Family Structure and Delinquency: Testing the Leading Theoretical Perspectives
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Family life in North America has changed dramatically over the past five decades. This rapid transformation of the household has serious implications for children, ranging from emotional and behavioural problems, to delinquency. This study investigates how certain family transitions affect children differently with regards to delinquency. This thesis uses the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth conducted in 1995 by Statistics Canada to update our knowledge of the impact that broken homes can have on children’s engagement in delinquent activities. Prior research has established that there is a positive association between family structure and delinquency. However, prior research has failed to explain why this relationship exists. Hence, one of the goals of this study is to investigate if variables representing social control, self-control, social learning, and strain theories can help to explain the association between family structure and crime. Another goal of this study is to determine if the broken homes effect is predominantly a function of parental absence or if the gender of the absent parent matters. Results indicate that in some circumstances certain forms of broken homes are directly associated with specific types of crime, while in other types of broken homes, after taking into account differences in parental attachment, self-control, associations with deviant peers, and strain, they are not. Avenues for future research are discussed, including ways to help establish the causal ordering linking broken homes to delinquency.