Relation of Family Problems to Patterns of Delinquent Involvement Among Urban Youth

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Abstract

The relation of patterns of family problems and patterns of delinquent behavior over time was evaluated among a sample of inner-city minority adolescent males. Empirically derived groups were identified and included: nonoffenders, chronic minor offenders, escalators, and serious chronic offenders. Patterns of family problems were also identified and differentially related to delinquency groups. Members of the group involved in serious chronic offending were more likely to have families characterized by multiple problems including disruption, conflict, and lack of parental involvement, sometimes so extreme as to meet the legal requirement of neglect. They were also more likely to have families characterized by deviant behavior and attitudes. The finding of specific relations between types of family problems and patterns of delinquent behavior has important implications for intervention and prevention. Rather than assuming a general relation between family functioning and delinquent involvement, specific aspects of family functioning may need to be targeted to affect different patterns of delinquent involvement.

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