Change in Family Structure and Rates of Violent Juvenile Delinquency

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2010-05-17
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Virginia Tech
Abstract

This paper addresses the question: Have the changes in family structure in the U.S. become a catalyst for juvenile delinquency? For this research, I use existing statistics for my three independent variables: divorce rates, rate of working mothers with children under age 18, percent female-headed households. My dependent variable, juvenile violent crime rates, is measured using data from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. My control variables consist of the following: percent of population aged 15-25, unemployment rate, incarceration rates, drug rates, rates of gun ownership, police employment, percent of those with weekly religious service attendance, percent of persons who have a "great deal" of confidence in the Executive branch of the United States, and percent of people who can trust others. I examine Gottfredson and Hirschi's self-control theory (1990) as a possible theoretical explanation of the correlation between changes in family structure and juvenile delinquency. Previous research has shown with less supervision, monitoring and punishing the child, low self-control results leading to delinquency. My population includes all individuals in these statistics. I use a time series analysis, spanning from 1980 to 2006, to show the changes in rates over time and the correlations between family variables and juvenile delinquency.

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family structure, violent crime, Juvenile Delinquency
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