Discipline is another interrelated part of family relationships that affects delinquency. Disturbed family relations play a very important role in the problem of delinquency. In an investigation of high-delinquency areas in New York City, Craig and Glick found three factors related to increased likelihood of delinquency: 1) careless or inadequate supervision by the mother or surrogate mother; 2) erratic or overly strict discipline; and 3) lack of cohesiveness of the family unit.
Sheldon and Glueck found that 4. 1 percent of fathers were found to use sound discipline practices; 26. 7 percent, fair; and 69. 3 percent, unsound. The types of discipline practices were described as follows:8 Sound – Consistent and firm control but not so strict as to arouse fear and antagonism. Fair – Control which is indefinite: sometimes strict, sometimes lax. Unsound – Extremely lax or extremely rigid control by the parents, which, on the one hand, gives unrestrained freedom of action and, on the other hand, restricts to the point of rebellion. Consistency and persistence in discipline are needed if controls are to be adequately internalized into a youth’s personality.
Situations, and appropriate methods of discipline to deal with a child, must occur regularly enough to let the child develop concepts of conduct and be able to distinguish suitable and unsuitable responses. Travis Hirschi was quoted in Causes of Delinquency by Haskel & Yablonsky. He cited an example of what may occur if the parent of a delinquent child were to be of a lower class. He states that, even if the father is committing criminal acts, he may not publicize the fact to his children. The father operates to foster obedience to a system of norms to which he himself may not conform.
It sounds like a firm control but it may not be strict enough to make a child want to conform to rules or norms. Travis Hirschi argues that parents may not necessarily transmit delinquent values. However, Sykes and Matza state that even though the family of the delinquent may agree with society that delinquency is wrong, the family may tolerate or even encourage the commission of certain offenses, though not others, for example, drug offensesa high crime, big money societal issue of the ‘90s.
Or consider the example of a parent with an alcohol problem who is setting an example that many children would follow. It is also important to understand that the intimacy with which parents communicate is strongly related to the commission of delinquent acts. The idea is whether the parent is psychologically present when temptation to commit a crime appears. If, in the situation of temptation, the child gives no thought to parental reaction, the child would tend to commit the act.
Children who perceive that their parents are unaware of their whereabouts are likely to do what they want, all of which suggests that the focus of communication can affect the likelihood that the child can recall his parents when and if a situation of potential delinquent behavior arises, or he/she may ignore it if he/she chooses to. Juvenile Court The juvenile courts still hold broad powers over children. These powers include the right to depart from legal procedures established for criminal courts and to deny to children and their parents privileges normally accorded defendants in civil courts.
The juvenile court may, for example, consider evidence that would be inadmissible in both criminal and civil courts. The justification offered for this vast delegation of power over children is that it is essential if the court is to determine how best to rehabilitate the child and how to provide adequate care for him. According to the standards suggested by the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare, if a juvenile court is to become fully effective, it must have the following:
1) a judge and a staff identified with and capable of carrying out a non-punitive and individualized service. 2) Sufficient facilities must be available in the court and the community to ensure: a) that the dispositions of the court are based on the best available knowledge of the needs of the child, b) that the child, if he needs care and treatment, receives these through facilities adapted to his/her needs and from persons properly qualified and empowered to give them, c) That the community receives adequate protection. 3) Procedures designed to ensure:
a) that each child and his situation are considered individually, b) that the legal and constitutional rights of both parents and child and those of the community are duly considered and protected. The biological approach to delinquent behavior has focused more on brain dysfunction and impairment in learning capabilities. Other research has shown abnormal electroencephalogram (EEG) recordings of the brain activity in criminals and delinquents, relating this to violent and aggressive behavior, destructiveness, limited impulse control, and poor social adaptation.
Dysfunctions of the brain have also been linked to such learning disabilities as dyslexia, aphasia and hyperactivity, which researchers contend turn persons toward deviant behavior, rejection and poor educational achievement. Further study has established a relationship between violent criminal behavior and brain tumors, although there is little evidence of a direct causal relationship to know what role, if any, brain disorders play in adolescent delinquency. How can we then understand why adolescents behave the way they do?
Biologically, teenagers go through different development stages. Knowing that to be true, can we assume that the teenage brain is also in a working progress while the rest of the body is developing? And just as a teenager is all legs one day and nose and ears the next, different areas of the brain are still undergoing development of different schedules. This imbalance could tell us why a smart 15 or 16 year old, who does not think twice before stealing a car or vandalizing a house with a friend, can be hugging others one minute and then flying off the handle the next.
Therefore, if the analysis and assessment is right, the brain inside a teenager’s skull is, in some ways, closer to a child’s brain than to an adult’s. It is, perhaps, being connected between neurons that affect not only emotional skills but also physical and mental abilities that process. That means that it might be unreasonable of us to expect young teenagers to organize multiple tasks or grasp the concept of abstract ideas since there are developing neural lines that leave a teenager vulnerable to many things.