Exploring the relationship between parental supervision and recidivism among juvenile offenders at a juvenile detention facility.

Author:Williams, Ruthie G.

Scholars from many fields, including criminology, psychology, and philosophy have long attempted to understand the factors that impact delinquency. To date, most scholars and theorists have focused their attention upon the risk factors that contribute to delinquency, such as poverty, illiteracy, and genetics, while mostly overlooking parental supervision as a factor that impacts the recidivism rate of juvenile offenders. (1) Therefore, this article will present the findings of a research study conducted to explore the relationship between different levels of parental involvement and recidivism among juvenile offenders at a detention facility.

According to several theories that attempt to explain criminal behavior, parental involvement plays a prominent role in the development and self-control of children and empirical evidence demonstrates that family factors impact delinquency. (2) Despite the fact that family factors are recognized as a recurring element in many theories, it is still unclear whether the parenting process during the adolescent stage is a predictor of recidivism.

This research study explores parenting practices and their impact on juvenile recidivism. It aims to provide information for criminal justice practitioners, policy makers, and legislators in helping them identify potential solutions to reducing recidivism among juveniles by implementing supervisory-based community programs. It is the assumption of criminal justice practitioners in South Carolina that implementing new programs will cut down on recidivism. It is also the assumption that once juveniles successfully complete a supervisory based-community program, they are less likely to be involved with future delinquent behaviors or to re-offend. (3) This study will help clarify what role family dynamics should play in future programs. The following sections of this article will present the literature review, research questions, research design, sample size, data and methodology, results, discussion, and concluding comments.

Literature Review

Recidivism is a significant topic of concern surrounding the problem of juvenile crime and delinquency. Although the national crime rate has declined over the past decade, agencies are still implementing more community programs to reduce recidivism among juvenile offenders. For example, in South Carolina, of the 300 juveniles who were arrested for sex offenses in 2007, 43 percent were rearrested and reconvicted within three years; 22.3 percent were reconvicted and re-incarcerated during a time when there were no alternative programs in place. (4) Since the implementation of community-based programs that provide after school programs and parenting classes, along with probation and parole supervision the numbers have changed; of 3,819 juvenile offenders both in arbitration, probation/and or parole supervision during the 2011-2012 fiscal year, 85 percent did reoffend while under supervision. (5) The need to continue effective community-based alternatives and behavioral intervention programs--with a parental component--upon a juvenile's release is critical to the reduction of recidivism rates.

The practical problem for legislators, policymakers, and criminal justice administrators is to determine how to measure factors that impact recidivism and how to evaluate the effectiveness of intervention programs with juvenile recidivists. Doris MacKenzie notes that programs that take the Multi-Systemic Theory approach will provide community based treatment to youth who are 'at risk' for high management group homes and to youth who have severe behavior problems. (6)

To examine various parenting dimensions, research published in 2008 utilized a meta-analysis study to explore the relationship between parenting and delinquency. (7) This research revealed that family factors were described in many other studies as the best predictor of recidivism when compared to other factors such as socio-economic status, personal distress, and intellectual functioning. However, one of the disadvantages of using the meta-analysis in this study was the focus on family as a single variable. The study did not focus differences within families, such as family size, income, or characteristics of parenting. According to Rolf Loeber, Jeffrey Burke, and Brooks Applegate, only one meta-analysis focused on parental involvement, parental absence and disruption in relation to delinquency. Findings from this study indicated that the best predictors of delinquency included a lack of parental supervision, and a lack of parental and parental/child involvement. (8)

According to James Alexander and Thomas Sexton, family disruption and poor parental supervision do impact juvenile recidivism. They found in their test of this theory that household crowding, family instability, and low socioeconomic status, influenced the informal social control of the family, resulting in delinquent behavior by adolescents. It was also found that 73 percent of risk factors that led to delinquency were mediated by factors of parental discipline and parental supervision. Conversely, the study showed that parental rejection, hostility toward adolescents, poor communication, and ineffective supervision of children were found to be significant risk factors associated with delinquent behavior by adolescents. (9)

David Farrington and Brandon Welsh describe how juvenile delinquency is associated with social bonds such as those formed with family, peers, school and communities, and delinquency occurs when these bonds are weakened. (10) The theoretical basis for their theory proposes that internal and external factors explain delinquency and recidivism of juveniles. In researching the relationship between...

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