in reinforced stressful events, and were

overly aggressive (Agnew, 1993). Agnew outlined three coping strategies as cognitive,

behavioral, and emotional. If individuals did not develop the mental ability to cope with

their problems, they might never have been able to change their behavioral or emotional

coping skills. Agnew’s (1993) General Strain Theory complemented social control,

social learning, and differential association theories. The basis for these theories entailed

the societal process whereby delinquency was not only seen as an adaptation of culturally

defined goals but could be prevented through distinct measures of informal participation,

removal of negative stimuli, and help for individuals in setting new goals and finding

positive ways to achieve them.

Unnever, Cullen, and Agnew (2006) postulated “bad parenting” as

“criminogenic” because of a very high correlation between poor direct and indirect

control of parents and low self-control and aggressive attitudes in juveniles. The authors

specified the significance of self-control and aggressive behavior to both violent and non-

violent acts. Not only did poor parental control affect these behaviors, but coercive

punishment and reinforced aggression both were conducive to delinquent and criminal


One of the primary concerns in considering children’s antisocial behavior is

neglectful parents. Studies have proven that early child-rearing practices have a

significant effect on children’s later developmental problems. It is of central importance

that communication, trust, bonding, and positive reinforcement are utilized in parent-

child relationships. Since the child-maternal relation is one of the most important

informal social controls, an analysis of the relationship is warranted.

What if a child is resistant to positive parental authority? If parents cannot agree

on how best to raise their children, the relationship between the parents and the

relationship between parents and child become strained. Most children instinctively know

how to manipulate this environment and circumvent one parent’s authority over the

other’s. “When their authority is challenged and attempts to try to restore authority

internally by resorting to mechanisms such as pleading, bargaining, and physical coercion

has failed, these parents frequently appeal to the police as a means to restore or

reestablish parental control” (Davis, 2007, p. 418-19). Control theory, social learning

theory, differential association, and differential reinforcement theory all shed light on the

family process, and an integrative approach utilizing these theories to develop a program

for juveniles might well be the best approach.

In Miller and Lin’s (2007) analysis of the New York City juvenile risk assessment

tool and a generic assessment tool called the Model Risk Assessment Instrument

(MRAI), gender was considered a good predictor. However, the most powerful predictor

in this generic assessment instrument was severity of offense. In using a pre- and post-

validation analysis, the authors split the sample of 730 juvenile delinquents into 499 as a

sub-sample and 231 as a validation sample. The MRAI instrument predicted that younger

juveniles were less likely to be re-arrested, which was in direct contrast to earlier studies.

Although both instruments were predictive of re-arrest, neither achieved high levels of

statistical significance in the validation sample and lost predictive power. One stated

reason for this result was that local data was not always available for generic assessment

tools, and they excluded age, gender, and severity of offense.

Alarid, Burton, and Cullen (2000) conducted bivariate and ordinary least square

regression analysis on attachment to parents and peers, (involvement and belief in the

law). Attachment was significant and inversely related for male and females, with

females being more significant for violent crimes. Rankin and Wells (1990) surveyed a

final dataset of 2,277 (15- and 16-year-old) boys in a study of developmental weakness

for parental attachment and delinquency. The authors utilized a multivariate analysis-of-

variance (MANOVA) for a more reliable test of multiple correlations. One limitation of

such testing and analysis was the direction of cause and effect. Does the parenting style

cause juvenile delinquency, or does the juvenile delinquent cause the parenting style? It

should be noted that the onset of delinquency was not being tested in this study. The

results of Rankin and Wells (1990) indicated the following risk factors as they relate to

juvenile delinquency: (1) greater consistency of punishment lowers delinquency, (2) low

and high levels of strict parenting correlates to higher levels of delinquency, and (3)

greater punishment increases delinquency. The main point was that direct control and

discipline were not interdependent to delinquency, although attachment to parents was

associated with lower levels of delinquency.

The measures utilized in the Jang and Smith (1997) study included: (1) affective

ties to parents as measured by negative and positive responses; (2) parental supervision as

measured by (a) knowing the juvenile’s whereabouts, and (b) knowing who they were

with; (3) delinquency as measured by three major and 25 minor types of offenses. These

offenses included: (1) violent offenses with six minor offenses, (2) property offenses with

14 minor offenses, and (3) public disorder with five minor offenses. Age, gender, race,

and socioeconomic status were used as control variables. Jang and Smith (1997) found

that supervision affected delinquency and vice versa. Supervision during the first wave

reduced delinquency before the second wave, and delinquency at the first wave affected

supervision before the second wave. The authors noted the cyclical nature of supervision

and delinquency. It was problematic that the authors controlled for prior delinquency,

testing the second wave for the effect of parental supervision. Weak affective ties

between parents and juveniles were not found to increase delinquency; however,

delinquency did affect attachment between parents and juveniles between waves one and

two. That attachment and parental supervision was correlated and indirectly affected

delinquency. Stronger attachment and supervision reduced delinquency.


In an analysis 16,304 adolescents from grades 7 to 12, DeMuth and Brown (2003)

utilized a binomial regression model for family structure, family processes, and

delinquency. The analysis evaluated the significance of the risk factors of parental

absence versus parental gender by testing single-parent, dual-parent, and step-parent

households, as well as parental closeness. The results indicated that single-parent homes

increased delinquency and that the highest delinquency stemmed from single-father

households. Father-stepmother and single-mother households followed.

De Kemp et al. (2006) measured juvenile delinquency with friendship, parental

monitoring, and psychological control using an analysis of variance (ANOVA) and

asymptotic correlations. Their findings indicated that as higher levels of parental

psychological controls are achieved, higher levels of delinquency result. On the other

hand, lower levels of parental monitoring resulted in delinquent peer influence and

delinquent behavior. Low mother and low father involvement contributed to adolescent

bullying (Flouri & Buchanan, 2003), low emotional understanding (Edwards, Shipman,

& Brown, 2005; Schaffer, Clark, & Jeglic, 2009), low self-control (Hirschi &

Gottfredson, 1990; Hay, 2001), and harsher sanctions (Knuston et al., 2005). Similar

results on parental permissiveness were found by Schaffer, Clark, & Jeglic (2009). In

contrast, Hoeve et al. (2007) – in a study of Pittsburg youth with an average age of 13.2

at screening and 13.8 at the first follow-up – found no significant relationships between

strict parenting styles and delinquency; they used logistic regression to analyze the

correlations between family factors and juvenile delinquency.

Specifically looking at the reasoning behind juvenile delinquency, Jones and

Lynam (2009) used ordinary least square regression analysis to conduct a study on

impulsivity and the moderating influence of neighborhood factors. Thrill and adventure

seeking (TAS) and lack of premeditation (LoP) were found to be significant risk factors

for offending among young adults (male and female) whose neighborhoods lacked

informal social controls. These same controls were tied to what Lewis and Maxfield

(1980) determined to be a result of fear in the community.

In fact, Gottfredson, McNeil, and Gottfredson (1991) studied the influence of the

social area and found that organized communities had a stronger affect than disorganized

ones on juvenile delinquency prevention. They measured risk factors such as

interpersonal aggression, delinquent conduct, parental education, delinquent peers,

parental and school attachment, belief in rules, juvenile involvement, and social areas.

The results of their multiple regression analysis indicated key social risk factors as being

social areas with weak family and social structures; these increased deviant peer

influence and aggression. Rebellon (2006) studied whether peers committed delinquent

acts to attract other peers. The results were positive, as socializing with delinquent peers

was found to be correlated peer attention. Payne and Cornwell (2007) used binomial

regression to predict juvenile delinquency and found that risk factors such as risk taking

behavior and peer influence led to delinquency. The most significant finding was that

distant peers also influenced delinquent conduct.

Use of Correlates

In the current study’s analysis, the correlates of age, gender, and race are used as

control variables to verify the failure or success of informal social controls.

Age is a vital concern due to the relative nature of programs geared to

intervention in and prevention of future offenses by juveniles. As children enter their first

school settings, they tend to interact with peers they deem as friends. They begin to seek

acceptance and claim those who reciprocate as friends. Once juveniles reach high school

age, they tend to rely less on parental guidance and seek more acceptance from their


Gender is an important issue; female juveniles have begun to offend at higher

rates than ever before, which may be due to a lack of informal social controls toward

females. Belknap and Holsinger (2006) explained the rates of risk for boys and girls

associated with victimization, race, and age. Rebellon and van Gundy (2005) considered

abuse a contributing factor for both male and female delinquency. Snyder (2008) detailed

the differences in male and female rates and the increase in female offending.

Race is also considered in the current study due to an overrepresentation of black

youths and growing concern over a rise in delinquency among Hispanic youths. Koons-

Witt and Schram (2006) explored race and gender and found that these factors

conditioned some crimes but not others. Over the years race has been associated with

socioeconomic status (Rebellion & van Gundy, 2005). It was possible to find literature

with differing views; therefore, the present study is concerned with the use of these

correlates in related studies. Other correlations dealing with peers and parents were also

considered. These may range from peers and their activities to parenting styles as related

to the juvenile.

Age. Moffitt (1993) explained the use of age as a determining factor among

adolescent-limited and life-course-persistent offenders. Under this “dual taxonomy,” she

emphasized the unique nature of juvenile delinquency from both facets. Adolescent-

limited delinquency occurs late in juveniles’ lives and desists before adulthood. Life-

course delinquency begins early in life and persists into adulthood. Younger juveniles

adhere to parental controls early in life, while older juveniles seek more autonomy

(Adams, 2008) and may have less use for informal social controls. The need to

differentiate between these groups is a concern to be addressed. Where should they be

separated? The emphasis is on whether or not informal social control applied in the early

stages of a juvenile’s life can prevent juvenile delinquency. It is postulated that early and

proper use of informal social control may prevent social risk factors from taking hold

later in life.

In contrast to this perspective, Hirschi and Gottfredson (1983) felt that age should

not be used due to invariance and social conditions. Their belief was that social control,

specifically self-control and opportunity, account for reduction of crime as juveniles age.

They base their principle on the concept that juveniles assume increased responsibilities

as they age, seeking employment and/or marrying. Given this assumption, problems arise

for the unemployed, under-employed, unmarried, or divorced.

Tittle and Grasmick (1997) indicate that Hirschi and Gottfredson’s perspectives

clearly do not account for all ages and crimes. Tittle and Grasmick showed how age and

crime were related in their cohort-based research that was reflective of economic and

social trends of the time. On the other hand, Sampson and Laub (2003) believed that

“crime declines with age sooner or later,” and that childhood predictors were poor

indicators of life-course trajectories (p. 555).

Other empirical tests conducted on life-course theory determined that antisocial

lifestyles of life-course persistent offenders make these individuals “more likely to

experience adverse physical and mental health outcomes” (Moffitt, 2006; Piquero et al.,

2007, p. 200). Another article by Piquero et al. (2007) supported Gottfredson and

Hirschi’s (1990) position that low self-control affected criminal careers and increased the

probability of persistent offending. Loeber et al. (1993) used a longitudinal cohort study

to delineate three paths of the criminal career in what became known as the

developmental pathways theory. Their authority conflict pathway began early in

childhood with stubborn conduct, which led to disobedience and aversion of authorities;

this implied an adverse reaction to informal social controls. The covert pathway started

with minor conduct problems, such as lying, and tended to lead to property damage and

more serious offenses such as breaking and entering. The overt pathway began more

aggressively, with bullying, progressed toward more physical acts and, finally, to rape

and armed robberies. All of these pathways indicated a lack of informal social control

and social risk factors.

Weis et al. (1981) developed another perspective, the Social Development Model,

which integrated social control, social learning, and structural models in which

opportunities, involvement, interaction with parents, and reinforcement were central

concerns. Farrington’s (2007) Theory of Delinquency Development examined desistance

of the career criminal from a development and life-course perspective that included

multiple cohorts, community and offender samples, self-reports and official measures,

repeat offenses, measures of risk factors, life events, situational factors, and cognitive

processes. The key concept was that desistance from offending behaviors could only

occur when a person died, not at a certain age. A more important issue is that of the

policy issues of locking someone up, especially if they were about to desist from deviant

behavior (Farrington, 2007).


So, where does one draw the lines that separate juvenile offenders by age? It

seems natural to take the age of 14 as a point of separation for juveniles who seek more

autonomy as they enter high school. According to Sampson and Laub’s (2003)

trajectories on an age-crime curve, the “mean number of offenses for total crime” peaked

around the age of 15. This was attributed to juveniles seeking more autonomy at the age

of 14 and greater peer influence after entering high school; this in turn meant less

informal social control from parents and more social risk factors.

Gender. While the majority of juvenile offender programs traditionally have been

geared toward males, recent increases in female delinquency have proven the need to

focus on more gender-specific policies and programs (Bloom et al., 2002; Booth et al.,

2008), mental health and drug issues (Belenko, 2006), abuse (Daly & Chesney-Lind,

1988), assessments (Mallicoat, 2007), female sex offenders (Gannon et al., 2008), and

economic marginalization (Reckenwald & Parker, 2008). During a focus group study of

delinquent girls in the Colorado Division of Youth Corrections (CDYC) in the spring of

2000, Belknap, Winter, and Cady (2003) discovered that girls were seriously lacking in

appropriate parenting skills, which most commonly was attributed to their own

ineffective parents. One of the main points revealed in the study was the need to establish

trusting relationships; most of the subjects were emotionally needy. The Colorado study

points to the importance of meeting the needs of female delinquents and focusing on

parent training in order to reduce the risk factors associated with future female juvenile

delinquency. Most of the young females in the study would not be in the system if they

had had parents who knew how to deal more effectively with their needs (i.e. the needs

for care, communication, and the proper use of authoritative practices). The study authors

emphasized the need for properly applied informal social controls to reduce these risk


Booth, Farrell, and Varano (2008) conducted a gendered analysis of social

control, serious delinquency, and risky behavior and determined the need for specific

gender “analyses to understand how social control affects male and female pathways to

delinquency” (p. 423). Their study concluded that parents have more of an affect on

lessening male delinquency than on female delinquency. A limitation of this study is that

it was conducted only on upper-middle-class youth. Cultural differences and economic

conditions in the juvenile population at large are far too great to allow us to generalize the

results of this study.

Times are still changing; parents continue to spend less time with their children

and more time at work, leaving these youths to look for alternative avenues of

acceptance. Some juveniles look for ways to escape boredom; some seek out peers and

excitement. Others seek what they perceive as an easy way out through economic gain

(money, drugs, or stealing).

An analysis of changing trends emphasizes the importance of research on female

delinquency and parental training. In a review of Uniform Crime Report (UCR) arrest

trends for the period from 1998 to 2007, almost all categories show a decrease in crime

trends. However, increases in female juvenile arrests are staggering and of vital concern:

vagrancy increased 167.3% and robberies increased 16.6%, compared to an increase in

crimes by juvenile males of just 5%. Juvenile females arrested for other assaults

increased 10.1%, while juvenile males actually decreased 4.4%. Koons-Witt and Schram

(2006) noted that a single female offender had a higher probability to commit aggravated

assault (33.5%), murder (23.7%), or robbery (15.6%); while co-offending females had a

lower probability of committing the same crimes. When a female worked with a male

offender, the probabilities rose drastically: robbery (79.6%), murder (74.1%), and

aggravated assault (61.1%).

