The Juvenile Crime Challenge

Few would question that parents play an important role in the socialization of adolescents. While they are not the only influence on children, they are certainly an important influence, and the push by many states to enact parental responsibility laws reflects the awareness of the role that parents can and should take in child socialization and supervision. Observers argue that families need to be included more in the court process. And yet the question of what role parents have in the juvenile court process suggests limited knowledge and a limited role.

As mentioned earlier, New York State, where this study is being undertaken, is one of eight states that do not address the role parents are expected to play in a delinquent’s program of rehabilitation (Lansing, 1999). Parents report a lack of information provided in a timely manner. They feel they are perceived more as a part of the problem than as part of the solution (Garfinkel and Nelson, 2004). The role of parents needs to be addressed in greater depth.

To summarize this chapter, it has been argued that parents play an important role in the control and discipline of juveniles. They influence the juvenile’s behavior through their actions and inactions. When parents fail to provide adequate supervision or example, some argue that they need to be held legally responsible for their juvenile’s behavior. If parents can have a negative impact on a child, contributing to their delinquent behavior, then they can also assist in deterring juveniles from delinquent behavior.

It is for this reason that parents would seem to make ideal partners with the juvenile court system in working with juveniles charged with delinquency or status offenses. Despite the fact that control theory would suggest that parents should be involved in the juvenile court process, assuming they have the proper resources and supervisory skills, the very limited information that we have from the ABA study of 2001 indicates that parents play a very minimal role. This may be due to a level of skepticism that the court staff may have toward parents.

They may suspect the parents as the reason that the child has engaged in deviant behavior, and may choose to ‘size-up’ the parent first before engaging them in the court process. And if parents are brought into the process, with the expectation that they will monitor the child for the juvenile court, the question that must be raised is whether the parent is being monitored and controlled by the court in the same way as the court and the parent are monitoring the adolescent’s behavior.

Is the family being ‘proletarianized’ as Cohen would suggest? The relationship between court and parent has to be further defined. Clearly, parental ability to regulate the control of one’s child is an issue for the court to address when exploring parental involvement in the court.

Reference: Little Hoover Commission (1994). The Juvenile Crime Challenge: Making Prevention a Priority: State of California