(Sampson, R. 1987) in one of the exhaustive juvenile crime studies that exist today, Professor Laub from the university of Maryland followed the lives of juvenile delinquent and non-delinquent boys at age 14, 25 and 32 respectively. All the boys were from the similar poor backgrounds and the results of the study helped identify a clear and conclusive pattern. Professor Laub found that low levels of parental supervision, harsh discipline and weak parental attachment were high risk factors for juvenile delinquency and adult criminal behavior. The study also reported that juvenile criminals were less likely to complete school, more likely to be jobless and likely to experience divorce and separation as adults. [JCPR]
Statistics show that the percentage of juvenile population living under poverty line has declined steadily since 1993. However, the figure is still quite high compared to the rate of adults living under poverty. As per the 2002 data, one out of every six juvenile lived under the poverty line. Black and Hispanic juveniles are three times more likely to be under the poverty line when compared to non-Hispanic whites. With a poverty threshold fixed at $18,244, an estimated 6. 9% of the juvenile population lived under 50% of the poverty threshold in 2002. Overall, an estimated 40% of children living under poverty line could be categorized as living under extreme poverty. Data from the same period indicate that one in three black juveniles lived below poverty line and one in five black juveniles were living in extreme poverty.
Family structure plays a crucial if not the proximate cause for juvenile behavior. A study by McCurley and Snyder found that living in two-parent household is the best environment for children. The study reported that youths between the age group of 12 and 17 who lived with both the parents were the least likely to engage in delinquent behaviors such as sexual assault, running away from the house, and other forms of misbehavior. This positive effect of living with both the parents was observed to be independent of racial or ethnic differences suggesting family structure as the single most important factor responsible for delinquent behavior. (McCurley, C., and Snyder) National statistics show that only 71% of children live with both the parents. Racially, black children are the least likely to live with both parents as 52% of black children were found to be living in single parented households. The economical well being of the child is definitely affected by the family structure. While 61% of juveniles living with single parents were dependent on food stamps only 23% of children from two parented households used such assistance. The fact that the number of children living in single parented households has increased from 9% in 1960 to 27% in 2002 is disconcerting given that delinquent behavior and family structure are related to each other.
School Dropout and Delinquency
The increasing high school dropout rate and the decline in the graduation rate has become a pressing problem for the United States. As per the national center for education statistics released in 2005, the graduation rate for the country has declined from an average of 73% in 1990 to just around 68% in 2005. (United Health Foundation). It is a disturbing trend since high school dropouts have problems finding good jobs and are at risk for delinquent behavior. Surveys have also found that young girls who dropout from high school are prone to become pregnant at a much younger age and consequently end up as single parents. (Alexa Lamm). In the increasingly technological corporate world that requires continuous update and learning, the opportunities for high school dropouts are very limited. Unemployment rates are much higher among high school dropouts than those who successfully complete their school graduation. Given the importance of a high school diploma for the future of the young people, researchers have studied the factors that affect school dropout rates both in the positive and negative context. Participation in extra curricular activities, in particular, has been found to have largely positive outcome in reducing the dropout rates.
The 1995 national level data analysis by the Department of Health and Human Services stresses the importance of extra curricular activities among adolescents. The researchers found that adolescent students who are not involved in extra curricular