Researchers and academics must remember that female offending has not been

researched as thoroughly as male offending until recently; in the past females have not

been arrested at the rate of male offenders and were viewed as non-threatening. Some of

the authors cited female offenders only in passing, but their theories should not be

dismissed simply because they did not take into account gender issues. The fact that more

female juveniles are being arrested than ever before, however, now makes it necessary to

study the effects of informal social control on both male and female juveniles.

Late 1960s and early 1970s news coverage of violent women, such as Sara Jane

Moore and the women in the Manson Family, Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme, Mary

Brunner, Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, and Patricia Krenwinkel, brought more attention

to female crime; but it was only the proverbial tip of the iceberg. One factor that deserves

more scrutiny today is whether more females are becoming disinterested in education and


Race. Are there differences between races as they pertain to informal social

control? What are these differences, and what are the risk factors juveniles of each race

may face during their youth? Race relations between juveniles and the police may

contribute to the problem of juvenile delinquency. Miller and Meloy (2005) discussed the

implications of minority groups’ long history of uneasy relations with the police. Black

and Reiss (1970) attributed a high rate of African-American juvenile delinquency to their

victims, complainants, offenses, and demeanors. They stipulated that most crimes

committed by African-Americans were actually against other African-Americans. They

also stipulated that African-Americans were more likely to report crimes against other

African-Americans. These stipulations led one to believe that crime reporting was a

cultural phenomenon and that informal social controls and/or specific risk factors were

differentiated among races. Does this mean that African-Americans rely more on

informal social controls than individuals of other races, or is a lack of informal social

controls more likely? Are social risk factors different among races?

It is widely accepted that most police patrols take place in poor neighborhoods

where crime is a common factor. It also should be stipulated that single parent

households are more common in these areas, which brings to mind the issue of informal

social control and the common risk factors associated with areas of highly visible police

patrols. It has been postulated that single-parent households exert less informal social

control than dual-parent households. Ousey and Lee (2008) examined the discrepancy

between African-American and white arrest rates with regards to drug and weapon

charges. They found the greatest differentials in drug arrests when policing agencies

determined their own areas of enforcement and provided proactive policing there. They

also showed that in areas where informal social control had less effect on juveniles, social

risk factors and peer influence had greater effect.

Koons-Witt and Schram (2006) specified that among females, “race conditioned

the relationship between offending group and victim(s) sex for robbery incidents and the

relationship between offending group and the social distance between victim(s) and

perpetrator(s) for aggravated assaults” (p. 125). Their study results indicated that single,

non-white, female offenders were more prone to commit aggravated assaults and murder

than co-offending females or co-offending males and females. Conversely, non-white co-

offending males and females were more likely to commit robberies. White, co-offending

males and females had the highest probability to commit all three types of crimes. This

suggested that co-offenders had more influence than parents’ informal social control.

Parenting Style. From a control theory perspective, attachment, involvement, and

commitment are centered in family life (Hirschi, 1969). A juvenile’s attachment to

family, involvement with family, and commitment to family are of central concern in the

current study. Alarid, Burton, and Cullen (2000) stipulated that parental attachment was a

stronger predictor for female violent crime than for male violent crime. They also

specified that “attachment to parents, involvement in conventional activities, and belief in

the law were significantly and inversely correlated with criminal behavior (Alarid,

Burton, & Cullen, 2000, p. 183). In their study, peer attachment had a positive and

significant relation to crime, which inferred a lack of parental informal social control and

a more profound relation to social risk factors.

Rankin and Wells (1990) studied the relationship of parental attachment and

direct control to delinquency. They stipulated that social control theory fails to predict

delinquency. Their emphasis was on the motivation of conformity in the absence of a

parent’s physical presence. They therefore tested attachment with internalized norms and

discipline with attachment. The authors hypothesized that the strength of discipline

(severity or frequency) contingency or consistency of punishment reduced delinquency

(p. 146). In other words, strong or severe punishments led to aggression, hostility, and

delinquency. They also hypothesized that the impact of direct control on delinquency was

contingent on the level of attachment. The variables used by Rankin and Wells (1990)

included: (1) Attachment as measured by (a) identification with parents, and (b) positive

communication with parents; (2) Direct controls as measured by (a) supervision, (b)

strictness, (c) contingency of punishment, and (d) strength of punishment; and (3)

Involvement in delinquency as measured by (a) school delinquency, (b) family

delinquency, (c) theft-vandalism, (d) assault-theft, (e) trouble with police, and (f) total


Jang and Smith (1997) analyzed the reciprocal relationship between parental

controls and delinquency. They hypothesized that affective ties (attachment) and

supervision were bi-directionally related to delinquency (p. 313). To test this relationship

the authors used the Rochester Youth Development Study (RYDS) with 838 youths for

delinquency and drug use. The results supported their hypothesis of supervision. They

found that supervision negatively affected delinquency, and that delinquency negatively

affected supervision. Weak supervision lead to delinquency. Over time parental

supervision or informal social control had less effect on juveniles which led to an age

differential of autonomy once the juvenile reached high school age. Delinquency

negatively affected affective ties on the parent-child relationship. Therefore the

hypothesis of a cyclical nature of affective ties was rejected. However, the authors did

find that parental supervision and affective ties impacted each other indirectly in

conjunction with delinquency.

De Kemp et al. (2006) reported that higher levels of parental monitoring

contributed to lower levels of delinquency. They also found that peer delinquency had a

positive significant correlation to participant delinquency, and that parental psychological


control had a positive relation to delinquency. De Kemp et al. (2006) stated that parental

psychological control led to delinquency and delinquency led to higher levels of parental

psychological control (p. 503). Their analysis found that less parental monitoring led to

more influence from a best friend’s delinquent behavior (De Kemp et al., 2006). Thus, a

lack of informal social control on behalf of the parents led to an increase in social risk

factors and juvenile delinquency.

Hoeve et al. (2007) found no evidence between authoritarian or authoritative

parenting styles and delinquency. Nor did they find significant relationships between

supervision, punishment, and attachment and delinquency. However, they did find that

the lack of orderly and structured activities during adolescence was a strong predictor of

delinquency (Hoeve et al., 2007). In contrast, Flouri and Buchanan (2003) indicated that

low mother involvement and low father involvement contributed to bullying in

adolescents. Schaffer, Clark, and Jeglic (2009) found that “maternal permissive parenting

contributed directly and indirectly to antisocial behavior, through its effects on cognitive

and emotional empathy development” (p. 586). They interpreted their results to mean that

permissive parenting hinders “empathic abilities,” which in turn leads to development of

antisocial behaviors. The analysis indicated a strong relationship between female

delinquency and lack of emotional empathy. On the extreme end of the spectrum,

Kobayashi et al. (1995) found paternal physical abuse and male sexual abuse to cause

increased adolescent sexual aggression.

Edwards, Shipman, and Brown’s (2005) study of mother-child dyads found that:

(1) neglected children had lower levels of emotional understanding than non-neglected

children, (2) neglected children expected less support from their mothers than non-

neglected children, (3) all children expected less support from their mothers after an

angry event, and (4) neglectful mothers discussed negative emotions with their children

less than non-neglectful mothers. Overall, “Neglectful mothers engage in fewer

socialization practices thought to facilitate children’s healthy emotional development”

(Edwards, Shipman, & Brown, 2005, p. 300). Knutson et al. (2005) also found that poor

supervision led to more harsh sanctions and child aggression. The authors identified

parental monitoring as an important factor in setting and applying suitable sanctions.

Another theory of interest to the current study is that of self-control (Hirschi,

1990). As stipulated previously, this theory centers on self-interest in pleasure and

avoidance of pain (Bentham, 1843), and what prevents a crime from occurring. Hirschi

(1990) believed the preventive measure to be self-control. Hay (2001) felt the effect of

parental self-control and its effect on delinquency had not been truly tested, specifically

with respect to parenting and low self-control (Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990). Baumrind’s

theory of parenting defined the following parenting styles as: authoritative parents were

demanding and responsive, authoritarian parents were demanding but not responsive,

permissive parents were responsive but not demanding, and rejecting/neglecting parents

were neither demanding nor responsive (Hay, 2001).

Hay (2001) hypothesized that Gottfredson and Hirschi’s theory on effective

parenting was negatively related to low self-control (p. 709). A second hypothesis was

that effective parenting mediates delinquency caused by low self-control. Separate

maternal and paternal measurements included: parental monitoring (keeping track of the

juvenile, familiarity with juvenile’s friends, rules set are clear, effort to ensure that rules

are followed) and discipline (learn of a delinquent act, try to prevent a recurrence, and

doing nothing at all). The low self-control scale measured impulsivity (Jones & Lynam,

2009), preference for simple tasks, risk seeking, physical activities, self-centeredness, and

temper. Delinquency was measured as projected offending or future deviance (breaking

and entering, stealing expensive and inexpensive items, property destruction, auto theft,

assault, illegal weapons, drinking alcohol, and using drugs). Age, race, and gender were

used as control variables. Hay (2001) found monitoring and discipline to be negatively

correlated to low self-control, even when the two variables were combined. Fair and

nonphysical discipline was found to be the most significant factor in development of self-

control. Again, a limitation with this study, as with most of the studies cited, was that it

did not pinpoint the onset of the behavior. Hay posited that a broader definition of

effective parenting was needed to increase the empirical adequacy of self-control theory.

Hay (2001) also depicted low self-control as playing a small role on monitoring-

discipline of delinquency and stipulated that low self-control theory did not truly support

or mediate delinquency.

Living Arrangement. A critical aspect of the parent-child relationship and its

relevance to informal social controls and delinquency is the presence or absence of both

parents in the household. DeMuth and Brown (2003) reported that “one third of all

children are born to unmarried mothers and over one half of children will spend some

time in a single-parent family” (p. 58). Their study, which stipulated Nye’s (1958) social

control theory and Hirschi’s (1969) social bond theory, emphasized parental relationships

and sought to identify whether or not single parent living conditions increase

delinquency. Their findings indicated that single parent homes did contribute to increased

delinquency, with single-father homes showing the highest rate of delinquency, followed

by father-stepmother and single-mother households (DeMuth & Brown, 2004). It is

noted, as the study deals with parental absence, that the study did not specifically include

foster parents or orphaned juveniles.

In a recent meta-analysis of 23 peer-reviewed studies on family structure and

delinquency from 2000 to 2005, the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy attempted to

determine whether married parents were able to prevent crime or if a fragmented family

increased the risk for delinquency (2005). The Institute concluded that family structure

did have an effect on delinquency. Married parents seemed to reduce delinquency risk

and single-parents appeared to increase it. The analysis even suggested that juveniles

living with both parents were still at risk if they lived in a community with many single-


Wasserman et al. (2003) determined that divorce was a family risk factor for

juvenile delinquency. However, they stipulated that it was difficult to establish the effects

due to other risk factors. In other words, pre-divorce behavior for the family must be


Siblings. In an OJJDP 2007 annual report it was stipulated that female juveniles

had a higher probability of fighting with family members or siblings than did boys, who

tended to fight with friends and strangers (Bloom et al., 2002, p. 5). Sibling deviance not

only narrowed life options but increased antisocial behavior and therefore increased the

risk factors for juvenile delinquency (Farrington, 1995; Moffitt, 1993; Wasserman, 2003).

Reporting on sibling aggression, Loeber and Hay (1997) emphasized that both male and

female toddlers were equally likely to be physically aggressive with siblings. Further

emphasis was placed on this sibling aggression and how parental reaction or supervision

developed the juvenile’s social cognitive abilities. How the parent(s) handled sibling

aggression fostered future behavior. Favoritism toward one sibling created conflict.

Maltreatment of one sibling and not another increased aggression between siblings. More

control over one sibling, whether male or female, not only created animosity toward the

parent and that sibling, it also created a rebellious nature in the affected juvenile. Boisvert

(2008) emphasized that juvenile behavior differed significantly depending on sibling

interaction and whether the siblings were of the same sex.

Peer. Social risk factors among gang members normally are strong enough for

juveniles to partake in many delinquent and criminal acts. After all, each gang member

must give up what he or she considers as natural freedom and substitute the new gang’s

code of conventional freedom as they understand it. This new code of conduct for gang

members regulates their behavior toward members of their own gang and those of rival


Under this premise, feuding gangs express grievances against one another,

viewing violence as a legitimate form of informal social control in order to protect their

turf, family, reputation, and status. Any member of a gang who breaks the code is liable

to the rest of the gang and subjected to harsh punishment. Underscoring this view, Hagan

and Foster (2006) explained Matza’s theory of delinquent subcultures, which reflected a

subterranean belief and value system of thrill seekers and instant pleasure.

As emphasized previously, minimal parental involvement opens the door to

delinquent peer influence. Gottfredson, McNeil, and Gottfredson (1991) found that

socioeconomic status had no real affect on delinquency. However, weak family and

social structure increased deviant peer influence. Utilizing ordinary least square

regression analysis, Rebellion (2006) found delinquency to be more common among

juveniles of divorced parents and those whose friends were delinquent as well. Under his

hypothesis, peers committed delinquent acts in order to attract social attention. It stands

to reason that a juvenile who did not receive adequate attention at home would look

elsewhere it. Payne and Cornwell (2007) studied direct and indirect social ties and their

link to delinquency. Their results were consistent with other studies, although they found

that distal peers also influence juvenile delinquency. These key events led to detachment

from family, school involvement, and commitment which lent itself to acts of rebellion.


Numerous authors have theorized about, researched, and tested juvenile

delinquency, social control, and parental and peer relationships. Most felt they had found

the answer to this problem that has plagued society: juvenile delinquency. Why, then,

does so much juvenile delinquency persist? Is it the lack of policies generated by these

theories? Is it a lack of operationalization by practitioners?

The literature indicates the need for social control via codes and laws that protect

not only the weak, but children as well. The primary reason found for juvenile

delinquency is a lack of parental controls. Informal social control is the first line of

defense against juvenile delinquency. It is predicated on conditioning juveniles early in

life as a preventive measure against delinquent behavior and criminal activity. The

hypothesis of the current study was that social risk factors weaken informal social

controls, thereby predicting juvenile delinquency.

Is it possible to improve the system of informal social control and decrease the

need for formal social control later on? If so, what are the key relationships that should be

the center of focus? Can society as a whole develop a better, more comprehensive plan to

encompass and implement informal social controls that significantly lessen social risk


The next chapter will analyze variables in familial and peer social relationships in

order to provide a more plausible answer to the question of social risk factors for

delinquency as they apply to informal social control. The end result should offer useful

information and recommendations regarding the use of certain informal social controls as

a guide in lessening social risk factors and preventing juvenile delinquency.

Chapter III


The methods section details the variables and participants in the current study.

Once the dataset was obtained, detailed tables of the subjects were created. A secondary

dataset was gained via requests to various agencies that hold datasets. A review of

previous related studies revealed the need for further analysis of juvenile associations

with family and peers as they pertain to parenting styles, living arrangements, and peer

and sibling gang membership, specifically as they pertain to informal social control.

