Improved parenting practices and the family environment is the most effective and enduring strategy for reducing juvenile delinquency and associated behavioral and emotional problems. Two family characteristics that are consistently found to impact developmental pathways to delinquency are poor family attachment and poor parenting behavior.
Violence is a learned behavior and is often learned in the home from parents and family members. The home is the fertile breeding ground for violent behavior. Families negatively impact a child’s development in many ways.1
- Poor socialization practices, including failure to promote positive moral development, and neglect in teaching life, social, and academic skills to the child, or providing opportunities to learn these competencies.
- Poor supervision of the child, including failure to monitor the child’s activities, neglect, latch-key conditions, sibling supervision, and too few adults to care for the number of children.
- Poor discipline skills, including lax, inconsistent, or excessive discipline, expectations are unrealistic for the developmental level of the child (which creates a failure syndrome), and excessive, unrealistic demands or harsh physical punishment.
- Poor parent/child relationships, including a lack of parental bonding and early insecure attachment.
- Excessive family conflict and marital discord, with verbal, physical, and/or sexual abuse.
- Sibling incest.
- Family disorganizations, chaos and stress often because of poor family management skills, life skills, or poverty.
- Poor parental mental health, including depression and irritability that cause negative views of the child’s behavior.
- Family isolation, lack of supportive extended family networks, and a lack of community support resources.
If we want to seriously address eradicating child maltreatment and their unhealthy development, this list is a very good road map for the actions we need to take.
1 Kumpfer, Karol L., Ph.D. (1999) “Strengthening America’s Families: Exemplary Parenting and Family Strategies for Delinquency Prevention,” University of Utah.