Juvenile delinquency is defined as a major or minor lawbreaking by an individual under the age of 18 (Berger, 2000). Juvenile delinquents, as a result of their age, are often kept in juvenile detention centers rather than correctional centers or prisons. Hoeve et al.(2008), reporting on their research findings identified that, based on self-reported and official delinquency seriousness, delinquency can be classified into five distinct delinquency trajectories differing in both level and change in seriousness over time: a nondelinquent, minor persisting, moderate desisting, serious persisting, and serious desisting trajectory. Most research on specific types of juvenile delinquency related to drug sales and violence (Grunewald, Lockwood, Harris, & Mennis, 2010).

There are several social factors that contribute to the etiology of juvenile delinquency. One of the major factors contributing to the risk of delinquent behavior is the family (Mmari, Blum, & Tuefel-Shone, 2010). Research indicates a significant link between parental or caregiver involvement and an individual’s propensity to engage in violent or delinquent behaviors. A lack of parental interaction and involvement, a characteristic of the indifferent parenting style, increases the risk for violence, particularly among male juveniles (Hawkins et al., 2000). Criminological research suggests that a weak parent-child bond is a key determinant of juvenile offending or delinquency (Steinberg, 2001; Patterson et al., 1992) and contribute to adult offending (Cernkovich and Giordano, 2001; Moffitt, 1993). The authoritarian and indifferent parenting styles, based on their characteristics, are associated with drug use and behavioral problems (Baumrind, 1978). This article, in addition to bringing to the fore the link between parenting styles and delinquency, will also aim at addressing policy implications.

1 Introduction
2 The role of parenting styles in delinquency
3 Statistics on juvenile delinquency
4 The consequences of juvenile delinquency
5 Prevention of juvenile delinquency
6 References
The role of parenting styles in delinquency

The risk of developing delinquent behaviors is often attributable to family or parenting factors (Tompsett & Toro, 2010). Both authoritarian and indifferent parenting styles have been demonstrated to have a link with negative outcomes in children, particularly, the indifferent parenting style. Baumrind (1991) found that children whose parents have an indifferent parenting style have the worst outcomes on a number of behavioral and psychological measures. These children demonstrate high rates of problem behaviors and drug use (Baumrind, 1991; Lamborn et al., 1991; Slicker, 1998). The lack of parental presence in the indifferent parenting environment and it’s adverse effects on children’s development was consistent with other findings (Mamari, Blum, & Tuefel-Shone, 2010). The majority of the participants in that study felt that the lack of parental presence was the major reason why American India youth or juveniles get involve in drugs and violence. Furthermore, because the discipline of the authoritarian parenting style is imposed on children, these children rely on external controls rather than self-regulation (Hoffman, 1994). This external imposition of authority can increase the likelihood that adolescent or juveniles will rebel (Baumrind, 1978) and may become delinquent. The majority of these respondents also reported the lack of parental discipline as another major source of risk for delinquent behavior. The findings by Asher (2006) point to the significant role of parenting styles in predicting behavioral outcomes in juveniles. The study involved parents and legal guardians of juveniles incarcerated for felony offenses, and the largest percentage (46%) of parents / guardians identified most closely with an authoritarian style of parenting (Asher, 2006).

Statistics on Juvenile Delinquency

Based on information from the National Center for Juvenile Justice, the table below indicates the general offenses that most juveniles are engaged in.

Violent Crimes
Drug and Alcohol Violation

Status Offenses
Drug possession

Curfew violation
Liquor law violation

Underage alcohol consumption
Intent to sell drugs

Drink and disorderly conduct

Drug abuse

Auto theft


Weapon possession


Larceny/ Theft

According to the National Centre for Juvenile Justice, the most common juvenile crimes comprise theft, assault, drug abuse, disorderly conduct, and curfew violations. The yearly figures include suspicious delinquent behaviors as well.
The above statistics indicate that both males and females engage in juvenile delinquency. However, in all cases, males have been found to be the highest offenders. With regards to race, orchestration of juvenile delinquency cuts across all races and cultures, with blacks being the highest offenders.

The Consequences of Juvenile Delinquency

Broadly put, juvenile delinquency can have punctuating effect (Sampson & Lamb, 1997) on the life course of juveniles. Juvenile delinquency may spark failure in school, incarceration, and weak bonds to the labor market in turn increasing later adult crime (Sampson & Lamb, 1997). By extension, when a juvenile delinquent reaches adulthood without any reformation resulting from detention in correctional facilities, there is a high tendency for them to become repeated offenders which can increase their risk of going through the criminal justice system as an adult offender.

2.pngAnother adverse effect of juvenile delinquency, which culminates in legal confinement, is increased depression and anxiety on the offender. Extant research indicates that there are high rates of mental disorders among youths involved with the juvenile justice system ( Teplin, Abram, McClelland, Dulcan, & Mericle, 2002; Wasserman, Ko, & McReynolds, 2004). Across studies of detained and incarcerated adolescents, rates of internalizing disorders, such as depression and anxiety, range from 11% to 33% (Vermeiren, 2003).

Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency

As discussed above, the indifferent and authoritarian parenting styles are connected to juvenile delinquency. The indifferent parenting style is characterized by neglectful behavior from the parent and the child receives little direction or support. In the authoritarian parenting style, a high degree of demandingness is given by the parent, but little support is offered.

