Crime would be considered a major social problem in the United States according to opinion surveys, with the major cause being laxity and inefficiency in parenting (Simons, Simons & Wallace, 2004). Antisocial tendencies can be evidenced in children right from childhood, with adult antisocial lifestyle being implanted in people at formative years. In addition to inborn personal traits like temperament and personality, it is considerate among the social scientists that family environment provided by parents play an important role in influencing the child’s psychological and behavioral development according to Simons, Simons & Wallace (2004). Aggressive and non-compliant elementary schoolers were found from a number of studies to be at risk of adolescent delinquency and adult crime (e.g. Caspi and Moffitt; 1995; qtd. in Simons, Simons & Wallace, 2004). The factors that were found by the Gluecks (husband-and-wife team of Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck) to be most important in the family environment that influenced the delinquent behavior were parental supervision, disciplinary activities and child-parent attachment (qtd. in Simons, Simons & Wallace, 2004).
Delinquency, crime and theory
Control theorists who contend that all people enter the world as antisocial orientation and react antisocially, argue that we need to determine the mechanisms whereby the transformation from antisocial behavior to conformation takes place. These theorists argue out that individuals begin to delay gratification latter in life so as to consider the interests of others. They try to avoid conducts that are socially disapproved and strive to follow social norms and to cooperate. Social control theorists argue that we should ask why people conform other than why people are defiant. According to Hirschi whose social control theoretical ideas were more widely accepted than preceding theorists, individuals would conform when they established bonds to the society. Delinquency would arise if there were weaker or broken bonds (Hirschi, 1969; qtd. in Simons, Simons & Wallace, 2004).
The four elements presents in the society bonding were attachment, commitment, involvement and belief. The first depict the extent to which the individual would feel close, care about and identify with other individuals in the society such as peers, parents and teachers. This would cause one to relate family attachments with the importance in the development of child delinquency and their exhibiting of criminal behavior latter in life. Children, like other individuals would be concerned in meeting the expectations of the people they cared about and seek to avoid defiant actions and behaviors that would alienate or anger them.
The individuals would be more concerned with the opinions of the parents for example, the more they would become attached to them. According to Hirschi, the most powerful influence was the child’s attachment to its parents. Commitment as an element meant the investment to which an individual would make towards achieving certain goals in life, for example, performing well at school and getting a good job. Through such investments, children would be ready or able to conform because delinquency and conduct problems reduced the probability of meeting these goals. Thus it was possible that those children lacking commitment to goals in life even at early stages of life would develop delinquent behavior (Simons, Simons & Wallace, 2004). Parents would therefore need to encourage the children to commit to certain goal and emphasize on achieving these goals in children at an early age.
Therefore, poor parenting as well as family violence that would cause adverse effects such as parental absentee can be linked to lack of emphasis of children to commit to life goals. Poor parenting such as excessive permissive model would be blamed for failing to provide guide towards such commitment to life-term goals as well as failure to provide limits that would be necessary for the child’s conformation. According to Hirschi, children would be too busy to engage in deliquescent behavior if they participated (or were involved) in conventional activities such as athletic teams, religious organizations, family events, and after-school employment.
This synthesis can be thought to have linkage with the idea of Bandura that children were able to learn through observing televised violence since it can be understood that the attention with which these programs would draw children, would discourage participation in conventional activities. The family and societal bond would enable the child to belief in legitimacy of societal morals and laws and believe that they should be followed. Permissive parenting would provide the least appropriate environment for development of such a belief because children would not be let to fully understand the limits to which they may exercise their freedom, and take advantage of the guidance provided by their parents. Further dimensions of parenting in addition to attachment, were found to be related to child delinquency.
