Thursday, 8 March 2007

Teenage delinquency and absent fathers

Following a spate of gang shootings in London last month, in which three teenagers were killed, opposition leader David Cameron claimed part of the blame lay with family breakdown, particularly absent fathers. Now a breaking study from America appears to support his case.

Rebekah Coley and Bethany Medeiros interviewed 647 teenagers and their mothers in 1999 and then again in 2001. The sample consisted of poor urban families in which the father was not resident. The average age of the teenagers at the first interview was 12.5 years, and most were African American or Hispanic, living in Boston, Chicago or San Antonio.

Fatherly involvement appeared to have a protective effect. The teenagers who saw more of their fathers at the first interview, and/or who had more communications with him, were less likely to be involved in delinquent behaviour, such as stealing and drug use, at the second interview.

Coley and Medeiros said: “...non-resident fathers who had more regular contact and conversations with their children and who took greater responsibility for their children's care and behaviours had adolescents who showed relative decreases over a 16-month period in their levels of delinquency and problem behaviour”.

Another finding concerned the teenagers' effect on their fathers' behaviour. When teenage delinquency rose between the first and second interviews, so too did fatherly involvement, especially among the African American families. This contradicts some earlier research suggesting problem teenager behaviour can repel parental involvement. “African American fathers, faced with a history of discrimination and unequal intervention by the justice system may be more reactive to delinquent activities in their adolescents than middle-class advantaged parents”, the researchers said.
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Coley, R.L. & Medeiros, B.L. (2007). Reciprocal longitudinal relations between non-resident father involvement and adolescent delinquency. Child Development, 78, 132-147.

Post written by Christian Jarrett (@psych_writer) for the BPS Research Digest.

4 comments:

  1. Hm interesting & goes against what the perception would be of whites being more involved than blacks. Still it seems like it's more of a male thing than a black/white thing, especially with the lack of role models with absent fathers - thus getting involved in gangs.

    Wonder how girls without fathers fare? At least they have their moms, right? How much do you think the media has to do with this?

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  2. Anonymous10:16 pm

    It is indeed a black thing...and it is a poverty issue, not an issue of males, or lack thereof. If a family has two income earners, are educated and live in a "good" neighborhood, I can almost guarantee the issue of fatherlessness would not be an issue! This is all correlation, and a very poor one.

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  3. *FATHERLESS CHILDREN:

