Strengthening America's Families:
Exemplary Parenting and Family Strategies
For Delinquency Prevention


TOC  :  OVERVIEW  |  PART I  |  PART II  |  PART III  |  PART IV  |  REFERENCES

PART I: FAMILY INFLUENCE ON JUVENILE DELINQUENCY

INTRODUCTION

Delinquency, youth violence, gangs, early sexual involvement, alcohol and drug abuse and other problem behaviors in our young people are causes for grave concern in this country. Although recent publicity indicates a general decline in overall violent crime in the United States, there are dramatic and disproportionate increases in rates of violent crime from 1980 to 1995 in the young adult and adolescent population (Snyder & Sickmund, 1995). Since 1991 the number of violent crimes in this country has dropped by 6%--over 100,000 fewer crimes each year. Although fewer crimes are being committed, the juvenile arrest rate has grown by 20% since 1991. According to the FBI about 2.7 million juveniles were arrested in 1995, which is 18% of all arrests. Additionally, in 1994 more than 1.5 million delinquency cases were processed in juvenile courts in the United States representing a 41% increase in cases since 1985 (Butts, 1996). The Violent Crime Indexes Offenses further supports this dismal view by reporting that in 1995 violent crime arrests were 67% higher than the 1986 level (Snyder, 1996). On a more hopeful note, for the first time in a decade, in 1995 there was a small decline of 3% in juvenile arrests for Violent Crime Index Offenses which includes murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault.

These statistics provide strong evidence that that these problems be addressed immediately. The authors believe that without high quality prevention efforts, even higher percentages of our youth are likely to become aggressive and violent. Despite vocal skeptics who say nothing works in prevention, the research literature (Bilchik, 1995; Falco, 1992; Kumpfer, 1997; Sloboda & David, 1997; Tobler & Stratton, 1997; Wright & Wright, 1995) contains numerous examples of effective programs that target these problems. Many of these programs are family interventions for the prevention of delinquency and drug abuse (Bry, Catalano, Kumpfer, Lochman, & Szapocznik, in press; Kumpfer, 1993a, 1997; Kumpfer & Alvarado, 1995; Kumpfer, Olds, Alexander, Zucker, & Gary, in press). Like other family intervention researchers (Bry, Greene, Schutte, & Fishman, 1991; Szapocznik, et al., 1988; Szapocznik, 1997), the authors believe that improving parenting practices and the family environment is the most effective and enduring strategy for reducing juvenile delinquency and associated behavioral and emotional problems. It appears that strengthening families is a key strategy to the effort to significantly reduce delinquency. We believe that strengthening the ability of families to raise children to be law abiding and productive citizens should be one of the most critical public policy and social issues in the United States.

In both the delinquency and substance abuse prevention or intervention fields, most programs are aimed at working with problem youth, rather than the whole family. Historically, earlier approaches to rehabilitation and therapy assumed that it was the youth who had the problem, not the family. Additionally, working with children and youth is also much easier than working with parents and other family members. Children and adolescents are generally more accessible through schools or community groups for participation in delinquency prevention activities than are entire families. Garnering a commitment from parents who may face numerous obstacles to participation, can be a challenge but well worth the investment in terms of not only individual parent/child changes but also the overall impact on the family. Although efforts focusing on youth should be continued, mounting evidence demonstrates that strengthening the family has a more enduring impact on the child. In a review of both family and child-focused approaches to the reduction of conduct disorders, McMahon (1987) concludes that children's "skills training approaches have failed to demonstrate a favorable outcome or evidence of generalization in more naturalistic settings (p. 149)". Conversely, McMahon (1987) concludes that family-focused approaches have demonstrated outcomes that are both positive and enduring.

Unfortunately, more children are being raised in highly stressed families. Consequently child abuse and neglect is increasing dramatically (Kumpfer & Bayes, 1995). Personal victimization and children witnessing acts of violence, hopelessness, and depression are just some examples associated with the use of violence. Youth living with family conflict, community disorganization, and economic disadvantages are at particularly high risk for becoming both perpetrators and victims of violence. Because they are exposed to violence in their neighborhoods and homes, they face bleak prospects for the future, and are often drawn into violent activity (DuRant, Cadenhead, Pendergrast, Slavens, & Linder, 1994).