Data Source

The current study analyzes the correlations between juvenile delinquency and

issues concerning parents, siblings, and peers. The best data fits came from secondary

data on the “Family Process” obtained from the Internet-based National Longitudinal

Survey of Youth (NLSY 97) in conjunction with the Inter-university Consortium for

Political and Social Research (ICPSR 3959). NLSY 97 investigators conducted face-to-

face interviews of random household residents in December 1996. Interviewers screened

75,291 households in the United States and drew a sample of 8,984 respondents (youths

aged 12 to 16) from 6,819 unique households.

This study collected two samples: (1) a cross-section representing the U.S.

population born from 1980 to 1984 and (2) a supplement sample of Black or Hispanic

youths born from 1980 to 1984. The dataset was updated in 2007. The investigators

suggested using caution when generalizing findings from this sample, as it did not

contain a nationally representative segment of youths in the United States. At no time

were the identities or identifiers of the youths or their parents accessible in the current


research. Internet access to this dataset was granted by submitting an e-mail address as a

login and was password protected.

Once the dataset was located, the researcher downloaded the related

documentation for review. After reviewing the codebook and definitions, the researcher

verified specific variable codes, variable names, questions, and titles in order to extract

them from the dataset. Descriptive and frequency tables were processed and included in

the analysis. A crosstab was included to verify the outcome variable (delinquency) with

the predictor and control variables.

Units of Measurement

Variables analyzed from the 1997 base year (commonly referred to as NLSY97

1997-2005) were part of the youth responses and included the following:

(1) Outcome variable – Delinquency (n=8,969);

(2) Predictor variables –

(a) Lives with both parents (BothParents, n=7,900),

(b) Lives with biological mom (BioMom, n=8,982),

(c) Lives with biological dad (BioDad, n=8,982),

(d) Peers who belong to gang (GangPeers, n=8,812),

(e) Sibling who belongs to gang (GangSibling, n=8,933),

(h) Mother’s parenting style (MomStyle, n=8,580),

(i) Father’s parenting style (DadStyle, n=6,421), and

(3) Control variables

(a) Race/Ethnicity, n=8,984

(b) Age, n=8,984, and


(c) Gender, n=8,984.

Outcome variable. Self-reported delinquency was used as the outcome variable

to determine whether or not the predictor variables were significant in predicting the

social risk factors of juvenile delinquency. Table 1 indicates which variables were used as

predictor or covariate variables. It should be noted that NLSY included the following in

its definition of delinquency: runaway, carrying a hand gun, belonging to a gang,

damaging or destroying property of others, theft under $50, assault, selling drugs, and

arrests. Respondents to the survey were asked if they were “ever arrested by the police or

taken into custody for an illegal or delinquent offense” (Moore et al., 1999). The outcome

variable Delinquency included those juveniles who considered themselves as delinquent n

= 4,781 “yes” responses and were coded as “1”; 4,188 responded “no” and were coded as

“0”; 15 were coded as missing, for a total of 8,984 responses.

Predictor variables. Some of the more common predictor variables included age,

gender, race, and ethnicity. Others included education, prior contacts, prior drug contact,

cases dismissed, community treatment, total number of treatments, time between arrests

and program, drug charge, employment, city size, decision-making, hostility, risk-taking,

personal irresponsibility, and treatment participation.

In the current study, the predictor variable(s) include age, gender (males and

females), and race (whites and non-whites); these were used as control variables. Other

variables include peer associations, parents, and parenting styles.

The researcher limited the use of predictor variables in order to determine social

risk factors of juvenile delinquency by age, gender, and race or ethnicity. Delinquency

rates were compared by these variables to determine the effectiveness of informal social

controls. When appropriate, moderating variables were compared for comprehensive

analysis and for verification of the reliability and validity of the study.

Description of the Sample

The total dataset included a cohort of 8,984 non-institutionalized youths from

across the United States who had reached age 12 to 16 by December 31, 1996.

Demographics in the base year of 1997 included an oversampling of Hispanic (1,901) and

non-Hispanic blacks (2,335), while there were 4,665 whites and 83 of mixed race. An

attempt was made to group the youths by location; however, the only variables available

were urban (6,574), rural (2,030), and unknown (380), which did not allow for an evenly

distributed comparison.

Due to “valid skip” questions and structurally missing data, the dataset was

reduced to a sample of 6,421 responses. The predictor variable DadStyle had only 6,421

usable data, as 2,563 were “valid skips.” The “non-interviews” (-5), “valid skips” (-4),

“invalid skips” (-3), and “refusals” (-1) were treated as structurally missing data and were

not included in the analysis. To strengthen the reliability and validity of the study, the

sample was further reduced to a sub-sample of 5,230 non-weighted cases, as there were

3,754 total missing cases among the dataset. Table 1 indicates the missing data and

usable data under each variable, as well as the codes used for each variable for the

replication. The importance of missing data when analyzing variables must be

considered. Since the outcome variable Delinquency had 15 missing values, any

correlated variable with no missing values had at least 15 missing pairwise values for the

purpose of the comparative analysis in the present study.


Table 1. NLSY97 Variable used. (N=8,984)

Valid Usable
Variables Name Code Skips Missing Data
Outcome Delinquency R14877.00 0 15 8,969
Predictor BothParents R06434.00 1084 0 7,900
Predictor BioMom R03277.00 0 2 8,982
Predictor BioDad R03356.00 0 2 8,982
Predictor GangPeers R00707.00 6 166 8,812
Predictor GangSibling R03604.00 0 51 8,933
Predictor MomStyle R14865.00 404 0 8,580
Predictor DadStyle R14866.00 2,563 0 6,421
Control Race/Eth. R14826.00 0 0 8,984
Control Age R05366.00 0 0 8,984
Control Gender R05363.00 0 0 8,984


The outcome variable delinquency recode is discussed above. However, a more

detailed critique is necessary. The original coding was on a 10 point Likert scale (0-10),

with 10 being the most delinquent. In order to use the variable delinquency for an

outcome variable it had to be re-coded into a dichotomous variable. Therefore, no

delinquency remained the same and was coded as zero (0) while delinquency scores from

1 to 10 were re-coded to one (1).

Variables dealing with the juvenile’s living arrangement incorporated three

separate variables, which were coded in the following manner. One variable category

included juveniles who live with “both parents,” coded as “1.” Juveniles living with

neither the mother nor the father were coded as “0.” Under a separate variable category

(BioDad), juveniles who lived with only the father were coded as “1,” while those who

did not live with the father were coded as “0.” The same coding was used for juveniles

living only with their mother (“1”) and juveniles not living with their mother (“0”)


The variables MomStyle and DadStyle refer to the residential parents and were re-

coded from categorical variables to dichotomous variables. Non-residential parents are

not included in the dataset, as they were less likely to have a direct affect on the juvenile.

Uninvolved parent were re-coded from “1” to “0.” Permissive parents were re-coded

from “2” to “0.” Therefore, uninvolved and permissive were transformed to “lenient” and

coded as “0.” Authoritarian and authoritative were transformed to “strict” and re-coded as

“1.” Authoritarian were re-coded from “3” to “1,” and authoritative re-coded from “4” to


A large percentage of the youth from the delinquent subsample were self-

categorized as delinquent between the ages of 14 and 16 (n=547 or 75%). The 14- to 15-

year-olds arrested appeared proportionate to the sample population of 8,957 youths, even

though the largest percent of arrests were in the 15-year-old group (30%), followed by 16

year olds (25.4%), 14 year olds (19.6%), and 13 year olds (10.3%). Therefore, age was

re-coded “0” for youths aged 12 to and including 14 years old, and “1” for those aged 15

to but not including 17; the dataset included juveniles who were 16 years of age but had

not yet reached their 17th birthday.

A large portion of the responses for association with GangSiblings and

GangPeers fell under the category “less than and equal to 10%.” As a result, this variable

was re-coded “0” for association with delinquent peers less than and equal to 10% and

“1” for association with delinquent peers greater than 10%. Race/Ethnicity was re-coded

“0” for white and “1” for non-white. Gender was coded “0” for male and “1” for female.

Bivariate Analysis

Correlational analysis indicated the strength and weaknesses of each variable

relationship. Analysis of the outcome variable (delinquency) by individual and separate

control variables — Age, Gender, Race/Ethnicity, and the predictor variables -

BothParents, BioMom, BioDad, GangPeers, GangsSiblings, MomStyle, and DadStyle —

determined the strength of each variable. Scatter plot analysis was used to emphasize the

relation to a linear line equation. If the points of the scatter plot approach a straight line

between the outcome variable (delinquency) and the control or predictor variables, then a

linear relationship was established. The closer the points appear to be a straight line, the

stronger the relationship. The relationships can appear positively or negatively related. In

a positive variable relationship or correlation, both the outcome and the control or

predictor variables will increase. Negative relations appear in the opposite direction; as

one variable increases the other variable decreases.

Nonlinear relationships can also be determined by scatter plots. An example

would be curvilinear relationships, which occur when the data points fit any curvature

line such as a “U,” an inverted “U,” or an “S” shaped line. A correlational scatter plot

also indicates outliers where available. These data points normally lay two standard

deviations outside another data point. In other words, participants may exaggerate or

falsify answers on some surveys, creating outliers on a scatter plot. Once proven invalid

the point may be thrown out, creating a true and better linear fit. If an outlier has been

proven valid, the data point must remain and the researcher must note the outlier effect. It

was also reasonable to verify the effects without the outliers as part of the analysis.

As long as the variable relationships are linear, a correlation coefficient

(Pearson’s r or r) may determine whether the relationship was positive or negative, strong

or weak. As previously stated, the closer the data points appear to the linear line, the

stronger the relationship, with +1 or -1 representing the strongest relationship. The further

the data points appear from the linear line, the weaker the relationship. A moderately

strong relationship may be represented by a +0.5, -0.5, or a +0.6, or -0.6, whereas +0.7 or

-0.7 and above are considered stronger relationships.

It was important to verify whether or not the outcome variable delinquency has a

significant correlation with each of the control and predictor variables. Scatter plots were

helpful in visualizing the variables, but a correlational matrix tests the power of each

variable with each and every variable in the analysis. If any of the relationships were

found to be weak, the researcher would be able to analyze the data more consistently in

the next step of the process. In the current study, the next step was to conduct

multivariate analysis.

Multivariate Analysis

Some of the simplest methods used to visually analyze variables in a study of

multivariate analysis are graphs. SPSS software allows the researcher to analyze different

variables together in a population pyramid. The population pyramid indicates one

variable distribution on a vertical axis, another variable split dichotomously on a

horizontal axis, and a third variable(s) by rows. For instance, initial analysis may indicate

more delinquency among juveniles who do not live with both parents, have strict parents,

of are more susceptible to social risk factors, such as peers in gangs.


Logistic regression was used to compare the dichotomous outcome variable

(delinquency), which was regressed initially, with all other variables. A stepwise method

of backward likelihood ratio was chosen to remove each predictor or control variable one

by one, in case the variables did not contribute to or were found to be insignificant to the

regression equation. The probability for stepwise entry and removal was set at .05 and

.10, respectively.

The categorical variable of race was included in the analysis as a control variable

of the logistic regression in contrast to other dichotomous variables. A regression of the

variables allowed the researcher to test and analyze the variance between predictors and

the outcome variable. The backward stepwise logistic regression not only determined the

strength of correlation between variables but distinguished whether collinearity exists

among the variables. For instance, living with both parents, only the mother, or only the

father may prove to be collinear. The point of the present research is to create separate

dichotomous variables for each of these measures in order to prevent such collinearity. It

was also one of the points for separating these variables in order to draw a distinction

between the different measures of risk factors and delinquency. This type of regression

also indicated equation strength and significance, as well as lower and upper confidence

interval for Exp(B) at each step, which assisted in the analysis. The stepwise analysis

produced an iteration history (results) to indicate the log likelihood and the coefficients at

each step of the process, which allowed for better understanding of the statistical


In multivariate analysis the straight line was best expressed by a linear equation

also known as the least square line. This meant that the vertical axes of the line through

the total data points were as small as possible to the sum of their squares. The formula for

this equation is represented by y = a + bx + , where y is the response or outcome

variable delinquency, b is the slope, a is the y-intercept, x represents the predictor or

control variables, and represents the random error term. The next step accounts for the

mean values of x and y and is represented by the equation a = y − b x . The standard

deviation of x is equated as SSx = Σx2 – (Σx)2 / n, where SSx represents the total sum of

squares of x, Σx2 is the sum of x squared, subtracted by (Σx)2 the sum of x squared

divided by n, which represents the total number of points in the scatter plot. SSxy = Σxy

– (Σx)(Σy) / n represents the sum of the products. Using SSxy divided by SSx, we are able

to determine the slope (b).

To find the y-intercept of a multivariate or regression equation, we now plug in

the values for the slope (b) = SSxy / SSx which is the total sum of squares of x times y.

The mean value for (y-bar) is represented by Σy/n and the mean value for x (x-bar) is

represented by Σx/n. Plugged into the equation: a = y − b x or a = Σy/n - b Σx/n.

Remember that with y = a +bx, we can now determine the maximum likelihood

regression equation.

Using the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences (SPSS), most of this work

was performed for the researcher. However, the output can be fallible, as it was input by

the researcher and required knowledge of the formulas presented above. Researchers who

know and understand the formulas and the software are in great shape. For multiple

variable regressions the researcher has only to plug in the standardized beta coefficients

into a simple equation written in log-odds units where p equals the probability of the

outcome and 1 – p is the opposite of the outcome. Odds = p / 1- p = eb0 + eb1x1 + eb2x2 +

k…+ , where b0 represents the constant and k is the predictor or control (x) variables.

Therefore for the current study, it may be written as follows:

Odds = p/1-p = b0(delinquency) + eb1(bothparents) + eb2(biomom) + eb3(biodad) +

eb4(gangpeers) + eb5(gangsiblings) + eb6(momstyle) + eb7(dadstyle) + eb8(race/ethnicity)

+ eb9(age) + eb10(gender) + .

Once the backward stepwise logistic regression is preformed and the insignificant

variables removed, it may look like this: Odds = p/1-p = eb0delinquency + eb1bothparents

+ eb2gangsiblings + eb3dadstyle + eb4age + . At this point the researcher can plug in the

standardized beta coefficients represented by Exp(B) and the scales used for each

variable to verify the results. For instance, the standardized beta coefficients may be

represented as delinquency (1.3), bothparents (0.5), gangsiblings (2.0), dadstyle (1.4),

and age (3.2); where the Odds = p/1-p = (1.3)delinquency + (0.5)bothparents +

(2.0)gangsiblings + (1.4)dadstyle + (3.2)age. We now can determine the odds for

delinquency by plugging in the following scales for a juvenile with bothparents (coded as

1), juveniles with less than and equal to 10% gangsiblings (coded as 0), strict fathers

(coded as 1), and juveniles over the age of 14 (coded as 1). The Odds = p/1-p =

(1.3)(1)delinquency + (0.5)(1)bothparents + (2.0)(0)gangsiblings + (1.4)(1)dadstyle +

(3.2)(1)age = 1.3 + 0.5 + 0 + 1.4 = 6.4 on a delinquency scale from 0 to 8.4 where zero

is no delinquency and 8.4 is the most delinquent behavior under the representative


In order to use the SPSS software for the data analysis, the specific dataset used

was uploaded into the SPSS program. If the dataset uses commas in numerical format, the

commas must be removed. It was vitally important to go through the codebook of the

dataset. Codes represented by numerical values may create false analysis if not dealt with

in the proper format. For instance, a code of 0, 999, or any other letter or number may

represent missing values. The researcher must determine how to handle missing values

prior to analysis as stipulated previously. There are two primary ways to deal with

missing values in SPSS. First is to recode the missing values for ease of running the

dataset or removing cases listwise. Listwise deletion removes cases with missing values

before analysis. A second deletion method is to remove values pairwise. Pairwise

deletion uses as many variables as possible and only deletes the missing values. The

major difference is that listwise deletions remove the entire case with missing values,

only using cases that are not missing any values, while pairwise deletion uses all cases.