These factors included consistent discipline, monitoring and parental warmth, and which inversely related to the probability of the child becoming delinquent (e.g. Wright and Cullen, 2001; qtd. in Simons, Simons & Wallace, 2004). The Baumrind’s typology ideas of parental responsiveness and demandingness can also help in the understanding of the relationship between family and delinquency. The parents are supposed to be supportive and attuned to the needs of the children, warm and approachable and at the same time exercise control over them through confrontation on disobedience, disciplinary efforts, and supervision. The theory can help us understand the effects of each of the parenting models, and the advantages of intertwining the different types through typology so as to maximize on the advantages. Permissive parenting would score high in responsiveness but low on demandingness as authoritarian parenting would contrast it. Authoritative parenting would score high on both factors whereas neglectful parenting would score poorly on both. Although according to Baumrind’s assertion that authoritative parenting which scores high on both factors was the best, it has been theorized elsewhere that a blend between the first two would yield better results.
Children who are victimized as they grow up will victimize others according to the cycle of violence theory. The same view is shared by the US National Research Council (1993; qtd. in Tomison, 1996). However, according to Kaufman and Ziggler (1993; qtd. in Tomison, 1996), intergeneration may be an outcome of an interplay between social and genetic influences. The immediate aforementioned authors note that many parents who were abused as children do not become themselves abusive when they are adults although some do. However, this finding has been contrasted by that of many retrospective investigators who have found the opposite (Steele and Pollock, 1968; qtd. in Tomison, 1996). This type of study focuses on the studying of maltreating parents after being identified as having mistreated or mistreating their own children.
The study has been criticized as being unable to resolve the proportion of adults who were maltreated but who subsequently cared for their children adequately. The study is able to determine those parents who were abused as children and went ahead to abuse their children. The rate of intergenerational transmission may be over-estimated if parents falsely report of abuse at childhood because the method lacks credibility in determining whether the parents gave distorted accounts of their childhood (National Research Council; qtd. in Tomison, 1996). However, it is possible that parents who faced maltreatment at childhood would normalize their abusive experiences and thus fail to report a history of maltreatment, which would lead to under-estimation of the reported intergenerational rate. Prospective studies follow children from families where they are adequately cared for, and from families where they have been maltreated, until the both groups have children. These studies have produced lower rates of intergenerational transmission (Tomison, 1996).
Another view is that the children may acquire genetic predisposition for aggressive behavior, and this would turn out to be children maltreatment when the child becomes an adult. Other family factors that can be associated with future juvenile and adult offending includes; poor child rearing techniques or methods including rejection, poor discipline, no rule-setting and poor supervision; parental psychopathology; child maltreatment and abuse-sexual and physical-or neglect; negative sibling influences; large family sizes; and disrupted families like divorced and absentee parents. The lifestyle with which the family adopted was also likely to influence the behavior outcome at latter years. Because Bandura pose it that we can learn through observing others, we understand the reason as to why it is possible to copy other lifestyles simply by watching incidences like movies and Television programs.
Children, like other people would acquire new styles of conduct, emotional responses, and attitudes through observing of television programs like other people’s behavior (qtd. in Social Learning Theory of Albert Bandura, n.d.). Violence would be learned when children for example watched violent movie events in television. However, approval of such acquired behavior by those who are around the children is very important. This can be understood because children at tender age look for approval from their guides and parents. Children can negatively reinforce certain behavior if they responded to the needs of the child when they exhibited unwelcome behavior such as yelling, shouting and insulting; such that repeated incidences would make the child to learn that the behavior they exhibit in demand for things yields positive responses. Parents may on the other side be caught up with this kind of cycle if they feel that responding to the needs of the child would help stop the behavior they are exhibiting-thus may unknowingly reinforce the behaviors or actions.
The fact that the family lifestyles themselves would influence the tendency of the child being violent and aggressive may be exacerbated by improper parenting styles like permissive parenting where the child would be let to determine the limits themselves which may happen too late. In addition, the poor family lifestyles can be reinforced by the presence of family violence-partner to partner violence. According to Bandura, televised violence would hold the attention of the child because it was simple, distinctive, prevalent, and useful and depicted positively (qtd. in Social Learning Theory of Albert Bandura, n.d.).
