Change in Family Structure and Rates of Violent Juvenile Delinquency


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Virginia Tech


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.



family structure, violent crime, Juvenile Delinquency