The present study recoded the missing values and then utilized a pairwise method to

remove all cases before analysis.

The next step was to determine the need to re-code remaining variables as

completed in the above-mentioned re-coding section. In order to ascertain the need to re-

code variables, the researcher should run descriptive and frequency analysis of the

variables. Descriptive analysis created an output of maximum, minimum, and mean

values with the standard deviation. This was used to divide variables into categories,

ranks, or dichotomies for easier comparison. In the current study, it was determined that

specific variables would be better served if they were dichotomized for easier analysis. A

frequency analysis created an output of percentages. In conjunction with the scatter plot

described earlier, the frequency analysis provided the researcher with information on

outliers and the skew of variables. Variables such as parenting style which had four

different codes were reduced to two. Race/ethnicity were reduced to white and non-white

for the same reason. Other variables, such as gang siblings and gang peers, were initially

coded by percentages. These variables were dichotomized to all cases less than and equal

to 10% and all cases above 10%, not only for ease of analysis but also for even

distribution of the two groups.

When running variable analysis in regression formats, it was best to create evenly

distributed groups. In other words, the experimental and control groups should have, as

closely as possible, the same number of cases or values of a particular variable and no

less than 30 cases for effective and efficient analysis. The SPSS software was also able to

analyze measures of dispersion and central tendency. Central tendencies infer mean,

median, and mode. Dispersion of course refers to range and standard deviation.

The focus was to group each variable into specific levels of measurement. The

key was to determine which level best works for the analysis under review. A

dichotomous measure has only two levels. A great example would be gender (female and

male). Other variables were recoded into dichotomous variables in the following manner.

Race normally appears as white, black, Hispanic, and/or other. Re-coded, it reflected

white and minority, or white and non-white. The researcher must be aware of the coding

of race. Some codes of white include Hispanics, as is also true for black. If it was

impossible to separate these cases the researchers must list this as a limitation of the



The present study did not use official data and should not be used to generalize

delinquency. Instead, questionnaires from a multi-wave survey of non-institutionalized

youth were used as secondary data. Questionnaires as in the present study were

problematic in that they could be manipulated in several ways. The author of the

questionnaire could solicit specific answers but could also create a bias in the questions

asked depending on how the questions were asked. The outcome also depended on the

Likert scale being used. When a subject was limited to specific responses, their response

might not be a true measure of the question in her or his own mind.

Relying on individual responses to survey questions was problematic in that the

research had only one way to verify the response, through official data. It was also

problematic that participants were more likely to give false information in order to make

their behavior be seen in a better light. They could also give false information in order to

make themselves appear tougher.

Another point brought out by Ball and Simpson (1965): families move from one

jurisdiction to another, which is even more likely in a highly mobile society. Once

juveniles entered the project of analysis, in this case the multi-wave questionnaires,

parents may have moved in order to keep the juveniles away from a drug environment or

to keep them from being arrested. Juveniles could be placed with foster parents or other

family members as a preventive measure, which would also make it difficult to track the


Parents may just refuse to allow their children to participate in the survey any

more. In cases where the participants are missing, the researcher must either find the

participants or eliminate them from the process. For whatever reason, these juveniles

were no longer a part of the survey and must be removed from the overall records in a

longitudinal research. However, they can remain in the specific survey wave or year the

survey was taken. Juveniles who no longer appear in the next wave were entered and

dealt with as missing data.


Any methods section should include all possible and reasonable models of

analysis. As the study proceeds, it may become necessary to include other types of

analysis. For the present study, a regression analysis to include forward and backward

stepwise analysis was completed. Pairwise analysis was used to ensure valid results. It

was hopeful that the analysis of social risk factors for delinquency as applied to informal

social controls provided areas of discussion for recommendations and policy

implications. These included but were not limited to modifying current parenting

practices; creating a parenting program that can benefit juveniles, their families, and

society; creating changes in the juvenile justice system that are in the best interest of

juveniles; and abolishing less effective juvenile programs in lieu of programs that meet

specific needs of juveniles for effective informal social controls.

The next chapter discusses the analysis and the results of the National

Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY 97). Tables and figures are presented to emphasize

the importance of the correlational and regression analyses. It concludes with an

interpretation of the final binary regression analysis.

Chapter IV


The emphasis in the present study is to compare informal social control of family

and peers associations to that of juveniles with a high probability for the social risk

factors of juvenile delinquency. Does informal social control play a role in preventing

juvenile delinquency, and do social risk factors diminish the effectiveness of informal

social controls? In order to determine the likelihood that peer associations or family

actions contribute to juvenile delinquency, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth

(NLSY) data was used in this analysis.

An initial analysis indicated 4,781 juvenile participants as delinquent, leaving

4,188 participants as non-delinquent. The odds of one juvenile participant in the sample

set of 8,969 being delinquent was 1.14:1 (4,781/4,188= 1.14), in contrast to non-

delinquent juveniles in the sample set at 0.88:1 (4,188/4,781= 0.88). Remember that in

these cases the odds deal with the number of events divided by the number of non-events.

If the odds fall to less than 1 it means that the event is less likely to occur. The odds are

read simply as anything above one is more likely to occur.

The probability of a juvenile participant in the sample set being delinquent was

53% (4,781/8,969 = 0.53). Here, the probability of being delinquent dealt with the

number of events (4,781) divided by the total number of possible events (N = 8,969).

Probability was differentiated from odds in that probabilities range from 0 to 1 as where

odds range from 0 to infinity. The probability of an event at 0.50 meant the event had an

equal chance of occurring or not occurring. Anything below that number was less likely

and anything above was more likely to occur. The odds were read simply as anything


above one was more likely to occur. The point was to determine whether social risk

factors played a role in the delinquency and whether informal social control prevented


Frequencies and Crosstabs Analysis

Analysis was initially completed on the total dataset of 8,984 juvenile

participants. Frequencies distributions in Table 2 allowed the researcher to analyze and

cross reference answers to variations of each variable and compare differences in

responses to individual variables. It was believed that if informal social control worked,

the juvenile would not become delinquent. The present study was particularly concerned

with the failure of informal social control, namely the social risk factors that lead to

juvenile delinquency.

The sample was divided at age 14 in order to approximate half of the sample

population. This means that all juveniles who had not reached age 15 were included in

the age group of 14 and below. This age is a distinctive point in a juvenile’s life, as a

majority of juveniles begin high school at 14. It is also an age at which juveniles seek

more autonomy (Adams, 2008). Ball and Simpson’s (1965) study indicated that the

highest rate of delinquency occurred between 13 and 15 years of age. Myner et al. (1998)

indicated that younger juveniles had a higher probability of using alcohol. Most of the

literature indicated an early onset of delinquency as the best predictor of delinquent and

criminal behavior (Moffitt, 1993; Moffitt & Caspi, 2001; Patterson et al., 1989; Patterson

et al, 1992; Tracy, Wolfgang, & Figlio, 1990; Wolfgang, Figlio, & Selin, 1972).

Race/ethnicity was divided into white and non-white for similar purposes. Almost

all of the variables appeared evenly divided with the exception of juveniles arrested,

living with the biological mother, dads parenting style, and gang association. These

exceptions were divided based on their individual characteristics.

Table 2. Frequencies for NLSY97 Data Sample Set.

Variables N = 8,984 Mean
Delinquent Yes 4,781 0.53
No 4,188 0.46
MomStyle Lenient 890 0.10
Strict 7,690 0.90
DadStyle Lenient 817 0.13
Strict 5,604 0.87
BothParents Yes 3,892 0.49
No 4,008 0.51
BioMom Yes 7,897 0.88
No 1,085 0.12
BioDad Yes 5,101 0.57
No 3,881 0.43
GangSiblings <10% 7,054 0.79
>10% 1,879 0.21
GangPeers <10% 5,690 0.65
>10% 3,122 0.35
Age <14 4,834 0.54
>14 4,150 0.46
RaceEthnicity White 4,665 0.52
Non-white 4,319 0.48
Gender Male 4,599 0.51
Female 4,385 0.49

Juvenile Participants. Most of the following information was obtained from the

“Family Process” data set and was not identified in the current tables: 729 of the 8,984

juvenile participants admit being arrested, while 644 (7%) admit to being high level

delinquents (more than five delinquent acts), which adheres to Tracy’s et al. (1990)

chronic offender theory. Of those delinquents, 116 said they were arrested twice, while

164 juveniles were arrested three or more times.

Fourteen percent of the juveniles arrested admit they were first arrested under

the age of 12 (n=105). Eighteen of those juveniles were arrested three or more times

under the age of 12. Forty-three percent of the juveniles in the dataset admit they got

drunk (3,837/8944). Twenty percent of the juveniles admit they used marijuana

(1,795/8,943). Ten percent ran away from home (935/8,961), another 10 % admit

they carried a gun (861/8,951), and only 5% of the juveniles admit they belonged to a

gang (472/8,962). It should be noted that when the degree of harm or the charge

increased, the percent of juveniles that admit to the harm or charge drops drastically.

The majority of juvenile arrests (n=558) occurred between 12 and 15 years of

age. Seventy-five percent of the juvenile arrests occurred under the age of 14

(n=547), while 182 arrests occurred for juveniles from 15 to 17 years of age (25%).

Sixty percent of the arrests (n=442) occurred between the ages of 12 to 14. However,

as the juvenile ages, the arrest rate drops in this dataset, signifying Moffitt’s (1993)

adolescent-limited behavior theory. It must be understood, the number of juveniles

arrested is not the same as the number of juvenile arrests. Quite simply a juvenile

may be arrested numerous times.

The above information alone was not significant enough to determine the effect of

the social risk factors on juvenile delinquency or informal social control alone. Although

drinking, drug use, and gang activities normally occurred with others, it was important to

analyze these issues. Parental controls represent important issues among younger

juveniles, while peers became more important among older juveniles.


Parents. It was interesting to see that almost half of the juveniles in the survey

lived with both parents (n = 3,889); 48% living with both parents said they were

delinquent and 5%, or 179, of the subsample of juveniles were arrested. Of those who did

not live with both parents (n = 3,997), 59 % said they were delinquent, while 445 or 11%

of the subsample were arrested. This indicated that living with both parents not only may

reduce the odds of a juvenile committing a delinquent act or being arrested but also is

viewed as a preventive measure for delinquency. So, what social risk factors undermined

the parental informal social controls of the juveniles who lived with both parents? More

analysis was needed.

The fact that 12% of the juveniles did not live with their biological mother

(n=1,077) may prove the deciding factor for delinquent conduct. Fifty-two percent of the

juveniles who lived only with their biological mother said they were delinquent, while

63% or 673 of the 1,077 juveniles who did not live with their biological mother were

delinquent. Seven percent or 572 juveniles were arrested while living only with their

biological mother. This ratio indicated that living only with the biological mother

prevented juvenile arrest more than not living only with the biological mother (n = 157,


However, only 6% (n = 294) of the arrested juveniles stated they were living only

with their biological father (n = 5,101). This presented a concept that the single-mother

exerted less informal social control than both parents or the single-father, contradicting

DeMuth and Brown (2003/2004). Single-mothers had more than two times as many

juvenile delinquents than single-fathers and three times more juvenile delinquents than

both parents. Could this mean that a father’s influence was greater than the mother’s, or

was it that the father generates more control over the juvenile?

An interesting fact was that approximately 89% of the delinquents and the

arrested juveniles felt that both parents were strict and 11% of the same participants

felt their parent was lenient. Even more interesting was the fact that more juvenile

arrests came from strict mothers (n = 572) than strict fathers (n = 356). It was closer

among lenient parents; lenient mothers (n = 95 arrested juveniles) and lenient fathers

(n =78 arrested juveniles). Butler et al. (2007) stipulated that parent-adolescent

alienation influenced higher levels of delinquency, which may prove less effective

informal social control and parental alienation. Of the parenting styles, fewer

juveniles were arrested from households with lenient fathers (n = 78/817; 10%) than

households with strict fathers (n = 356/5,604; 6%). The same can be said of lenient

mothers (n = 95/890 or 11%) and strict mothers (n = 572/7,690 or 7%). This was in

direct contradiction to Hoeve et al. (2007), which stated that no direct evidence exists

between strict parenting style and delinquency. The fact is, evidence does exist, and

the descriptive statistics appear to prove that more juveniles were arrested from

authoritarian and authoritative parents. However, the percentages are distinctly

different to the number of juveniles arrested under each parenting style.

The greatest percent of juveniles arrested in correlation to living arrangements or

parenting styles was 15% of juveniles who did not live only with their biological

mothers. The next highest percentage of 11% for juvenile arrest rates were tied among

juveniles living with lenient mothers, not living with both parents, and not living only

with their biological father. It appeared that living with a strict biological single-father

prevented delinquency more than living with a strict, biological, single-mother. Although

there was no doubt that living with both parents created less juvenile delinquency (5%), it

appeared at first glance that living only with a strict father created less delinquency as

well (6%). The key was to determine the significance of such relationships.

Depending on the parenting style, the juvenile may become more delinquent

with more lenient mothers or stricter mothers. It really depended on whether the

juvenile sets in motion the parenting style or the parent sets in motion the delinquent

behavior (Jang & Smith, 1997). This phenomenon also may be indicative of the

Knutson et al. (2005) image of the neglectful parent.

There was definitely a correlation with living with both parents, as fewer

delinquents lived with both parents (49%). Even fewer juveniles arrested came from

homes where both parents were present (25%). The fact remained that these variables

must be analyzed to determine which were more likely to increase, decrease or

prevent delinquency.

Siblings. A higher percentage of delinquent juveniles claimed less than and equal

to 10% association with gang siblings (n = 3,344). This represented 70% of the

delinquent juveniles (n = 4,762) who claimed gang siblings, while 30% (n = 1,418) of the

delinquents claim more than 10% are gang siblings. Of those juveniles who claimed more

than 10% gang sibling association, 76% (n = 1,418) scored high as delinquent, while 461

or 25% scored as non-delinquent.