Recent research has demonstrated this clear link between a child's level of exposure to violence and the propensity to commit violent acts later in life (Thornberry, et. al., 1994). Parents must help protect children from seeing violent acts at home, school, neighborhood, or on the television or movies. Social learning theory (Bandura, 1986) predicts that children learn ways of behaving vicariously through observation. If children identify with perpetrators of violence, children are likely to adopt these violent behaviors.

Hence, it is necessary to understand the family dynamics that influence the behavior of the child since the family provides the first level of social contact for the child. More importantly it is essential that families understand their role in their child's development and are armed with the information and skills necessary to raise healthy and well-adapted children. It is incumbent upon our society to promote these learning opportunities for families in this country.

Critically important to understanding delinquent behavior of youth outside the context of family is an understanding of the social environment in which children function. The following document provides information on the prevalence of violence in our communities as well as effective strategies to reduce this trend with family based programs. Hopefully this research-based information on the causes and solutions to delinquency will provide a positive direction for the future.

JUVENILE CRIME STATISTICS

The growing juvenile crime problem is one of the most important issues facing our nation. Juvenile crime stems from a complex array of causes including a lack of adult supervision for our youth, a lack of strong role models, and limited opportunities in addition to negative conditions associated with poverty, abusive backgrounds, and a host of other reasons. Juvenile crime often varies depending on the region, community, and neighborhood, statistics provide evidence that it is a serious problem nationwide. Although small percentages (approximately 16% to 23%) of delinquents are serious, chronic offenders (Shannon, 1991; Snyder, et. al., 1988), they account for about 50% to 60% of all juvenile offenses and about 75% of all violent juvenile offenses (Huizinga, Loeber, & Thornberry, 1995).

According to data gathered by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence (Elliot, 1994), researchers project that by the year 2010, juvenile arrest rates for violent crimes will more than double. This forecast is based on currently escalating trends in juvenile arrests and increases in the numbers of youth in the 10 to 17 year age range. Juvenile arrest rates began increasing dramatically in 1988 and are continuing at a faster rate than the numbers of adolescents (Snyder, Sickmund & Poe- Yamagata, 1996). In less than ten years between 1984 to 1993, juvenile delinquency arrests for violent crimes rose by 68 percent. Homicide arrests for very young offenders, under 15 years of age, increased 24 percent in a single year between 1992 and 1993 along with a 12 percent increase in arrests for weapons violations (Department of Justice, 1995). Between 1990 and 1994, the number of juvenile drug arrests rose from 60,000 to over 130,000, an increase of 117%. In addition, juvenile drug overdoses are increasing at staggering rates in many areas of the country. This may be due to the availability of smoke-able heroin and adulterated drugs.

Additionally, Elliot's (1994) research indicated that about 5% of each age cohort from ages 12 to 17 years were classified as serious violent offenders who had engaged in three or more major offenses; however, 84% of these chronic offenders had no official arrests or delinquency records. Chronic offenders are characterized by early onset of conduct disorders and crimes before the age of 12 that doubles in frequency between 13 and 14 years and reaches a peak at ages 16 to 19 years, but then begins to decline (Elliott, 1994). The earlier the onset of offending (before age 9 years), the greater the likelihood of becoming a chronic violent offender (Huizinga, Loeber & Thornberry, 1995).

Gang violence is also rising rapidly and becoming a way of life for more and more youth. About two-thirds of these serious chronic offenders are gang members and most associate with anti-social peers (Huizinga, Loeber, & Thornberry, 1994). Within the 79 largest U.S. cities there, was an estimated 3,875 juvenile gangs involving more than 200,000 youth (Spergel, 1997). Many of these youth were involved in drug activities and carry guns (American Psychological Association, 1996). Huizinga and associates (1994) report a strong relationship between illegal gun possession by juveniles, delinquency and drug use. They found that three-quarters of youth who carry guns have committed street crimes; one-quarter have committed a gun-related crime; and 40 percent used drugs. Youth are not just the perpetrators of violence, but also are the victims of violence at rates twice as high as for adults over 25 years of age (Moore, 1994). As a result, non-violent youth become fearful and also obtain guns for their own protection. Not only are guns more available, but youth are also showing an increasing tendency to use guns to settle disputes. Though often portrayed as resulting from criminal activity, the bulk of firearm deaths that occur as a result of arguments exceeds the number of deaths associated with robberies, fights, and rapes combined (Tolan & Guerra, 1994).