A relationship between marital violence and child abuse among families has been explored with Wolfe & Wilson (1990) posing that child violence was present in one third of families experiencing marital violence. According to Leighton (1989), children were present during 68% of the incidents of wife assault while according to Sinclair (1985); they were present during 80% of the incidences. The children who experience violence have been demonstrated to be at greater risk for adjustment difficulties in emotional, psychological and cognitive domains (Goodman & Rosenberg, 1987; Jaffe, Wolfe & Wilson, 1990). These children may experience side effects like the feelings of hopelessness, anxiety, lack of self-control and lack of self-esteem and poor academic performance among other things. Problems like depression and anxiety may be present in adulthood, which means that they will influence the behavior of the children if still present. Children, whether as witnesses of family violence or abuse or as victims of abuse or family violence, may show aggressive behavior at latter stages in life (Fantuzzo & Lindquist, 1989; Dodge, Bates & Pettit, 1990). The risk of an individual for becoming violent in adulthood increased with the individual’s experience of violence in the family of origin according to Widom (1989b). According to this author, 30% of children who were abused would also abuse their own children.
Social Learning Theory
According to this theory that was put forward by Bandura, people were able to learn from one another through observation, imitation and modeling. When individuals observe others, they were able according to Bandura, to develop ideas of how new behaviors were formed and this coded information would serve as a guide for action in previous occasions encountered by the observer or learner. The theory involves attention, memory and motivation and has therefore been considered a bridge between the cognitive learning and behavioral theories. The influence in learning occurs through interaction between behavioral, cognitive and environmental aspects of life. This theory may therefore be interpreted to mean that bad behavior was likely to be transmitted to children or family members from others and thus encouraging criminal behavior amongst others. According to latter development by Bandura, personality would evolve from and be influenced by an interaction between the environment, behavior and one’s psychological processes (a person’s ability to entertain images in minds and language). Because a family involves continuous interactions between the parents and the children, it was possible that the parents, who portrayed violence towards their mates or family members, would transmit the same behavior or tendency to their children and latter life as married people.
According to Bandura, learning of aggression and violence from family members, the media and the social environment would be possible. Aggression would be learned through vicarious learning where it was possible to train children and make them use violence by modeling their behavior upon the adults they observed. Because family members are intimate to the child, aggression reinforced by them was considered the most prominent of behavior modeling in this manner. Children were likely to deal with certain life events and individuals in the same aggressive manner and tactic witnessed from the parents. The children who witnessed violence at home would learn to control behavior or solve conflicts and other problems through aggression, and therefore, were likely to replicate the same behavior at adulthood. If aggression or violence was observed or perceived to have solved the problem, the behavior would be reinforced in the child’s life. Future violent and criminal behavior would be avoided by diagnosing aggression at childhood according to Bandura (1977). Controlling or elimination of aggression and bad behavior at childhood can be achieved through application of behavioral and psychological interventions. The child can be empowered through helping him or her to solve conflicts in appropriate manner,
Authoritarian and permissive parenting styles
The above two parenting styles are among the three identified by researchers, the third one being authoritative parenting. Application of any of the above parenting style in order to bring good children may be advisable depending on the response the kid gives to one of them and may give certain results or characteristics. For example, children who do not respond to the authoritarian mode, may be tried out with permissive model, whereas authoritative parents have been found by research as bringing up most well rounded and socially acceptable children with least amount of trouble.
The authoritarian style is where the parents may be seen as very demanding to their children and may set strict rules and regulations that are to be obeyed and giving orders, and where the adult does not give in response. This mode of parenting may be exceeded to lead to physical abuse of children and therefore must be controlled. In this model, which is termed the best for parenting, the parents need listen to and nurture the child to some extent. Parents using this model may carry the perception that parents are supposed to be under control in all situations with children only following without discussions or questions. The parents have very high expectations for their children, and use a set of standards of conducts which are usually absolute models, in order to shape, control and evaluate the behaviors and attitudes of the child. In addition, the absolute models value obedience as a virtue and punitive and forceful measures used to curb self-will in the child (Baumrind, 1996; qtd. in Ritter, n.d.).