Thirty percent of the delinquent juveniles in the dataset actually had siblings in

gangs (n = 1,418/4,762). Of those juveniles with less than and equal to 10% gang

siblings, 425 or 6% were arrested (n = 425/7,045), while 16% (n = 303/1,877) of the


juveniles with more than 10% gang siblings were arrested. This inferred that juveniles

with more than 10% siblings in gangs had a much higher probability of being arrested, or

that the juveniles may not be truthful about their gang associations. In the analysis of the

juveniles who were arrested, more arrests came from juveniles who claimed less than and

equal to 10% association with gang siblings. The same may be said of delinquents with

less than and equal to 10% gang peer association. Does it mean more delinquents have

siblings or friends in gangs? Further analysis may show those whom have chosen gang

peers may be more likely to be arrested. The old adage comes to mind: “You can choose

your friends but you cannot choose your family.”

Those juveniles who have siblings in gangs may view this as a status symbol or a

point of reputation and feel they must follow the sibling’s lead. It is very likely that

pressure placed on the juvenile to join the gang is more prevalent with a sibling in a gang

than with a peer in a gang. As the juvenile grows up he or she is more likely to hang out

with their friends than with their siblings. It may depend more on the timing and the age

of the juvenile at the time the pressure to join occurs.

Keep in mind that juveniles tend to stretch the truth when it comes to admitting

association with gangs or gang member themselves. Those juveniles not in gangs tend to

say that they are, in order to build a reputation, while juveniles in gangs tend to say they

are not, in order to prevent becoming the center of attention. When utilizing survey data,

the researcher must verify the data. Most juveniles in gangs like to tattoo themselves for

gang identification as sort of a status symbol. Most juveniles not in gangs would not

place such a gang tattoo on their body for fear that the gang would take offense and hurt

them for doing so. Since secondary data was used under the current study, it was not

possible to verify gang membership.

Peers. It was important to test the peer associations of juvenile delinquents, as

they were the main focus of associations for older juveniles. As juveniles age they seek

more autonomy and peer acceptance (Adams, 2008). Juveniles who came from

dysfunctional families may have sought out relationships and bonding. One way to gain

acceptance from peers was through like experiences, for example through drinking

alcohol, taking drugs, or other delinquent behaviors regarded as social risk factors.

Results indicated that a larger proportion of the peer association group were

peers who belong to gangs, versus sibling gang associations (Table 2). There were

fewer peer gang associations (n = 5,690) than gang sibling associations (n = 7,054)

under the category of less than and equal to 10% gang association. However, there

was more gang peer (n = 3,122) than gang sibling association (n = 1,879) for more

than 10% gang association. For the juveniles who have been arrested, the gang peer

association was somewhat even, less than and equal to 10% (n = 340), and more than

10% (n = 381). The biggest difference was found with juveniles who have been

arrested in correlation between sibling and peer gang members. Here, juveniles who

were arrested and had less than and equal to 10% gang siblings (n = 425), as less than

and equal to 10% peer gang members (n = 340). It was just the opposite for more than

10% gang association of each category; gang siblings (n = 303) and gang peers (n =

381). As noted by Payne and Cornwell (2007), even distant peers have an effect on

the behaviors of juveniles as the latter attempt to impress and refine their circle of


Similar results were found among juveniles with more than 10% of their peers

associated with gangs that commit illegal activities (n = 2,758), which make up 31%

of the participants, and where less than and equal to 10% of their peers (n = 6,054)

comprised 69% of the dataset. Twelve percent of the juveniles who were arrested

stated that more than 10% of the peers were involved in gangs that committed illegal

activities, whereas only 404 or 7% of the juveniles arrested stated that less than and

equal to 10% of their peers were involved in gangs that committed illegal activities.

The emphasis was that the more involved the juvenile is with delinquent peers the

more likely they are to be arrested.

Of the 729 participants who stated they were arrested, only 300 (41%) stated they

had been arrested more than once, while 59% said they were arrested only once. This

indicated that peers have more of an influence than siblings on juvenile delinquency. It

also indicated that parental influence and informal social control played less of a role in

these juveniles’ lives, which increased the social risk factors associated with juvenile


Initial cross tabulations were run to validate responses to each question, in

relation to the outcome measure delinquency. After the variables were re-coded,

another crosstab analysis was run with the outcome variable delinquency (N = 8,984)

and all other variables. Table 3 referred to the descriptive statistics for the variables in

the study to include variable responses, percentages of delinquency, degrees of

freedom (df), and chi-square (x2) under each variable.

The degrees of freedom were equal to the number of rows minus 1 times the

number of columns minus 1 written as d.f. = (R-1) x (C-1). Chi square was the difference

between the observed (O) and expected (E) frequencies in a test of independence written

in the following format: x2 = ∑ (O – E)2 / E, where ∑ was equated as the sum of observed

(O) frequencies minus expected (E) frequencies squared, then divided by the expected

(E) frequencies. Expected frequency was computed by multiplying row total by the

column total and dividing it by the sample size.

The critical value of alpha was (α = 0.05 for 1 d.f.) equal to 3.84. Therefore, all

values which fall to the right of the critical value 3.84 fall in the critical region of a one-

tailed test and therefore were rejected as independent. Notice that Table 3 shows all

degrees of freedom were equal to 1 and the x2 of each are greater than 3.84 (x20.05); thus

each variable was said to be nondependent at a level of significance of 0.05 and 1 degree

of freedom.

Age. For the purpose of a controlled analysis, the category of age was divided

by those up to and including the age of 14 as one group and those above the age of 15

as the second group. Juveniles under the age of 14 were somewhat evenly divided for

delinquent (n = 2,365, 49%) and non-delinquent (n = 2,457, 51%). There was some

difference among juveniles over the age of 15, as there were 2,416 delinquents (58%)

and 1,731 non-delinquents (42%). This equated to a proportional rate of delinquent

juveniles 12 to 14 years of age (49%) and juveniles over 15 to 17 years of age (51%).

The largest difference was found when comparing age by those juveniles who

were arrested. Juveniles from age 12 to 14 represent 35% (n = 254) of those arrested,

while those over the age of 15 represent 65% (n = 475) of the juveniles arrested. Of

the 8,957 juveniles surveyed, 729 or 8% account for the total number of juveniles


Race/Ethnicity. Under the controlled analysis, race/ethnicity was evenly

divided between white and non-white juveniles. Juveniles who scored non-delinquent

comprise 2,153 or 46% of white juveniles and 2,035 or 47% of non-white juveniles.

Delinquent juveniles range from 2,506 or 54% for white juveniles and 2,275 or 53%

for non-white juveniles. A comparison of white juveniles (n = 4,659) (delinquent,

54% & non-delinquent, 46%) indicated an 8% difference, with more delinquent than

non-delinquents. A similar comparison for non-white (n = 4,310) was found; 53%

and 47%, respectively. However, the margin was smaller and indicated only a 6%

difference with delinquent being the high category for non-white.

Similar results were found among race/ethnicity as with age. A larger

proportion of non-whites were arrested (n = 400, 55%) as whites comprise 329

juveniles arrested or 45%. Again, the total number of juveniles arrested was 729

under the category of race/ethnicity. Although white juveniles represented 7% of

those arrested, the non-whites encompassed 9% of the juveniles arrested.

Gender. It was more difficult to evenly separate delinquent juveniles and

juveniles arrested by gender, as male juveniles were disproportionately represented in

almost all datasets. The current dataset was comprised of 4,588 males and 4,381

females, 2,870 delinquent males, and 1,911 delinquent females. Of these juveniles,

there were 495 (11%) male juveniles and 234 (5%) female juveniles arrested.

An overall analysis of the preceding variables suggested that one of the most

significant outcomes of the variable Arrested in the sample dealt with youths who lived

with the biological mother (n = 4,108/8,984, 45.73%), which doubles the arrest rate for

all youths. Why? A juvenile who does not live with both parents (n = 1,854 /8,984,

20.63%), or with the biological father (n=2,246/8,984, 25%), was at greater risk of being

arrested. The difference between youths who did not live with the biological father or

both parents was still significant, but the mother being the nurturer had greater


Even though almost 90% of the delinquent juveniles felt they had strict parents,

they were slightly more likely to be arrested than juveniles with lenient parents. Youths

who were non-white, male, over the age of 14, associated with gang peers, and had

siblings in gangs were approximately 11.93% more likely to be arrested. Variables with

the least amount of significance appeared to be RaceEthnicity, MomStyle, and DadStyle.


Table 3. Crosstabs of Delinquency for NLSY97 Variables (N = 8,984)

Variables Delinquency % of N df x2
BothParents 1 102.902*
Yes 1,854 20.63
No 2,361 26.28
BioMom 1 41.463*
Yes 4,108 45.73
No 673 8.49
BioDad 1 61.918*
Yes 2,535 28.22
No 2,246 25.00
MomStyle 1 83.173*
Lenient 599 6.67
Strict 3,934 43.79
DadStyle 1 54.224*
Lenient 520 5.79
Strict 2,793 31.09
GangSiblings 1 469.102*
Yes 3,344 37.22
No 1,418 15.78
GangPeers 1 164.602*
<10% 2,756 30.68
>10% 1,960 21.82
Age 1 76.029*
<14 2,365 26.32
>14 2,416 26.89
Race/Ethnicity 1 0.907*
White 2,506 27.89
Non-white 2,275 25.32
Gender 1 322.802*
Male 2,870 31.95
Female 1,911 21.27
Note. * Denotes significance at the p < .05

Bivariate Analysis

Correlational Analysis. A Pearson’s correlation matrix with a one-tailed test of

significance was run to determine if any relationship exists among the social risk factors

associated with juvenile delinquency. Even though all the variables correlated with

delinquency were low, they appeared significant at the 0.001 level. The correlation matrix

in Table 4 indicated variables which appear positively or negatively weak. The

relationships of MomStyle, DadStyle, BothParents, BioMom, BioDad, RaceEthnicity, and

Gender appeared negatively weak interacting with delinquency, while GangSiblings,

GangPeer, and Age appeared positively weak. This would initially suggest that variables

that were positive may not prevent, but advocate, delinquency. Negative correlations may

prevent delinquency, that is, they may be a negative influence on delinquency.

When reading a correlation matrix one should remember that positive correlations

indicate that lower sets of points x and y increase to higher sets of x and y. A perfect

positive correlation was represented as 1 and a perfect negative correlation as -1, where

negative correlations that signified higher x values were paired with lower values of y as

they decreased to lower values of x paired with higher values of y.

Although the table suggested that certain negative paired variables were

significant, it only referred to a relationship of the two variables. It did not indicate

causality. Anything above + 0.5 was deemed a significant positive relationship, where

anything below – 0.5 was deemed a significant negative relationship. The opposite effect

was said to be non-significant. It must be noted that the correlation matrix was run on

dichotomous variables and was not used to verify a linear relationship.


It should also be remembered that as the correlation approaches zero (0) it is

indicative a non-relationship. Although most of the correlations fall below 0.5, they were

deemed significant under the analysis. When dealing with causality, other variables were

considered. For instance, the tried-and-true example of explaining non-causality can best

be understood by the following: As ice cream sales increased, the rates of assault

increased. Although this was true, one does not cause the other. The fact is that as the

temperature increases, ice cream sales increase. The same can be said of assaults. As

temperatures increase, more people begin to interact away from the home. Put another

way, people tend to stay in the home on colder days. Fewer assaults occur on cold days

because fewer people interact. Therefore, ice creams sales and assaults may reveal a

linear relationship if they are grouped together, but the interpretation of such a

relationship would be false without justifying the variable of weather temperature.

When discussing Table 4, it was interesting to see that gang siblings (.229) were

the highest positive correlation of delinquency at an alpha of 0.01. It was also interesting

that living with both parents (-.114) was the highest negatively correlated variable to

delinquency, possibly signifying a prevention of juvenile delinquency or a positive

influence against the social risk factors of delinquency. If this holds true it may be found

that BioMom (-.068) may be the weakest preventive measure for social risk factors for

juvenile delinquency. Since the matrix indicated weak correlations, the next step would

be logistic regressions to determine whether significant relationships exist.

Table 4. Correlations Matrix of Delinquency for NLSY97 (N = 8,984)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Delinquency -.098** -.092** -.114** -.068** -.083** .229** .137** .092** -0.01 -.190**

1 MomStyle .288** .050** .048** .045** -.064** -.053** .022* -0.004 -.037**

2 DadStyle .099** 0.021 .101** -.063** -.053** -.037** -.031* -0.02

3 BothParents .305** .795** -.117** -.147** -0.022 -.216** -.024*

4 BioMom .081** -.035** -.047** -0.016 -.056** 0.012

5 BioDad -.087** -.125** -.031** -.209** -.043**

6 GangSibling .257** .045** .179** 0.012

7 GangPeers .098** .222** 0.018

8 Age 0.013 0.006

9 RaceEthnicity 0.011

10 Gender

** Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (1-tailed).

* Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (1-tailed).


Regression Analysis

The primary reason for the use of logistic regression analysis was to determine

the relationship of an outcome variable (delinquency) to that of several control or

predictor variables. Logistic regression allowed the researcher to establish the

existence or nonexistence of a variable in the equation based on specific criteria.

Therefore, logistic regression required a binary (two-category) outcome variable

(Sweet & Grace-Martin, 2008). The variable delinquency was defined as participants’

responses to a Likert scale about their conduct. The current study dichotomized non-

delinquent juveniles represented by 0 and delinquents as represented by 1 (cf. p. 57).

An initial analysis of the classification table showed that the study could correctly

classify delinquency in the model 100 % of the time. A stepwise, block, and model x 2

analysis was used in order to eliminate spurious variables. Stepwise refers to the method

of inclusion of each variable selected for comparison, in either a backward or a forward

stepwise logistic regression. Stepwise regression allowed control over the variables that

were entered and removed.

In a forward entry process, each variable under analysis was entered into the

SPSS format. Once the analysis was started the SPSS program software added variables

one at a time to the equation, and started with the lowest probability value. At each step

in the process, a variable entered the equation, then was re-analyzed or computed until

the best-fit equation was found. The backward stepwise process worked in the opposite

order. During backward stepwise regression, variables with the highest probability values

were removed until the best-fit equation was found.


Block entry is a step in each regression analysis, where the variables entered or

remaining during the stepwise process were analyzed or evaluated for that specific block

of variables. After the analysis was complete for that block, variables were evaluated for

entry or removal. At this point the results were included in an output to include

eliminated variables, if requested in the SPSS program.

The key to running a stepwise regression was to understand the weakness of

this type of regression. Part of the process was for the researcher to enter each

variable in the analysis. However, after each variable was entered the software

analyzed the variables in the order in which they were entered. This allowed the

software to analyze the variables one at a time. Each time a variable was added, the

software re-analyzed the goodness-of-fit for the linear equation. Here lies the

problem. If one of the variables was found insignificant in one step of the analysis, it

may actually be significant with another ordered set of variable analysis.

For this reason the researcher must enter the variables in several different

formats/orders to ensure the study was conducting the best linear fit for the linear

equation. As part of the process the researcher had to analyze each set of stepwise

regressions in order to determine which set was actually the best fit for the study. In

the current study, several formats were entered and the best fit format was determined

to be a backward stepwise regression in the following order: Delinquency as the

constant/outcome variable, MomStyle, DadStyle, BothParents, BioMom, BioDad,

GangSiblings, GangPeers, Age, RaceEthnicity, and Gender.