Fear of juveniles and crime has resulted in many Americans curtailing their activities and living in fear. Politicians have responded quickly, but typically with less effective, short-term solutions, such as increased funding for policing, supply reduction strategies, and incarceration. According to a poll of police chiefs, 85 percent of chiefs want major changes in current policies related to this area and 47 percent want to see more efforts in education, prevention, and treatment (Fox, 1996). Only 21 percent gave a higher priority to law enforcement strategies. Many prominent correctional specialists agree with prevention specialists that longer-term solutions are required to prevent the problems of delinquency.

DEVELOPMENTAL PATHWAYS TO DELINQUENCY

There are many pathways to delinquency (Huizinga, Esbensen, & Weiher, 1991) and a variety of family circumstances contribute to negative behavior in children (Wright & Wright, 1992). Studies of family risk factors for delinquency conclude that the probability of a child becoming a delinquent increases rapidly as the number of family problems or risk factors increases (Rutter, 1987). Children and youth generally appear to be able to withstand the stress of one or two family problems. When they are continually bombarded by family problems, however, their normal development is impeded.

Three developmental pathways to delinquency have been described in longitudinal studies of delinquency (Huizinga, Loeber, & Thornberry, 1995):

Authority Conflict Pathway which begins with stubborn behavior, then defiant behavior, and developing later into avoidance of authority figures (e.g., truancy, running away, staying out late),

Covert Pathway which begins with minor covert problem behaviors (i.e., shoplifting, frequent lying, stealing), moving to damaging property, and later to delinquent acts (i.e., fraud, theft, burglary), and

Overt Pathway which begins with minor aggression (bullying, teasing), followed by physical fighting and later violent acts (physical attack, rape, assault and battery).

Youth in more than one pathway report more crimes. Two family characteristics were found to impact these developmental pathways to delinquency, namely poor family attachment and poor parenting behavior. Higher levels of delinquency and drug use were associated with both of these family risk factors.

Patterson and associates (Patterson & Joerger, 1993) posit that there are two groups of youth involved in delinquent behaviors:

the early starters who follow the previously described developmental pathway and
the late starters who are more influenced by peers.

While the increases in problem behaviors are correlated with immediate precursors of decreased individual and peer perceptions of harmfulness and disapproval of violent, aggressive or delinquent acts, research studies suggest that parents have an early influence on the developmental pathways towards delinquency and drug use (Kumpfer & Turner, 1990/1991). While many tested theories of problem behaviors (Oetting, 1992; Oetting & Beauvais, 1987; Newcomb, 1992; 1995) find peer cluster influence as the major reason to initiate drug use or delinquent behaviors, parental disapproval has also been shown to be a major reason not to engage in delinquent acts or to use drugs (Coombs, Paulson, & Richardson, 1991). Family variables are a consistently strong predictor of antisocial and delinquent behaviors (Loeber & Stouthhamer-Loeber, 1986; McCord, 1991; Tolan & Loeber, 1993; Tolan, Guerra, & Kendall, 1995 a & b). According to Bry , et.al. (in press): "The critical role of family factors is acknowledged in virtually every psychological theory of substance abuse (Brook et al., 1990; Bry, 1983; Catalano & Hawkins, 1996; Dembo et al., 1979; Dishion et al., 1988; Elliott et al., 1989; Hawkins et al., 1992; Jessor, 1993; Kandel & Davis, 1992; Kaplan & Johnson, 1992; Kellam et al., 1983; Kumpfer, 1987; Newcomb & Bentler, 1989; Oetting & Lynch, 1993; Wills et al., 1992).

Family Risk Factors

There is no gene for violence. Violence is a learned behavior, and it is often learned in the home from parents and family members or the community, friends, peers, or neighbors (American Psychological Association, 1996). The level of exposure to violence in the home and community also plays a part in persons who engage in violent acts. Children in these situations are more aggressive and grow up more likely to become involved in violence either as a victimizer or as a victim especially if they witness violent acts.

The home is the most fertile breeding ground for violent behavior. Children, who see a parent or other family members abused, or abusing another, are more likely to view violence as a way to solve problems. Children who are exposed to domestic violence are more likely to abuse others, as they grow older (American Psychological Association, 1996).