Children may be let free in the permissive model of parenting with no limits, leading to a situation where the children may feel unloved because of the lack of limits. Children may even be left free to make decisions of life without referring to their parents for advice (Hickman, Bartholomae, & McKenry, 2000; qtd. in Ritter, n.d.), in addition to being let to regulate their own activities as much as possible (Baumrind, 1966; qtd. in Ritter, n.d.). In this type, the parents may consider or view themselves as their children’s friends other than more than the parent-child relationship.
The combination or a blend between the two modes; authoritarian and the permissive styles are said to bring the respect out of all types. When children are young and unable to take substantial steps towards self-responsibility in life issues may be guided and instructed. At this stage, the authoritarian model may be effective to have the children evade bad actions before growing up to realize it. A more relaxed model of authoritarian parenting may be applied at transition when the children are graduating from childhood stages and where they are able to take responsibility. A permissive approach may allow children to be self-responsible when growing up, build self-confidence and motivation, whereas authoritative approach will train the child to be obedient, recognize the need to seek for guidance and build respect for older people. Authoritarian approach can help the child not indulge freely in crime activities as they grow up because they know that strict measures will be taken if they do.
On the other side, permissive model may let the child to learn already too late. Parents in the combined model set strict rules and guidelines and at the same time allow discussion between the kid and them. While the child’s views may be considered highly, the parents use disciplinary and tutorial interactions through which the parents takes responsibility for guiding the child’s actions, emphasizing reasoning, ensuing communication and rational discussions (Baumrind, 1996). Parenting model influences how children relate to others, how they respond to others and react to situations. The child may develop personal strengths to thrive and best deal with life stresses (Ritter, n.d.), which may influence the chances of the child involvement to crime. For example, there is research evidence that permissive or authoritarian models bring up children with lesser self-control, self-efficacy, lower self-esteem, and lesser performing at school according to Ritter (n.d.).
The parenting methods and the environment are likely to cause delinquent behavior among the children, as well as nurture the existing behavior. There has been found a linkage between the research explanation towards family delinquency and crime. While Bandura theorized that individuals were able to learn through observation and modeling and therefore children would learn from family members on social behavior, and that televised violence was capable of influencing the child’s behavior, Hirschi theorized the four concepts of societal bonding, which was related to delinquency. In addition, Hirschi asserted that children participation in conventional activities would reduce chances of participation in delinquent behavior and this idea can be fine-tuned with Bandura’s view that televised violence which was attention-drawing could increase participation in delinquent behavior because they do not only learn through observation and modeling, but also it discouraged participation in conventional activities mentioned by Hirschi.
Through observation and modeling, children who were witnesses of wife battering and abuse would also exhibit the same behaviors at latter life. In addition, physically abusing the child and the aforementioned witnessing would explain the development of aggression and anxiety behavior in children. It can also be understood that parents who participated in persistent family violence had higher chances of parting ways or encouraging parental absentee which would reduce the time and impact with which parental guidance would be necessary in helping the child to commit to lifetime goals such as excellence at school, time of bonding with the immediate family members, and the time for learning and believing in the legitimacy of established societal norms and behaviors and knowing that they must be obeyed. Moreover, poor parenting can be conceived as one of the most important cause of development of crime in children because parents are responsible to identifying, controlling and eliminating antisocial behavior and criminal tendency exhibited by children at early stages of life. Although authoritarian type of parenting has been considered as the best method of parenting because it scores highly in responsiveness and demandingness, it has been theorized elsewhere that a combination between authoritarian and permissive parenting would yield the best results compared to individual methods.
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