Variables removed during the backward stepwise, block, and model x 2

process included; BioDad on step 2 at a significance level of .248 and BioMom on


step3 at a significance level of .229. More important was the fact that MomStyle,

DadStyle, BothParents, GangSiblings, GangPeers, Age, RaceEthnicity, and Gender

were found not to have a significant change of.000 in steps 1 through 3. Table 5

indicates the final (step 3) analyses with an outcome of delinquency regressed with

MomStyle, DadStyle, BothParents, GangSiblings, Age, RaceEthnicity, and Gender.

Table 5. Variables in the Equation for the Regression for Step 3 (n=8,984)

95.0% C.I.for EXP(B)

B S.E. Wald df Sig. Exp(B) Lower Upper
MomStyle -.639 .109 34.076 1 .000 .528 .426 .654
DadStyle -.342 .096 12.759 1 .000 .711 .589 .857
BothParents -.410 .066 38.796 1 .000 .663 .583 .755
GangSibling 1.191 .085 196.896 1 .000 3.291 2.786 3.886
GangPeers .315 .067 21.896 1 .000 1.370 1.201 1.563
Age .373 .059 39.667 1 .000 1.452 1.293 1.631
RaceEthnicity -.334 .063 28.139 1 .000 .716 .633 .810
Gender -.969 .059 265.931 1 .000 .380 .338 .426
Delinquency (C) 1.344 .136 97.362 1 .000 3.835
(C) Denotes the constant in the equation.

Backward Stepwise Regression Model

An example of the logistic regression equation for this study is written in log-odds

units, where p = the probability of being arrested and 1 - p is the probability of not being


Odds = p = eb 0 + eb1X1 + eb2X2 + eb3X3 + eb4X4 + eb5X5,


and where b0 is the constant (Delinquency) and k independent (X) variables are

represented by the predictors (MomStyle, DadStyle, BothParents, GangSiblings,

GangPeers), and control (Age, RaceEthnicity, and Gender) variables = 1.344 + -


0.639(MomStyle) + -0.342(DadStyle) + -0.410(BothParents) + 1.191(GangSiblings) +

0.315(GangPeers) + 0.373(Age) + -0.334(RaceEthnicity) + -0.969(Gender).

The above coefficients were difficult to interpret, thus Exp(b) was used. The

Exp(b) inferred an increased (or decreased) variable in log-odds of the constant

Delinquency for the final analysis, as long as all other variables remain constant ( Note:

If B = 0; then Exp(B) = 1). The strongest increase was indicated for GangSiblings (B) =

1.191at Exp(B) = 3.291. This indicated that more gang sibling association increased the

odds of a delinquent juvenile. Remember, the initial analysis indicated that more

delinquents came from the category with less than and equal to 10% GangSibling


The strongest negative coefficient was indicated for RaceEthnicity (B) = -.334

at Exp(B) = .380. However, RaceEthnicity only signified that being a non-white

juvenile decreased the odds of delinquency. The next strongest negative coefficient

was indicated with DadStyle (B) = -.342 at Exp(B) = .711, where a strict father

decreased the odds of delinquency. Again, remember that in the initial analysis an

overwhelming majority of juvenile delinquents felt their mother’s parenting style was


When discussing the results of a Binary Logistic Regression Model it must be

noted for a dichotomous outcome variable to be either 0 or 1, an increase for not being

delinquent or a decrease for being delinquent is required. In other words, if B is positive

it will increase the effect of being delinquent (0); then when B is negative it will decrease

the effect of being delinquent (1). As an example: Each additional unit of a variable

decreases (if B is negative) the odds of juveniles being delinquent (0 = not delinquent, 1

= delinquent) by a factor of about the corresponding Exp(B), controlling for all other

variables. To the novice, these results may sound strange; however this is the way the

tables should be interpreted. Referring to Table 6, the following list indicates the results

of the final analysis of the Binary Logistic Regression Model:

• Each additional unit of MomStyle (B = -0.639) decreased the odds of juvenile

delinquency by a factor of Exp(B) = 0.528, holding all other variables constant
(Lenient = 0) & (Strict = 1).
• Each additional unit of DadStyle (B = -0.342) decreased the odds of juvenile
delinquency by a factor of Exp(B) = 0.711, holding all other variables constant
(Lenient = 0) & (Strict = 1).
• Each additional unit of BothParents (B = -0.410) decreased the odds of juveniles’
delinquency by a factor of Exp(B) = 0.633, holding all other variables constant.
(Both Parents = 0) & (Neither Parent = 1).
• Each additional unit of GangSiblings (B = 1.191) increased the odds of juveniles’
delinquency by a factor of Exp(B) = 3.291, holding all other variables constant
(<10% = 0) & (>10% = 1).
• Each additional unit of GangPeers (B = 0.315) increased the odds of juveniles’
delinquency by a factor of Exp(B) = 1.370, holding all other variables constant
(<10% = 0) & (>10% = 1).
• With each additional unit of Age (B = 0.373), the odds of juvenile delinquency
increased by a factor of Exp(B) = 1.452, holding all other variables constant
(<14= 0) & (>14 = 1).
• With each additional unit of RaceEthnicity (B = -0.334), the odds of juvenile
delinquency of a Non-White juvenile decreased by a factor of Exp(B) = 0.716,
holding all other variables constant (White = 0) & (Non-White = 1).
• With each additional unit of Gender (B = -0. 969), the odds of juvenile
delinquency of a female decreased by a factor of Exp(B) = 0.388, holding all other
variables constant (Male = 0) & (Female = 1).


Based on these results, one can ask: does informal social control play a role in

juvenile incarceration? The answer is a resounding, yes. The presence of strict parenting

styles and being raised by both parents decrease the likelihood of delinquency.

Race/Ethnicity and gender also are significant for a decrease in delinquent outcomes. An

increased presence of gang peers, gang siblings, and age of the juvenile increase the

likelihood of delinquency. As gang relations (peer and siblings) increase, the likelihood

of delinquency may occur. The same can be said for age. As a juvenile’s age increases,

delinquency may increase.

This implies that informal social control has a profound effect on juvenile

delinquency, and that peer and sibling association is in opposition to informal social

control. These juveniles may be in an environment with more delinquent juveniles,

which involves Burgess and Akers’ (1966) differential reinforcement theory and

Greenwood’s (2006) “deviant peer contagion.” The system was not only placing these

juveniles more at risk through incarceration but was in fact reinforcing their behavior

by placing them in an environment of controlled custody in which they learned how

to be better deviants. In other words, these juveniles learned how to commit deviant

acts and get away with them from other deviants who were incarcerated with them.

The presence of both parents and strict parents decreased the likelihood of a juvenile

falling prey to the social risk factors of juvenile delinquency and arrest. An increased

presence of gang peers, gang siblings, and being in custody as juveniles age,

increased the likelihood of juveniles succumbing to the social risk factors of juvenile

delinquency and increased the odds of arrest.


So, should juvenile facilities hold juveniles in a more categorized segregation than

is today’s norm? It would appear so. Most facilities have a policy of segregation

according to the delinquent act or crimes committed, but fail to practice such segregation.

For instance, a facility may have three classifications (low-, medium-, and high-custody).

Low-custody offenders cannot be housed with high-custody ones and vice versa.

However, in most instances, medium-custody juveniles may be housed with low- or high-

custody juveniles. The main problem here stems from medium-custody juveniles who

have been housed with high-custody juveniles being reclassified and housed with low-

custody juveniles. “Peer contagion” then becomes a safety issue for all – including the

staff and the juveniles in custody. So what can be done to prevent the reinforcement of

deviant behavior or “peer contagion”? What changes can juvenile facilities make to

enable the staff and the juvenile to benefit from juvenile incarceration? These as well as

other issues are discussed in the final chapter.

Chapter V


The prevention and reduction of juvenile delinquency has been foremost in the

minds of many practitioners, researchers, and academics. The goal of the current study

was to identify the most problematic source of social risk factors that contribute to

juvenile delinquency and address that specific problem before moving on to the next

most problematic source of delinquency. In seeking solutions, research was conducted in

the areas of specific, dynamic behaviors; juvenile associations; and categories of

delinquency and crime. Once delinquent behavior in general was addressed, specific

research into the many different categories of delinquent conduct was studied extensively

as a tool for the prevention and reduction of juvenile delinquency. Moffitt (1993) has

pointed out that juveniles take either of two paths toward delinquency: adolescent-limited

or life-course-persistent antisocial behavior. Although both of these paths are problematic

and must be addressed, the emphasis of the current study is on the social risk factors of

juvenile delinquency that have the most profound effect on informal social controls. The

key is to address these issues before they become problematic, with the evidence

suggesting that intact families and parents who set and enforce rules are critical elements

in preventing the social risk factors that contribute to juvenile delinquency.

Discussion from previous chapters covered the definitions of informal and formal

social control, the literature of informal social control, and the variables used in the study.

It must be emphasized that informal social relationships are far too dynamic to consider

all the possible variables that can come into play in the everyday lives of a juvenile. For


this reason, the current study measured variables dealing with family and peer

relationships along with age, race, and gender.

Previous researchers encouraged the development of more comprehensive

research, with larger samples and different geographic regions, including opposing

samples for a longer period of time. These studies should use matching samples, with one

control group and one treatment group. The current study sought to expand the ideas

presented in previous studies in order to determine root causes of social risk factors

contributing to juvenile delinquency and their impact on informal social control. In order

to determine which risk factors are most detrimental, the study researched numerous

other studies and theories. It was determined that parents and peers where key factors of

juvenile delinquency. Once a dataset from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth

was found, a lengthy process of filtering through the variables was conducted. The final

determination was made to use the “Family Process” variables from this dataset to test a

theory dealing with informal social control, social risk factors, and juvenile delinquency.

Several avenues could have been taken in the research in terms of the variables to

be used. The path chosen was to use variables that dealt with parents as the key agents of

informal social control; parenting styles and living arrangements were chosen as parental

variables. Another key was to determine what risk factors were most likely to combat

parental controls. Since most acts of juvenile delinquency occur in groups, peer relations

were chosen to contrast parental relations. Research pertaining to sibling gang members

was also factored into the equation. The next step was to determine which questions

could be answered in the analysis of social risk factors affecting juvenile delinquency and

informal social control.


Research Questions

Taking this into account, the current study sought to answer the following

research questions:

RQ1: Are strict or lenient parenting styles a significant factor in preventing juvenile


RQ2: How do juvenile living arrangements affect juvenile delinquency?

RQ3: Are gang siblings a risk factor likely to increase the risk of juvenile delinquency for

their sibling?

RQ4: Are gang peers a risk factor likely to increase the risk of juvenile delinquency for

their peers?

In order to find answers, the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY 97) dataset

was re-coded for all the variables associated with the dichotomous outcome variable


The methods sections describes the dataset from the NLSY 97, as it was re-coded

and utilized in the study to run descriptive statistics and bivariate analysis, and to

determine the relationships and multivariate analysis to resolve issues of confounding or

multicollinearity. Stepwise regression was used to determine the relationship between

outcome, predictor, and control variables. The backward stepwise, block, and model x 2

analysis was used to eliminate spurious variables for a better examination. Variables

unrelated to the outcome variable delinquency were eliminated during this process,

leaving a better fit equation of the variables that remained.

The results section indicates that when juveniles are associated with gang peers

their odds of delinquency increase 32%. Even more disturbing results were found for

juveniles with siblings in gangs; their delinquency probability increased 119% over

juveniles without gang siblings. In addition, the chance of delinquency increased 37%

after the age of 14. It decreased given stricter maternal or paternal parenting styles; strict

mothers decreased juvenile delinquency by 64%, while strict fathers decreased it by 34%.

Living with both parents decreased juvenile delinquency by 41%. Living with only the

biological mother or only with the biological father was found to be less significant in the

analysis. It must be emphasized: living with both parents was totally different than living

with only the biological mother or father, and the study revealed the positive finding that

when juveniles live with both biological parents, the odds of arrest decrease significantly.

Similar results were found among juveniles who lived with only the biological mother,

the assumption being that the father’s absence meant less restriction on the juvenile or

that the father’s strict parenting style was eliminated.


The study indicated that parents, siblings, and peers provide key social

relationships to determine juvenile delinquency. From the examples above, one can

understand the dynamic relationship between the parents and the peers of a juvenile. A

closer look at the research hypothesis revealed the study prediction that these social risk

factors weaken informal social control and lead to juvenile delinquency.

Parenting Style. The fact that strict parenting reduced juvenile delinquency was

only part of the answer. As discussed below, other factors come into play when parents

deal with juvenile delinquency. One key is for parents to set guidelines for their children

to follow as early as possible. A parent who establishes the proper positive standards

early in a juvenile’s life has fewer problems later as the juvenile grows up and seeks other

relationships outside the home. This is more difficult in single-parent households. Hence,

the key was to start as early as possible while the child was still manageable. If a parent

felt that certain friends or peers were an improper influence, the parent could restrict or

prevent the relationship from continuing.

Here, the key was for the parent to be involved in the juveniles’ life. An attentive

parent may not always be a caring parent, and a caring parent may not always be an

attentive parent. But the point is that an attentive parent should take responsibility to take

care of all aspects of the juvenile’s life. A caring parent should ensure that some aspects

of the juvenile’s needs are met. While a caring parent may be overwhelmed and fail to be

attentive to a juvenile’s needs, the main point is to ensure that certain guidelines are set

early in the juveniles’ life. As long as expectations are set early, the juvenile can

understand the rewards and punishment associated with certain behaviors. If the juvenile

begins to associate with deviants, he or she can anticipate the most likely reaction of their


It also must be understood that a specific parenting style does not work on all

juveniles. Just as the world is a dynamic place to live, parents and their children are

dynamic in their relationships. A parent who is overly strict all the time does not allow a

juvenile to develop autonomy (Adams, 2008). Anyone who has raised children or even

been around teenagers has likely observed that juveniles begin to realize, at about the

junior high school level, that the word “No” is very powerful. Teenage years can be very

informative, yet debilitating, to a juvenile. If the parent does not handle certain events in

a nurturing but firm manner, the juvenile may turn to deviant alternatives.

For example, some juveniles think it is “cool” to skip school and not get caught.

The child sees others doing it, so they do it as well. A parent who is overbearing or too

strict might punish the juvenile far too harshly. Instead, the parent would do well to look

at the situation from the juvenile’s perspective, remembering what it was like to be a

juvenile and want acceptance from a peer. The juvenile skipping school is most likely

seeking the acceptance of peers and not worried about what the future may bring if

caught. In this type of situation, the parent must talk to the juvenile and explain their

understanding of the situation. The explanation should include any and all types of

possible outcomes for the juvenile, ranging from school detention to a juvenile’s

disappearance or even death. If necessary, the parent can take the child to the local

juvenile facility and show him or her how their freedom can be taken away for something

that seems minor. The point is to show them how disobeying the normal rules can land

them under even more strict rules and regulations. A good explanation of the strict

process at work in a juvenile facility may help a juvenile understand what freedom really


Juveniles need some freedom to make their own decisions and to learn from their

mistakes (Adams, 2008). It is the parents’ duty to ensure that the juvenile has someone to

turn to when the decisions they make end up being mistakes. A nurturing but firm parent

is an effective parent. A parent who is too strict or too lenient will tend to turn the

juvenile toward their peers for acceptance. There are exceptions to the rule: when an

oldest or youngest sibling is treated differently; when an athlete, scholar, or even gang

member in the family is treated better or even worse.


