Family and Delinquency
Kristy N. Matsuda
Families are generally considered to be the primary agent of socialization. The impact of family on delinquency (defined here as a juvenile's violation of the penal code) has been theorized about and investigated for decades, across academic disciplines, and in diverse samples. As is the case with crime, minorities are often shown to be over-represented in juvenile delinquency. Difference in family dynamics and structures is one of a number of potential explanations for this finding and, as such, has been heavily investigated. This entry summarizes theory, research, and findings regarding prevention and intervention. There are numerous theories that focus on families as central to explaining crime. Control theories hold that delinquency results from inadequate controls instilled in a person by society. Families play a vital role in instilling values and norms acceptable by the social order. Travis Hirschi's social control theory explains the importance of establishing secure connections to conventional ...