Family History

Depending on the level of functioning, families can negatively impact a child's development. While there is no single cause of delinquency and violence, family variables are a consistently strong predictor of antisocial behaviors (McCord, 1991; Tolan & Loeber, 1993; Tolan, Guerra, & Kendall, 1995 a & b). Parents and peers are the strongest risk factors for delinquency according to the study of Causes and Correlates of Delinquency (Thornberry, Huizinga, & Loeber, 1995). Several empirically tested models of delinquency and substance abuse have found that parent/child relationships or processes such as support and supervision are the precursors of peer influences--the final pathway to delinquency (Duncan, Ary, Hops, & Bigland, in press; Kumpfer & Turner, 1990/1991). In other words, youth who like and respect their traditional parents are less likely to become involved with antisocial peers and delinquency. From this and other reviews (including Hawkins, Catalano, et al., 1992; Kumpfer & Alvarado, 1995; Wright & Wright, 1995) as well as other primary sources, a list of family correlates of delinquency based on functional family risk theory can be assembled:

Family history of the behavior problem, including parent's or sibling's role modeling of antisocial values and behaviors and favorable attitudes about antisocial behaviors (Hawkins & Catalano, 1992), and parental criminality, psychopathology (Offord, 1982; Robins, 1981), and antisocial personality disorder and substance abuse (Faraone, et al., 1991; Frick, et al., 1992).

Poor socialization practices, including failure to promote positive moral development, and neglect in teaching life, social, and academic skills to the child or providing opportunities to learn these competencies.

Poor supervision of the child, including failure to monitor the child's activities (Ary, Duncan, Duncan, Hops, 1999), neglect, latch-key conditions, sibling supervision, and too few adults to care for the number of children.

Poor discipline skills, including lax, inconsistent, or excessive discipline, expectations which are unrealistic for the developmental level of the child (which creates a failure syndrome), and excessive, unrealistic demands or harsh physical punishment;

Poor parent/child relationships, including lack of parental bonding and early insecure attachment (Baumrind, 1985), repeated lost of caretakers (Loeber, 1990), negativity and rejection of the child by the parents (Cole & Zahn- Waxler, 1992; Brook, Whiteman, Gordon, Brook & Cohen, 1990), including cold and unsupportive maternal behavior (Shedler & Block, 1990), lack of involvement and time together (Kumpfer & DeMarsh, 1986) resulting in rejection of the parents by the child, and maladaptive parent/child interactions;

Excessive family conflict and marital discord (Katz & Gottman, 1993) with verbal, physical or sexual abuse;

Family disorganization, chaos and stress often because of poor family management skills, life skills or poverty (Tolan, Gorman-Smith, Zelli & Huesmann, 1993);

Poor parental mental health, including depression and irritability that cause negative views of the child's behaviors;

Family isolation, lack of supportive extended family networks (Dilworth-Anderson, 1989), family social insularity (Dumas, 1986), and lack of community support resources, and;

Differential family acculturation and role reversal or loss of parental control over adolescents by parents who are less acculturated than their children (Szapoczink & Kurtines, 1993).

Research reviews concur that the final pathway in which family factors influence delinquency is the way that the family functions, rather than external demographic variables. According to Zill (in press): "It is important to look at the realities of how families are actually functioning, rather than labeling some types of families as inevitably bad and others as invariably good ", for instance "many single parents do manage to provide stable, secure, stimulating and supportive homes for their youngsters (p.22)."

However, many structural factors tend to be positively correlated with family dysfunction. Some of these structural factors include:

Poverty, which is the overarching cause of many of the other structural and functional family factors. Parents who are poor do not have the money to provide the same opportunities for their children as more prosperous families. Many of the poor are single working mothers who do not have enough money to provide adequate child care, health care, or educational opportunities (Zill, 1993).

Neighborhood disorganization, which is related to increased crime. There are two possible reasons for this relationship. First, in disorganized neighborhoods, youth do not have close bonds with neighbors, and second, informal monitoring of youth in such neighborhoods is limited (Zill, 1993).

High density housing, which is related to juvenile crime and family dysfunction. Families are often socially isolated in public housing projects and live under a great deal of stress (Zill, 1993).

Reduced educational, cultural, and job opportunities, the economic robustness of neighborhood often determines the quality of the schools, access to community cultural resources, and number of jobs available for youth (Zill, 1993).

Discrimination, which is also related to poor growth outcomes, whether caused by religious, ethnic, cultural, gender or family background factors. Youth who are not accepted by the mainstream youth in their school, church, or neighborhood are not likely to bond to these social institutions (Zill, 1993).