Regarding control theory as applied to parenting, Wright and Cullen (2001) state:

“results show that (1) support and control are intertwined, and (2) that parental efficacy

exerts substantive effects on adolescent delinquency for the sample as a whole and across

varying age groups” (p. 677). Their emphasis is that control theory is the central focus of

parental influence and delinquency prevention. Setting rules is not sufficient to prevent

delinquency; the parent must support their children as well in order to form attachment

(Wright & Cullen, 2001).

In a study of the causal relationships between parenting and delinquency, Jang

and Smith (1997): “found that delinquency and parental supervision are reciprocally

related whereas affective ties appear to be a consequence rather than a cause of

delinquency, at least by middle adolescence. In general, the interrelationships among

these variables are more complex than those suggested by earlier unidirectional theories,

and they underline the importance of interactional perspectives in understanding the

interrelationship of adolescent behavior and parenting” (p. 307).

In other words, parenting styles and delinquency were found to be a bidirectional

relationship. The research also points to affective ties being less important later in a

juvenile’s life as the juvenile becomes more self sufficient and develops more autonomy

(Jang & Smith, 1997).

Living Arrangements. The second part of the equation as it pertains to parental

control is that both parents remaining in the household reduces juvenile delinquency.

Having just one parent in the household makes it far more difficult to manage one

juvenile, much less a number of juveniles. Single parents must earn a living, manage the

home, care for their children, and take care of themselves. Having both parents in the

household at least splits these tasks, as long as the parental duties are evenly distributed.

The father is normally seen as the disciplinarian and the mother as the nurturer; these

roles vary from home to home, but the critical factor is the sharing of tasks. If only one

parent is present, the juvenile may feel the need to seek out other relationships to fill the

void left by the absent parent. The juvenile may feel he or she is not receiving enough

attention from the single parent due to the parent’s other responsibilities. The simple fact

is that two parents are better than one when it comes to preventing juvenile delinquency.

The emphasis here is on a nurturing relationship and bonding with one’s own parents.

Living arrangements play a vital role in juvenile delinquency. Living with a

biological parent was found to be important; it was insignificant whether it was with only

the biological mother or only the biological father. It stands to reason that a bond with

natural parents is more important to a juvenile than a bond with foster parents. Future

studies should consider research into this latter relationship as it relates to the juvenile’s

specific needs and bonding issues. It is stressful enough for a juvenile to deal with the

dynamics of everyday life; taking the child away from biological parents creates even

more stress. Taking a juvenile away from siblings is another stressor to be considered.

This breaks many bonds the juvenile has established. In these types of cases, parents

should be required to attend and pass parenting classes (Adams, 2008). They must be able

to show, over a period of time, that they can care for and nurture their children in order to

be re-acquainted with children who have been separated.

Gang Siblings. As for other living arrangements, association with gang siblings

increases the likelihood of juvenile delinquency more than any other variable in this

study. As mentioned above, living with both parents decreases the odds of juvenile

delinquency. However, having a sibling as a gang member is more injurious to the

parental relationships than any other risk factor. Most siblings end up participating in the

same activities as they grow up, which can be sports, academics, or delinquent activities.

The point here is that the presence of sibling gang members exerts more pressure on a

sibling to join a gang than do siblings not associated with gang members. Even if

pressure is not placed on the sibling, the juvenile may join the gang for recognition or

reputation. Some juveniles do not join gangs but participate in its illegal activities. In

neighborhoods that are rampant with gangs, a juvenile is also burdened with the pressure

to defend one’s own family and more likely to commit delinquent acts in the defense of

the family (fights, assault, or even carrying a gun).

Gang Peers. Gang peers were found to be less problematic than gang siblings as

a risk factor contributing to juvenile delinquency. However, both are an antithesis to

parental control. The same strengths and weaknesses mentioned above hold true for

juveniles who associate with, or live in an area rampant with, gangs.


Specific recommendations that stem from the current study are the need for early

prevention techniques such as parent training, childhood evaluations prior to elementary

school enrollment, and incentives for parents to properly socialize their children. Recall

the following percentages of delinquent juveniles: (1) of the juveniles who lived with

both parents, 48% were delinquent; (2) of the juveniles who lived only with their

biological mother, 52% were delinquent; (3) of the juveniles who lived only with their

biological father, 50% were delinquent, (4) of the juveniles who had strict mothers, 51%

were delinquent, and (5) of the juveniles who had strict fathers, 50% were delinquent.

There is no better way to break the cycle of generational family violence,

dysfunctional families, and delinquent peers than to provide an early intervention

program that focuses on parent training by way of social bonding and social control

(Adams, 2008). Less effective programs tend to focus only on the juvenile. Juveniles who

complete these individualized programs tend to return to delinquency once they return

home, leaving parents to contend with the peer influence and environment that landed the

juvenile in the system to begin with. Parents who are unable to deal effectively with this

environment may see their children back in the system. Will early intervention work

under all circumstances? Not necessarily, but few other programs have been effective in

reducing recidivism or preventing delinquency. Parent training can provide a starting

point in the reduction of recidivism and the prevention of delinquency, thereby

preventing and reducing later criminal behavior. The question of how society should deal

more effectively with problematic adolescents and juveniles can now be better answered

through comprehensive parent training that meets the needs of the family and the

individual. These needs are not only cultural but specific to the behavior of the juvenile

and the family. A family that communicates, socializes, and solves problems together is a

family that has a better opportunity to bond. Programs that train parents to deal

effectively with delinquent youths should consider bonding, communication skills,

coping skills, family relations, peer relations, socialization, education, mental health

issues, as well as physical and emotional abuse (Adams, 2008; Burgess & Akers, 1966;

Butler et al., 2007; Cooley, 1918; Fishbein, 2001; Hirschi, 1969; Hirschi & Gottfredson,

1983; Sampson & Laub, 1993; Shaw & McKay, 1942; Sykes & Matza, 1957; Welsh &

Farrington, 2006).

Developmental Approach to Parent Training. Kazdin (1997) described parent

training in which parents are taught to change their children’s conduct. Parenting

programs must be able to address the parent and the juvenile relationship on an individual

and family basis. Each parent should be taught a specific style to handle specific

situations or events. Informal social control and social bonding is at the heart of the

problem (Hirschi, 1969). Parents who lose their ability to communicate and bond with

their children early in life become less effective in producing well-rounded juveniles

ready to take on life’s unexpected complications. This may also lead to differential

association, where deviant peers begin to condition the juvenile to a delinquent way of

life, gang membership, and crime (Burgess & Akers, 1966; Sutherland, 1947).

Parenting programs are the best possible medium to deal with at-risk juveniles

and to prevent them from becoming future statistics among juvenile and adult offenders

(Adams, 2001; De Graaf et al., 2008; Gould & Richardson, 2006; Kazdin, 1997;

Sandifer, 2008). There is no better prevention than cost-effective parenting programs that

teach social skills, cognitive skills, and problem solving techniques. Most studies on

parenting programs indicate an overall positive effect in family relations and adaptive

cognitive skills among juveniles (Adams, 2001; Bernazzani & Tremblay, 2006; de Graaf

et al., 2008; Gould & Richardson, 2006; Kazdin, 1997; Sandifer, 2008; Thompson et al.,

1996). Adams (2001) identifies areas of improvement through parent training as problem

solving, communication, affective responsibility, and behavior control. Parent

management training as identified by Kazdin (1997) found improvements in family

functioning over time to include child behavior. In an evaluation of cost-effective

programs for families in need of child mental health treatment, Thompson et al. (1996)

found parent training to be cost-effective. Their results indicated that parental

satisfaction, reduced delinquency behavior, and improved family relations had a lasting

effect. Gould and Richardson (2006), in a comprehensive analysis of parent

training/education programs, found these programs to be effective in managing children

with conduct disorders.

In order to develop an effective and efficient parental training program that

prevents and reduces juvenile delinquency, the first step is to look at the early

developmental lives of juveniles. Loeber and Farrington (2001a) discussed the

developmental process applied to: 1) children’s impulsive behavior, 2) parent-child

rearing practices, 3) preschool, elementary, and onward, and 4) the community.

According to the authors, one third of delinquents who start this pattern from ages 4 to 10

become seriously violent young adults, and can be identified very early as life-course

persistent. The authors indicated the need for better screening for child delinquent

characteristics, which they identified as dysfunctional families: 1) family disruption

(caregiver), 2) antisocial parents, 3) drug parents, 4) depressed mothers, and 5) child

abuse and neglect (Loeber & Farrington, 2001a; Belknap, Winter, & Cady, 2003).

It has been indicated that at-risk females are more susceptible to victimization,

abuse, problems in school, runaway, status offenses, dysfunctional families, and mental

health problems (Muraskin, 2007; Howell, 2003; Chesney-Lind & Shelden, 1998; Loeber

& Farrington, 2001a). Howell (2003) pointed out that two of the best predictors of serious

and violent offenders occur at two developmental stages. The first developmental stage

involves children from the ages of 6 to 11. The best predictors of delinquency in this age

group included: 1) involvement of delinquency, 2) drug use, 3) being male, 4) coming


from a poor family, 5) antisocial parents, 6) aggression, and 7) ethnicity. Juveniles from

the ages of 12 to 14 become serious and violent offenders in the second stage, and

include the following predictors: 1) a lack of social ties, 2) antisocial peers, 3)

involvement in delinquency, 4) aggression, 5) school attitude and performance, 6) mental

health, 7) parent-child relations, 8) being male, and 9) violent history. Parent training

must therefore include education about childhood developmental stages so that parents

understand what children experience as they progress through life.

Loeber and Le Blanc’s (1990) three pathways developmental model is the center

of their analysis of adolescent problem behavior and delinquency. These pathways

included authority conflict (truancy, runaway, and staying out late), covert (lying,

vandalism, and theft) and overt pathways (aggression, bullying, fighting, rape, and

strong-arm tactics). Small portions of serious, violent, and chronic offenders account for

a larger portion of these crimes. Parent training must include sessions on how to deal with

authority conflict, covert and overt pathways of problem behavior and delinquency. The

above studies stress the need for early prevention and intervention. Parent training

programs that emphasize a comprehensive approach that meets the needs of the

individual and the family are the best of all possible means. At a reduced cost to the

community; they will increase social bonding, reduce delinquent peer contact, and

provide aftercare if conducted properly. Parent training will also reduce the stressors

parent experience.

Parenting Programs. Access to problematic adolescents has always been a

primary obstacle for prevention and intervention programs to overcome. Unless an

adolescent or juvenile is referred to a juvenile justice program, it is up to the parent to


ensure the child behaves in an acceptable manner. What happens if a parent is unable or

unwilling to maintain their child’s behavior? Parents tend to deny that their children are a

problem. Therefore, when someone confronts a parent about a problem with their child,

the parent may become defensive. Most parents in such a circumstance feel they are

being attacked as a parent or that their parenting skills are being questioned. These

parents see themselves as hard working, caring, and diligent in their skills as a parent. In

these instances, the key is to explain how a parenting program can benefit their needs as a

parent and the needs of their children. Another way is to explain how children with

behavioral problems tend to become delinquent and, if not kept in check, may become

adult offenders. Scare tactic or not, this addresses the problem of some parents believing

they need no help in rearing their children when the truth is that they do need assistance,

and that society will benefit from such programs, as discussed below.

Another factor to consider is aftercare. Once a juvenile completes treatment of

any particular program, the parent should know not only what the juvenile has gone

through but also how to carry out effective prevention and intervention in order to keep

the juvenile from falling into the same traps that landed him in the program in the first

place. Effective parent training programs teach parents the pitfalls of a juvenile’s

environment and how to cope with their environment at the onset of delinquency. Olds et

al. (1998) – in a 15-year follow-up study on nurse home visits (parent training) to unwed,

lower socioeconomic mothers from pregnancy through infancy – found that the program

effectively reduced runaways, arrest, convictions, lifetime sex partners, cigarette

smoking, and alcohol use. Bernazzani and Tremblay (2006) stipulate that the Olds et al.

(1998) study of The Elmira Project (infant training) seem to be the best at providing

positive behaviors and social networks for parents. Other programs found to be effective

as outlined by Howell (2003) include those that focused on parent training and early child

care as a way to improve cognitive skills and family support.

In an analysis of a parenting program for African-Americans, Coard et al. (2007)

calls for culturally adaptive programs that will meet the needs “of sociocultural and

sociopolitical factors such as racism, discrimination, prejudice,” poverty, unemployment,

crowded urban areas, and problems solving skills associated with such obstacles (p. 798).

They concluded that the Black Parenting Strengths and Strategies (BPSS) Program met

the needs of its participants (at-risk African-Americans) and that “the process and

procedures used in the development and testing of BPSS could serve as a model for

joining racial, ethnic, and cultural factors with evidence-based prevention models”

(Coard et al., 2007, p. 816).

In a meta-analysis of programs, De Graaf et al. (2008) concluded that the Triple P

Positive Parenting Program “reduced disruptive behaviors in children,” which was

persistent over time (p. 714). In the study, emphasis was placed on the fact that studies

with more girls had a larger, long term result. The Triple P program utilizes five levels of

intervention based on social learning theory:

1) psycho-educational information to interested parents,

2) one or two sessions for parents of children with mild behavioral problems,

3) four sessions for parents of active skills training for mild to moderate

behavioral problems,

4) eight to 10 intensive sessions for parents of children with severe behavioral

problems, offered individually or in parent groups,


5) enhanced Behavioral Family Intervention (BFI) for dysfunctional families

(i.e., experiencing marital conflict, parental depression, or high levels of

stress), (Sanders et al., 1999; De Graaf et al., 2008, p. 715).

After being released from prison, mothers have detailed the difficulties of

reconnection with family roles and adjusting to family life (Sheehan & Flynn, 2007). In a

study of an inmate mothers’ parenting program (a 12-week course) at a Southern

correctional institution for women, Sandifer et al. (2008) indicated positive changes in

participants’ parenting knowledge and attitudes. These positive changes include increased

knowledge in child development, less corporal punishment, dealing with crises in a

mature manner, and increased awareness of child needs. Benefits from such programs

include reduced recidivism, improved social and interpersonal skills, aid for mental

health issues, and delinquency prevention. In a discussion of a collaborative approach

Howell (2003) reaches similar conclusions about parent training, family strengthening,

and parental support as a way of early intervention. Although this multimodal approach

addresses early education of children, the key is parent training. The avoidance of

incarceration and detention is met with multi- human service agencies to address the

needs of the child (Howell, 2003; Loeber & Farrington, 2001a).

Parent training should also be utilized or supplemented as a prevention program in

the classroom. School districts may embrace the task of providing parent training to

juveniles as they enter junior high school. School district officials commonly promote the

nurturing of well-rounded students. Yet they teach subjects like math, science, English,

and history — but nothing about how to be a competent parent and well-rounded,

socialized citizen. Nothing is taught on how to raise a well-rounded child or how to


handle certain situations. This has always been left up to the family. The problem is that

most often the family has less involvement or interaction with a juvenile’s learning than a

school district. Some parents work 8 to 10 hours a day, come home, fix dinner, and

interact with their child for only a short period before bedtime. They contend not only

with busy schedules but computers and television that vie for their juvenile’s attention.