    Alexander Hamilton - President Gen. George Washington - President Thomas Jefferson - President James Monroe - President Andrew Jackson - President Andrew Johnson - President Rutherford B. Hayes - President Herbert Hoover - President Grover Cleveland - President Gerald Ford - President William Jefferson Clinton - U.S. Supreme Court Justice James Wilson - U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Rutledge - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Johnson Field - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thomas Todd - U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Davis - U.S. Supreme Court Justice John McKinley - U.S. Supreme Court Ch. Justice (and U.S. Treasury Secretary) Salmon P. Chase - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Melville Fuller - U.S. Supreme Court Ch. Justice Edward D. White - U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Benjamin N. Cardozo - U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas - U.S. Supreme Court Justice James F. Byrnes - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Arthur J. Goldberg - U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas - Frederick Douglas - Gen. Robert E. Lee - Gen. John Rawlins - Booker T. Washington - Benjamin Rush - Stephen Colbert - George Mason - Fr. Gen. Marquis de Lafayette - Henry Clay - Meriwether Lewis - Eleanor Roosevelt - Jackie Robinson - Mark Twain - George Washington Carver - Nathanial Hawthorne - Eli Whitney - Linus Carl Pauling - Aristotle - Nicolas Copernicus - Sir Isaac Newton - Mahatma Gandhi - Leonardo da Vinci - Confucius - Queen Elizabeth I - Jean-Jacques Rousseau - William Blackstone - Alexander Fleming - Nelson Mandela - Catherine the Great of Russia - Alexandre Dumas - Gen. Alexander Haig - Alabama Governor Bibb Graves - New York Governor Al Smith - Tennessee Governor Sam Houston - Indiana Supreme Court Justice William Allen Woods - U.S. Senator Al Sharpton - U.S. Senator Bella Abzug - U.S. Senator Barack Obama - U.S. Senator William Warren "Bill" Bradley - Queen Victoria of Britain - Alan Greenspan - Alessandro Volta - Ada Lovelace - Jane Austen - George Eastman - Roy Wilson Howard - Johann Sebastian Bach - Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz - John Lennon - Hans Christian Andersen - Edward Jenner - Giacomo Puccini - Joseph John ("J.J.") Thomson - Bertrand Russell - Hermann Rorschach - Herman Melville - John Keats - Marian Anderson - Garry Kasparov - Leo Tolstoy - Peyton Rous - Benjamin Carson - Raphael - David Hume - Hannah Arendt - Ralph Waldo Emerson - Stephen Crane - Friedrich Nietzsche - Agatha Christie - William Wordsworth - Max Weber - Cleopatra - Audie Murphy - Gustav Theodor Fechner - Edgar Allen Poe - Emile Zola - William Smith - Gerald Bull - Willa Cather - Daniel Dennett - Cass Gilbert - Mary Leakey - Charlie Chaplin - Nelly Bly - Max Born - Sarah Breedlove - Steve Allen - Louis Armstrong - Warren Hastings - Allan Pinkerton - Billie Holiday - Hank Williams - Malcolm X - Carol Burnett - Thomas Green Clemson - John Irving - J.R.R. Tolkien - Charles Bronson - Gene Hackman - Robert Hooke - Halle Berry - Eddie Murphy - Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg - Deborah Sampson - Ralph Ellison - California Supreme Court Justice Rose Bird - Eamon de Valera - William Reddington Hewlett - Mother Angelica - Deval Laurdine Patrick - F. Whitten Peters - Henry Talbot - Arthur C. Clarke - Jim Rogan - Frederick W. Alt - Emil J. Freireich - Charlotte Perkins Gilman - Bessie Coleman - Bertrand Russell - Dorothy Andersen - Chiang Kai-shek - Coco Chanel - Anderson Hayes Cooper - Hunter "Patch" Adams - Jack Nicholson - Roald Dahl - Douglas Fairbanks - David Harker - Irving Berlin - Loretta Young - Barbara Stanwick - Steve McQueen - Cher - Wayne Dyer - Sophia Loren - Stephen King - Whoopi Goldberg - Fatty Arbuckle - Dorothea Lange - Gloria Steinem - Gloria Gaynor - Jon Stewart - Bette Davis - Tom Cruise - Bill Cosby - Barry White - Jodie Foster - Ed Bradley - Rickey Henderson....

    *The term "fatherless" is used here as it is in current research and policy rhetoric by the U.S. federal government, DHHS and the National Fatherhood Initiative, most U.S. states in connection with child custody law and policy, and various family values and fatherhood interest policy and lobbying groups.

    Research: Dean Keith Simonton, Scientific Genius: A Psychology of Science. Cambridge University Press (1988) ("Exceptionally achieving individuals in virtually every human endeavor are more likely to have lost a parent... Roe (1952a) learned from her examination of notable contemporary scientists that 15% had lost a parent by death before age 10. Broken down by field, this happened to 25% of the biologists, 13% of the physical scientists, and 9% of the social scientists. To place this figure in perspective, Roe referred to data showing that only around 6% of college students lost a parent by age 10. Roe also mentioned Bell's (1937) work on illustrious mathematicians, in which around one-quarter had lost a parent before age 10 and nearly one-third before age 14... parental loss can occur by means other than orphanhood, such as alcoholism, abandonment, and divorce...").

    For more research, see the liz library.

    liz

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  4. Anonymous3:51 pm

    I find it quite irratating when I see comments relating to a racial issue, and of course our wonderful, non-educated American citizens tend to make personal acusations. As studying psychology and sociology it has been proven that a fathers absence particularly effects the daughter in drastic ways, absence of mothers primarily effects the son. Its ironic that most of the names listed whose father was absent are politicians, goverment officals, basically people who are quite powerful or have great influence. This does not suggest that these individuals were at all clean people. As a matter of fact, most of us know that more than 75%, if that little, on that list have a troubled childhood. Don't use bullshit as proof its proof of ignorance.

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