Family Management Problems

As mentioned earlier, family management problems increase children's risk for health and behavior problems including an increased risk for crime and violence (Yoshikawa, 1994). Poor family management is particularly important in the case of a difficult child, (Patterson, Debaryshe, & Ramsey, 1989). In the case of a difficult child, the cycles are thought to begin with hyperactivity or other conditions that produce irritability on the part of the child, to which the parent responds adversely, but ineffectively. This, in turn, rewards and reinforces the child's aggressive and adverse behavior, and a stable pattern of mutually coercive style of relating is built up from regular daily interactions during childhood. Increased aggressiveness by the child and increasing ineffectiveness of the parent lead to escalation of destructive behavior. In later childhood, according to research, the child spends more time unsupervised by parents, and parents tend to know less about the child's relationships with peers and teachers. Failure in school and contact with deviant peers are likely outcomes.

Lack of supervision and monitoring appears to be particularly salient as a cause of violent offenses. Violent crimes peak just after the close of school at about 3:00 pm (Snyder & Sickmund, 1995) suggesting lack of parental supervision and latch key status. The Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development (1994) study found that about 40 percent of adolescent's non-sleeping time is spent alone, with peers without adult supervision, or with adults who might negatively influence their behavior.

Family Conflicts

Conflicts among family members may increase the risk for both domestic violence and violence against others. Again, it is emphasized that family conflict increases the risk for crime and violence. Children learn by example; hence, it comes as no surprise that children learn to be aggressive through observing aggression in their families and the surrounding society.

Family Poverty

Jones and DeMaree (1975) in their research on high-risk families concluded that structural or demographic characteristics such as race, socioeconomic status, poverty, frequent family moves, low educational level, and unemployment are intricately interrelated with family functioning. These structural factors, often out of the control of family members, may contribute to family disruption, overcrowding and stress, depression and other interrelated factors.

Recent research and theory has focused on the processes by which family poverty leads to violence and delinquency in individuals who live in public housing and lower-income neighborhoods (Aber, Seidman, Allen, Mitchell, & Garfinkel, 1992; Gonzales, Cauce, Friedman, and Mason, 1996). It is argued that poverty, structural disadvantage, and economic loss diminish parental capacity for consistent and involved parenting, exacerbates conflict, undermines the quality of the family's interactions, and reduces parents capacity to exert informal social control. Beyond this level of analysis, economic factors may play a slightly different role in violence. Economists have suggested that family outcomes such as place of residence, health care, and job opportunities are affected by family income (Tauchen, Witte, & Griesinger, 1994). This increases or reduces exposure to violence. Gonzales, Cauce, and Friedman (1996) examined family, peer, and neighborhood influences on academic achievement among African American adolescents. Academic drop-out is a risk factor for later delinquent behavior as reported throughout this report. These researchers found that family status variables were not predictive of adolescent school performance as indexed by self-reported grade point average. However, neighborhood risk was related to lower grades, while peer support predicted better grades (Gonzales, Cauce, and Friedam, 1996).

One other interesting risk factor deals with the source of income as well as who within the family is earning the income. Increases in female income can have quite different effects on violence than increases in male income. Violence in the family is lower when the male is employed for a significant proportion of the time, while changes in female employment generally have an insignificant effect on violence, no matter what the level of income. Additionally, studies have found that children from families without an adult male in the home rely on the influence of peers and other socializing agents as their primary reference (instead of the family) at an earlier age (by age 8) than other children. This reality calls attention to the limits of the family's influence on delinquency and violence (Hawkins & Weis, 1985).

Unfortunately, family risk factors often tend to cluster. For example, children of poverty typically contend with multiple problems. Multiple problems are compounded by parental absence because parents must work or because fathers unable to support their family have left; irritable and depressed parents or caretakers; lack of money for social or educational opportunities; and in severe cases, lack of adequate food and clothing, and even homelessness.