An effective program could be offered at the high school level; with students

receiving four years of parent training that covers virtually every scenario a parent might

encounter. Each semester of the school year could be devoted to sessions covering a

specific topic in parent training and child rearing. The training session could cover the

developmental stages listed above and address associated risk factors. Sessions also could

cover cultural and gender differences and the risks associated with each. More intensive

sessions could cover education, coping skills, communication skills, and proper

authoritative practices. Other sessions could cover dysfunctional families, marital

conflict, mental health, and high levels of stress. The goal is to cover parental training

within the four-year program alongside math and English courses. These training sessions

could cover hands-on experience and each developmental stage of the human life cycle.

In dealing with intervention strategies, parent training programs in juvenile justice

and/or criminal justice settings would enable individuals within the system to become

acquainted with better techniques in dealing with life’s unexpected complications after

being released. The emphasis could be placed on the family, thereby focusing on perhaps

the best conduits of informal social control, the parents. Parent training is the best hope to

break the cycle of delinquent behavior.



One of the specific limitations in almost all studies conducted on juvenile

delinquency is the failure to include offenders once they reach adulthood. To ensure that

bias is excluded from future studies on juveniles, researchers should also include

offenders who were juveniles at the time of their first offense and those who reached

adulthood by jurisdictional law. The majority of studies do not include adult offenders

for one reason or another, most often that the laws for adults are different than for

juveniles. Although this may be true, exclusion of the adult offender should not be based

on specific adult offenses but more on the presence of criminal conduct against the norms

of social control and recidivism, especially since adult records are more easily accessible

than juvenile records.

Another key limitation deals with the use of survey data, which may be biased by

a survey’s author. Certain questions are designed to elicit specific responses. Other

questions are designed as open-ended to allow participants the opportunity to answer the

question how they see fit. A factor for any survey is the truthfulness of the participants.

Some participants may answer questions falsely to protect themselves or others from

embarrassment, to present themselves in a better light, to build a false reputation, or to

downplay their involvement in delinquent or criminal activities.

Future Research

The age at which a juvenile becomes delinquent is an important measure, as it

may shed light on whether it is the parent or peers who have more influence on the

juvenile. Another factor that should be studied more closely is whether peers who have

the most influence over a juvenile are schoolmates or non-schoolmates. Some other

factors that should be investigated further are: (1) abuse to the juvenile (emotional,

physical, and sexual abuse), (2) other family members whom have been arrested, (3)

peers who have been arrested, (4) types and severity of delinquent or criminal conduct to

include whether the juvenile regressed or progressed in severity, and (5) mental health


Which came first, the parenting style or the juvenile conduct? This is one of the

most important components that should be more extensively studied. Determining

whether the juvenile creates the parenting style or the parenting style creates the

delinquent is an important question. An additional study is warranted on the parenting

styles of both parents. Parenting styles should be analyzed individually and together in

order to determine not only which parent has the most significant relationship in the

informal process, but also which style of those each parent utilizes is the most significant.

This would allow specific parenting programs insight on teaching effective parenting


A more comprehensive study on parenting styles should be conducted on a Likert

scale. Here, the most lenient parenting style would equal zero (0) and the strictest

parenting style would equal ten (10). Examples may include the following: (0) parent(s)

is deceased, (1) parent(s) alive but absent in juvenile’s daily life, (2) parent(s) present but

does not participate in juvenile’s daily life, (3) parent(s) do not care what the juvenile

does, (4) parent(s) only give money to the juvenile, (5) parent(s) very easygoing, (6)

parent(s) active in the juvenile’s life, (7) parent(s) make demands of the juvenile, (8)

parent(s) force the juvenile into activities, (9) parent(s) yell and scream at the juvenile,

and (10) parent(s) physically, emotionally, and/or sexually abuse the juvenile. It is

necessary to develop a more comprehensive scale since most juveniles will not be able to

fit their parents’ style into just one category. A preparatory question for the scale should

address the parenting style the juvenile faces most consistently on a daily basis. Later in

the survey the juvenile should be asked how they feel about the specific parent on a

similar Likert scale.


The present study hypothesized that certain social risk factors weaken informal

social control, which in turn can predict juvenile delinquency. A Stepwise Regression

Model was chosen due to the dichotomous outcome variable delinquency. The utilization

of such variables as living with both parents, the mother’s and father’s parenting style,

gang siblings, and gang peers significantly affected the odds of a juvenile becoming

delinquent. Delinquency was not found to be statistically significant according to the

juvenile’s living only with the biological mother or only with the biological father (cf. p.

91). However, an increase in juvenile delinquency was found with the presence of

siblings in gangs and peers in gangs. The study also indicated a decrease in juvenile

delinquency associated with the mother’s parenting style, the father’s parenting style, and

living with both parents.

It must be emphasized that once the juvenile begins to achieve autonomy, parental

control becomes less effective. Peer relations become more influential at this time.

Therefore, informal social control that has been set in place early in the juveniles’ life has

a more lasting effect. For those juveniles with less effective parents, parent training

programs are the answer.


Future research on juveniles should include extensive studies on specific juvenile

behavior as early as possible. Comprehensive analysis of juvenile behavior should be

conducted by way of surveys in conjunction with face-to-face interviews and the use of

official records. All too often studies generalize their research. Once research into

specific juvenile behavior is advanced, juveniles, their families, and society can all


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Wright, J. P. & Cullen, F. T. (2001). Parental efficacy and delinquent behavior: Do

control and support matter? Criminology, 39(3), 677-705.

May 3, 2010
To: B. Dean Lanham, doctoral candidate, COJJP, PVAMU - Principal Investigator
Solomon Osho, Ph.D., associate professor, COJJP, Dissertation Advisory Committee-

From: Marcia C. Shelton, Ph.D., Director, Research Regulatory Compliance (signature on file)

Title: Common Contributing Social Risk Factors of Juvenile Delinquency: Evidence for Social
Control Theory
Protocol Number: 2010-0401-106 Year *1 of 3 * Renewal submission required for
subsequent years (cycle 2)
Review Category: Full Board Review Reviewer Assigned: D. E. Daniels
Approval Date: April 12, 2010
The approval determination was based on the following Code of Federal Regulations: 45 CFR
Subpart B. Specifically, Code of Federal Regulations: 45 CFR Subpart B.- 46.101(b) (4) Research
involving the collection or study of existing data, documents, records, pathological specimens, or
diagnostic specimens, if these sources are publicly available or if the information is recorded by
the investigator in such a manner that subjects cannot be identified, directly or through
identifiers linked to the subjects.
Funding Source – external – N/A

Remarks: Forward any approval letters from agency to view data to this office.

The Institutional Review Board – Human Subjects in Research, Prairie View A&M University has
reviewed and approved the above referenced protocol. Your study has been approved for one
year. As the principal investigator of this study, you assume the following responsibilities:

Renewal: Your protocol must be re-approved each year to continue the research. You must also
complete the renewal forms in order to continue the study after the initial approval period.

Adverse events: And adverse events or reactions must be reported to the IRB immediately

Amendments: Any changes to the protocol, such as procedures, consent/assent forms, addition
of subjects, or study design must be reported to and approved by the IRB.

Informed Consent/Assent: All subjects should be given a copy of the consent document
approved by the IRB for use in your study.

Completion: When the study is complete, you must notify the IRB office and complete the
required forms.

Education: All investigators must submit proof electronic course completion and to do so go
to: CITI.

Assistant Professor

The University of Louisiana at Monroe 3000 Old Hearne Rd

Department of Criminal Justice Bryan, Texas 77803-0843
700 University Ave. Home: (979) 778-4007
Monroe, Louisiana 71209-0330 Cell: (979) 595-7787
Tel: (318) 342-1439
Fax: (318) 342-1458


Current study: Doctoral Student (Ph.D.) in Juvenile Justice, Prairie View A&M
University, Prairie View, TX.


1. Juvenile Psychological Behavior Characteristics and Profiling.

2. Social Control of Juveniles: Key Factors to Juvenile Delinquency

Prevention through Informal Social Control.

Masters of Science, Criminal Justice Management, Sam Houston State University,

Huntsville, TX. December, 2005.

Bachelor of Science, Political Science, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.
December, 1999.

Associate in Arts, General Studies, Blinn College, Bryan, TX. December, 1998.

Associate in Science, General Studies, Blinn College, Bryan, TX. December, 2002.

Associate in Applied Science, Criminal Justice, Blinn College, Bryan, TX. December,




Lanham, B. D., Shcauer, E. J., & Osho, G. S. (Under Review). A Comprehensive

Analysis of the Efficacy of Non-Cognitive Measures: Predicting Academic

Success in a Historically Black University in South Texas.

Lanham, B. D. & Belshaw, S. H. (Forthcoming). The correlation of social relations and

juvenile delinquency: Differences in parenting styles, Contemporary Issues in
Criminal Justice: A Professional Journal.

Book Reviews

Lanham, B. D. (October, 2009). Book Review “Mexican American Girls and Gang
Violence,” Author: Alverado Valdez, Palgrave Macmillan. Youth Violence and
Juvenile Justice, 7(4).

Lanham, B. D. (March, 2009). Book Review “Violent Youth in Adult Court: The
Decertification of Transferred Offenders,” Author: Kareem L. Jordan, LFB
Scholarly Publishing LLC. Criminal Justice Review, 34(1).


Lanham, B.D. (February, 2010). Social Control of Juveniles: Key Factors to Juvenile
Delinquency Prevention through Informal Social Control. Paper presented at
Academy of Criminal Justice Science, San Diego, CA.

Lanham, B. D. (February, 2010). Ethical Conduct for Law Enforcement, Panel discussion
at the meeting of Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, San Diego, CA.

Lanham, B.D. (February, 2010). Roundtable discussion on Maximizing Campus Security:

When Moments Really Matter, at meeting of Academy of Criminal Justice
Science, San Diego, CA.

Lanham, B. D. & Belshaw, S. H. (March, 2009). Juvenile Behavioral Profiling, Paper

presented at the meeting of the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences, Boston,

Lanham, B.D. (June, 2008). Panelist at the Conference on Student and Campus Safety,
held at Prairie View A&M University’s College of Juvenile Justice and
Psychology, Texas Juvenile Crime Prevention Center, Prairie View, TX.

Belshaw, S. H. & Lanham, B. D. (March, 2008). OC Pepper Spray and the Juvenile
Justice System in Texas: A Review of the Recent Changes and Policy
Recommendations, Paper presented at the meeting of the Academy of Criminal
Justice Sciences, Cincinnati, OH.


Juvenile Behavioral Profiling as a Preventive Measure of Juvenile Delinquency, 2009.

Dissertation research on Restructuring Social Control of Juvenile Justice: In the Best

Interest of and Approach to Delinquency Prevention and Intervention, 2009.

Doctoral research projects on:

Critical analysis of “differential association” in changing times, 2008.

Correlations of social relations and juvenile delinquency, differences in parenting

styles, 2008.

Policing the Youth of a Modern Culture: A Meta-Analysis of the Pro and Cons of
the Establishment vs. Society, restorative justice emphasizing community and
juvenile relations with law enforcement and diversion programs, 2008.

Profiling California juveniles emphasizing demographics as a preventive measure,


Early parenting programs, an approach to female delinquency prevention and

intervention, 2008.

Meta-analysis of profiling a criminal profiler with emphasis on the mind of a

criminal profiler, 2007.

Understanding the behavioral profiler emphasizing if anyone can be trained to be

a profiler, 2007.

Juvenile behavioral profiling as preventive measures to deter and solve juvenile

crime, 2007.

Meta-analysis study of juvenile drug courts and recidivism, judicial decisions and
treatment programs as they pertain to behavioral problems, 2007.

Juvenile drug court or drug treatment programs as judicial decisions affect drug
charges in prevention or treatment, 2007.

Correlations of peer influence and juvenile drug use with emphasis on what affect
peers have on juvenile drug use, 2007.

Research assistant to Dr. Camille Gibson, Prairie View A&M University on gender
differences among juvenile male and female offenders, treatment differences, mental
health issues, and sex offender issues, 2007.



The William L. Simon/Anderson Publishing Outstanding Student Paper Award

Committee, Academy of Criminal Justice Science, 2009-2010

Reviewer of manuscripts, Journal of Knowledge and Best Practices in Juvenile Justice &
Psychology, 2008-present.

Editorial Advisory Board, International Journal of Justice Studies & Policy, 2008-

President, PhD Student Association, Prairie View A&M University, 2008-2009.


Steering committee, Restorative Justice Program, Prairie View A&M University, 2008-

Vice President, PhD Student Association, Prairie View A&M University, 2007-2008.


Student Advisory Committee, University of Louisiana at Monroe, 2009-2010.

Continuing Education

Additional graduate level statistics course with an emphasis on SPSS

Texas Commission on Law Enforcement Officer Standards and Education (TCLEOSE)

4853 Hours TCLEOSE

Mental Health Peace Officer Training Course, 2008

TCLEOSE Instructor Course, 2005

Law Enforcement Interdiction of Weapons of Mass Destruction, 2005

Federal Emergency Management Agency Courses (115 hours), 2003

Intermediate Peace Officer, 2003

Child Abuse Prevention and Investigation, 2003

Crime Scene Investigation, 2003

Basic Corrections, 2001

Basic Peace Officer, 1988

Software Programs

SPSS, Excel, HTML, MS Word, MS PowerPoint, Word Perfect, Word Merge, HP Image

Professional Affiliations

Academy of Criminal Justice Science (ACJS)


American Statistical Association (ASA)

PhD Students Association, Prairie View A&M University

Restorative Justice Program, Prairie View A&M University

Texas Board of Private Investigator and Private Security Agencies

Texas Marshall Association (TMA)


Spr. 2010 Introduction to Criminal Justice (CJUS 101), Criminal Justice Procedures
and Evidence (CJUS 301), Crime Scene Investigations (CJUS 416), Police
and Society (CJUS 550), Assistant Professor, University of Louisiana at

Fall 2009 Introduction to Policing (CJUS 230), Criminal Law (CJUS 293), Juvenile
Delinquency (CJUS 415), Criminal Investigation (CJUS 330), Crime
Scene Investigations (CJUS 416), University of Louisiana at Monroe,
Assistant Professor.

Fall 2007 Police Systems and Practices, (CRJS 2413-001), Prairie View A&M
University, Doctoral Teaching Assistant (Spring 2008, Fall 2008, Spring

Fall 2005 Introduction to Criminal Justice, (CJ 261.12), Sam Houston State
University, Adjunct Professor.


Dean’s Research and Creative Project Fund, Asian Police Studies, College of Arts and
Science, University of Louisiana at Monroe, $950, 2009-2010.

The William L. Simon/Anderson Publishing Outstanding Student Paper Award,

Academy of Criminal Justice Science, 2008-2009

Prairie View A&M University Fellowship, $18,000/year, 2007-2008.

Alpha Phi Sigma, National Criminal Justice Honor Society, Fall 2008.

Beta Epsilon Nu, Prairie View A&M University Honor Society Fall 2008.