In general, the authoritative parenting style is conducive to the most positive results. In particular, if one would attempt to prevent delinquency among White America, then a focus on high levels of support and demandingness would be appropriate. A therapist designing an intervention or education class among this population could speak about setting appropriate and consistent limits on child behavior, and providing the child with rational explanations about why a particular decision was made. High levels of emotional support and parental involvement would also be stressed. If one elected to focus a class on the different sexes, then it would be stressed that girls are negatively impacted with less support and a loss of demandingness is associated with more negative outcomes for boys. Thus, to counter-act that, a specific focus or session could be designed on ways to increase levels of support for girls and increase levels of demandingness (if needed) for boys.

If, however, one was looking at designing an intervention or education program for a more broad audience, then a change in focus would need to be made. Specifically, one would need to consider the cultural differences and the education and SES backgrounds of the targeted family audience. For example, minority families would likely benefit more than a White audience would about sessions on the authoritarian parenting style or variations of that style. Those populations are more likely to use that style and, unlike European Americans, positive results are much more common. Thus, a particular focus could be to set strict limits and guide behavior among the child. A high degree of parental monitoring could also be particularly helpful.


Asher, A. J. (2006). Exploring the relationship between parenting style and juvenile delinquency. Department of Social Studies and Family Work. Faculty of Miami University.
Baumrind, D. (1991). The influence of parenting style on adolescent competence and substance use. Journal of Early Adolescence, 11, 56-95.
Berger, K. S. (2000). The developing person through childhood and adolescence. New York: Worth Publishers.
Baumrind, D. (1978). Parental disciplinary patterns and social competence in children. Youth and Society, 9, 239–276.
Cernkovich, S.A. & Giordano, P.C. (2001). Stability and change in antisocial behavior: The transition from the adolescence to early childhood. Criminology, 39, 371–410.
Grunwald, E.H., Lockwood, B., Harris, W.P., & Mennis, J. (2010). Influence of neighborhood context, individual history, and parenting behavior on recidivism among juvenile offenders. Journal of Youth Adolescence, 39, 1067-1079.
Hawkins, J. D., Herrenkohl, T. I., Farrington, D. P., Brewer, D., Catalano, R. F., Harachi, T. W., et al. (2000). Predictors of Youth Violence. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.
Hoeve, M., Blokland, A., Dubas, S.J., Loeber, R., Gerris, R.M.J., & van dee Laan, H. (2008). Trajectories of delinquency and parenting styles. Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology, 36, 223-235.
Hoffman, M. L. (1994). Discipline and internalization. Developmental Psychology, 30, 26–28.
Lamborn, S.D., Mounts, N.S., Steinberg, L., & Dornbusch, S.M. (1991). Patterns of competence and adjustment among adolescents from authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent, and neglectful families. Child Development, 62, 1049-1065.
Mmari, N.K., Blum, W.R., & Teufel-Shone, N. (2010). What increase risk and protection for delinquent behaviors among American India youth? Findings from three tribal communities. Youth & Society, 41, 382-413.
Moffitt, T.E. (1993). Adolescent-limited and life-course-persistent antisocial behavior: A developmental taxonomy. Psychological Review, 100, 674–701.
National Center for Juvenile Justice Report (2008). Juvenile Arrest by offense, sex, and race. Retrieved from http://ojjpd.ncjrs.org/ojstatbb/crime/excel/JAR_2008,xls
Oregon State Archives Online. (2008). One thing leads to another: juvenile delinquency rises picture. Retrieved November 19, 2010, from: http://arcweb.sos.state.or.us/exhibits/ww2/life/delinquent.htm.
Patterson, G.R. Reid, V, & Dishion, T.J. (1992). A social learning approach: Coercive family process. Eugene, OR: Castilia Publishing Company.
Sampson, R.J., & Laub, J.H. (1997). A life-course theory of cumulative disadvantage and the stability of delinquency. Advance in Criminological Theory, 7,133-161.
Steinberg, L. (2001). We know some things: Parent-adolescent relationships in retrospect and prospect. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 11, 1–19.
Slicker, E.K. (1998). Relationship of parenting style to behavioral adjustment of graduating high school seniors. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 27, 345–373.
Teplin, L. A., Abram, K. M., McClelland, G. M., Dulcan, M. K., & Mericle, A. A. (2002). Psychiatric disorders in youth in juvenile detention. Archives of General Psychiatry, 59, 1133-1143.
Tompsett, J.C. ,& Toro, A.P. (2010). Predicting overt and covert antisocial behaviors: Parent, peers, and homelessness. Journal of Community Psychology, 38, 409-485.
Wasserman, G., Ko, S. J., & McReynolds, L. S. (2004, August). Assessing the mental health status of youth in juvenile justice settings. Juvenile Justice Bulletin.
Vermeiren, R. (2003). Psychopathology and delinquency in adolescents: A descriptive and developmental perspective. Clinical Psychology Review, 23, 277-318.
Wallace, A. (2009, Novermber 30) Factors that Lead to Juvenile Delinquency. [documentary]. Retrieved May 23, 2007, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=egvBwq1FB2g