Family Dynamics and Violence

Although family problems are not always directly related to troublesome or violent behavior, they are important factors to consider. Over the last few years many studies have looked at the issue of family dynamics as it relates to violent behavior and the increased rates of delinquency of children raised in certain types of dysfunctional families (Snyder, Sickmund, & Poe-Yamagata, 1996). Understanding the type and extent of interaction between a child and his or her extended family members is important to understanding the relationship between the child's family structure and his or her delinquent behavior. Attributes directly relating family dynamics and delinquent behavior include (Snyder, Sickmund, & Poe-Yamagata, 1996):

Ineffective Parenting Style
Inefficient Parental Authority
Contradictory Parenting Styles

While much is known about parenting styles generally and their outcomes, further research needs to be conducted to understand parental practices and differences among the various types of households. Three aspects of household structure should be considered in developing family-based programs to prevent delinquency according to Snyder, Sickmund, & Poe-Yamagata (1996):

Household Environment
With whom does the child live?
How well do the family and household members get along?
How often do individuals in the household change?

Care Providers
Who takes care of the child by providing nurturance, supervision, and intellectual stimulation?
Does the care provider live in the household?
Is the primary care provider a relative or someone outside the extended family?

Other Key Figures
Who else beyond household members and child care providers is important to the child?
Does the child have access to other members of the extended family such as grandparents, cousins, aunts, or uncles?
Does a nonresident father influence the child --perhaps serving as a role model?

Cycle of Violence

The idea that violence begets violence has emerged from studies on abuse and family assaults over the past 25 years. Called the "cycle of violence," this hard to test theory suggests that abused children become abusers themselves and that child victims of violence become violent adults (Tolan & Guerra, 1994).

"Cycle of Violence" suggests:

physically-abused boys are more likely to grow into physically abusive and violent men than their non-abused counterparts;

physically abused girls are more likely to become victims of abuse as adults.

Despite its theoretical appeal, the transmission of violence across generations is difficult to prove (Sells & Blum, 1996). While childhood abuse or violence can definitely point a child towards criminal or violent activity, these events do not cause an individual to maintain that lifestyle. Using psychiatric, neurological, physiological, and cognitive tests, Synder and Sickmund (1995) identified the "intrinsic vulnerabilities" that predisposed juvenile males to engage in antisocial behavior. Those with a combination of an abusive family and two or more vulnerabilities were more likely to commit crimes as adults. The intrinsic vulnerabilities are:

paranoia
hallucinations
seizures and limbic dysfunction
below-normal reading level
impaired memory
anti-social personality

Family violence and intrinsic vulnerabilities interact to produce violent behavior within the family that is perceived as a-normal (abnormal??) models of behavior. Healthy, resilient children resist these models and adopt more socially appropriate behaviors they see in the community or at school, but those with neurological or psychiatric impairments may be more likely to follow the patterns of their early home life (Synder & Sickmund, 1995). Children with neurological or psychiatric impairments may have more difficulty controlling the rage that abuse often kindles. Hyperactive or impulsive children may encourage abuse from parents who have difficulty controlling their own impulses and anger (Synder & Sickmund, 1995). According to these researchers, the relationship between childhood abuse and later adult crimes may be less clear in females than in males.

Exposure to Violence in the Home

As discussed earlier, research by Thornbery & associates (1994) suggests that children who witness violence frequently are more likely to adopt violent behaviors. Each year more than 10 million American children witness a physical assault between their parents. In 2/3 of these cases, there is repeated violence between the parents. The childhood prevalence of witnessing violence is at least triple these annual rates (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1992). The vast majority of children whose mothers are abused actually witness the violence and its aftermath in their family, in contrast to many parents' estimates that they have protected their children from this experience (Durant, Pendercrast, & Cadenhead, 1994). Children who witness their mother's victimization suffer from both short-term and long-term adjustment problems (Cellini, 1995). Children whose parents are aggressive are more likely to be aggressive and violent themselves in adolescence and young adulthood (Durrant et al., 1994). According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics: Executive Summary (1996b) subtle symptoms of children who witness violence include the following:

learn that violence is an acceptable way to resolve interpersonal conflict;
learn various rationalizations for the use of violence in order to maintain power and control in relationships;
feel some degree of responsibility for the violence;
may have conflicts and skill deficits regarding how to handle emergencies.

Child Abuse & Domestic Violence

According to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics (1994) children are often the unintended victims of battering. The risk of child abuse is significantly higher when partner assault is also reported. Nearly half of men who abuse their female partners also abuse their children. Children in violent homes face dual threats -- the threat of witnessing traumatic events, and the threat of physical assault. Additionally, this report found that children who are abused might be:

injured during an incident of parental violence;
traumatized by the fear from their parent or guardian or helplessness in protecting their parent or guardian;
blame themselves for not preventing the violence or for causing it; or
be abused or neglected themselves.

In another study, Cellini (1995), one-third of the families reporting a violent incident between the parents also reported the presence of child abuse. Also found in this study was that women being battered are less able to care for their children. Eight times as many women report using physical discipline on their children while living with their batterer than those who live alone or with a non-battering partner (Curry, Ball, & Fox, 1992).

Despite limitations of research, a few consistent results indicate that women who experience physical violence during pregnancy are more likely to be young (under 25), single, of lower socioeconomic status, and unhappy about being pregnant than women who do not experience physical violence during pregnancy (Gaxmararian, Adams, Saltzman, Johnson, Bruce, Marks, Zahniser, & the PRAMS Working Group., 1995). Women who experience physical violence during pregnancy also tend to receive inadequate prenatal care and experience housing problems. National survey data supports these results and suggest that younger pregnant women have higher rates of battering than older pregnant women (Saltzman, 1990). The long-term ramifications of witnessing domestic and child abuse and the importance of detecting and stopping abuse in the home as early as possible cannot be over-emphasized.

Victimization from Neglect, Physical Abuse, and Sexual Abuse

The National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse estimates that more than 2.5 million children were abused or neglected in the United States in 1991 (Fox, 1996). Neglect was defined as an excessive failure by caregivers to provide food, clothing, shelter, and medical attention. Major findings of Fox (1996) reported that neglected and abused children tend to become more violent juveniles and adults and increases the likelihood of arrest as a juvenile by 53%. Neglected children's rates of arrest for violence were almost, but not as high as physically abused children's (Fox, 1996). Reported explanations by the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect (NCCAN) for the increased number of abused children might be related to mothers who are abusing substances or economic stress in families who feel uncertain about their employment (Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1992).

Family Protective and Resilience Factors

The probability of a youth developing developmental problems increases rapidly as the number of risk factors increase in comparison to the number of protective factors (Dunst & Trivette, 1994; Rutter, 1990; 1993). The objective of family-focused prevention programs should be to not only decrease risk factors, but to also increase ongoing family protective mechanisms. According to Bry and associates (in press), the five major types of protective family factors include:   1) supportive parent-child relationships (Brook, 1993; Dishion, et al., 1988; Werner & Smith, 1992),   2) positive discipline methods (Catalano, et al., 1993; Dishion et al., 1988; Kellam, et al., 1983);   3) monitoring and supervision (Ary, Duncan, Duncan, & Hops, (1999); Chilcoat et al., 1995; Loeber & Stouthhamer-Loeber, 1986);   4) family advocacy for their children (Brunswick, et al., 1992; Kandel & Davis, 1992; Krohn & Thornberry, 1993); and   5) seeking information and support for the benefit of their children (Nye, Zucker, & Fitzgerald, 1995). The longitudinal study of urban delinquency (Huizinga, Loeber, & Thornberry, 1995) supported that parental supervision, attachment to parents, and consistency of discipline were the most important family protective factors in promoting resilience to delinquency in high-risk youth.

Resilience researchers (Kumpfer & Bluth, in press; Luthar, 1993; Werner, 1986) and those researchers focusing on family strengths (Gary, 1996; Dunst & Trivett, 1994) have also specified similar family protective mechanisms that help children from very high risk families to successfully avoid delinquency and drug use and develop positive life adaptation. The characteristics of strong resilient African-American families have been found to be:

  1)  a strong economic base,
  2)  achievement orientation,
  3)  role adaptability,
  4)  spirituality,
  5)  extended family bonds,
  6) racial pride,
  7) respect and love,
  8) resourcefulness,
  9) community involvement, and
10)  family unity (Gary, Beatty, Berry, & Price, 1983).

The challenge to family intervention researchers is to develop and test interventions that effectively address such a broad range of family protective factors. Research data from the OJJDP Program of Research on Causes and Correlates of Juvenile Delinquency from three longitudinal studies in Denver, Colorado; Rochester, New York; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania suggest that delinquency risk factors are not simply additive, but interact to produce higher levels of risk burden (Thornberry, et.al. 1994). Additionally, they are moderated by protective factors in the family or youth environment and internal resiliency factors or processes (Kumpfer, 1995; Kumpfer, Bluth, in press). If youth had only one of the 12 protective factors identified, the reductions in delinquency were negligible; however, if there were multiple protective factors (nine or more), the risk of delinquency was reduced to below 25 percent.




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