The transition of youth from adolescence to adulthood is usually a difficult and painful period. This is an even more difficult time for the youth who are removed from the home of biological parents to be placed into out-of-home care. For them, they not only had the experience of maltreatment, hurt or neglected, but also are facing the uncertainties associated with being removed from the original family. Under this situation, their behavior development may be troublesome, as they may desire returning to the original home or conflict with foster parents and siblings. As a result, such children may join a delinquency group for support. If the experience of out-of-home care affects youth behavior negatively and can promote delinquency, then out-of-home care is at least the second great tragedy in a difficult upbringing.
There is a great risk for delinquent or crime behavior among those who experience physical abuse, rejection or neglect from parents. Every year, federal, state and local governments spend tremendous sums on child welfare to protect children from maltreatment and abuse. However, how youth experience out-of-home care and whether out-of-home care effectively reduces the risk for delinquency among those who are in placement should be a noteworthy question for examination. Studies reveal several relationships between out-of-home care experience and youth delinquency. For example, there is a positive correlation between number of placements and increased delinquency levels (Runyan & Gould, 1985; Ryan & Testa, 2005; Widom C. S, 1991). As for more detailed study, only a few studies examine the delinquent behavior difference among different placements. For example, about a quarter of the youths in out-of-home care responded with delinquency, and the most commonly reported delinquency were less serious offenses (Courtney, Piliavin, Grogan-Kaylor, & Nesmith, 2001). Children who entered kinship care have a lower estimated risk of behavioral problems than children who entered foster care, and children who moved from foster care to kinship care also showed less behavioral problems (Rubin, Downes, O'Reilly, Mekonnen, Luan, & Localio, 2008). The present paper is a research paper on the juvenile delinquency and mental disorders.
Maltreated youth and delinquent behaviors
Research on risk factors and prevention of youth violence show a greater risk for aggressive behavior and antisocial behaviors among those who experience physical abuse or rejection and neglect from parents (Dahlberg, 1998; Fraser, 1996; Borum, 2000). According to Cusick and colleagues' practical findings, youth who are 16-17 years old and were in out-of-home care at least one year before because of neglect or abuse, report higher involvement in delinquent or criminal behaviors than the general majority youth. For most offences, youth in out-of-home care engage in at least twice that of the comparison group for both the minor delinquent and criminal behaviors. The offending pattern curve has highest delinquency level at ages of 17-18 and declines later into early adulthood. This general offending curve has fewer differences between out-of-home care and normal peers, but the behaviors of damaging property, stealing something worth more than $50, taking part in a group fight, and pulling a knife or gun on someone are more reported from youth in out-of-home care. At the age 19, youth in out-of-home care engaged in more violent offending, with "nearly a quarter participating in a group fight and six percent is having pulled a knife or gun on someone (Cusick, Courtney, Havlicek, & Hess, 2010, p. 35)." In the age group of 21-22, there is less difference between out-of-home care youth and their peers, but they differ significantly on some offenses, like damaging property, burglary, and pulling a knife or gun on someone (Cusick, Courtney, Havlicek, & Hess, 2010).
Although youth in out-of-home care service reported some delinquent or criminal behaviors more than their peers at some ages, the overall delinquency curve is no different compared to the normal majority. Both out-of-home care youth and normal peers show a pattern of delinquency reaching the highest level during late adolescence and declining during the early transition to adulthood. This behavior pattern matches what criminologists describe as the "age-crime curve." During adolescence, delinquent behaviors onset around the age of 12 or 13 where delinquency shows a sharp and steady incline (Beaver, 2009). During middle adolescence, almost all youth are involved in at least one minor delinquent act, like alcohol drinking or smoking. Later into the ages of 18 and 19, the delinquent behaviors begin to decrease sharply and by the mid-to-late twenties most people who previously conducted delinquent behaviors desist and return to normal behaviors.
Maltreatment, Family and Childhood
A child's social development is deeply rooted in very complex interactions with friends, family, peers, teachers and neighborhoods (Fraser, 1996). Children's behavior problems have long been considered precursors of juvenile delinquency and adult criminality (Broidy, et al., 2003). A number of studies indicate that disruptive or troublesome behaviors in childhood can predict delinquent or criminal behaviors in later adolescence and adulthood, including violent offending and non-violent offending (Broidy, et al., 2003; Fraser, 1996; Herrenkohl, Maguin, Hill, Hawkins, Abbott, & Catalano, 2000; Wilson, Stover, & Berkowitz, 2009; Tremblay, 2000). For example, physical aggression and violent behaviors, the most socially costly acts, show remarkable continuity during life (Broidy, et al., 2003; Fraser, 1996).
The National Research Council defines violence as "behaviors that intentionally threaten, attempt, or inflict physical harm on others" (Council, 1993). This type of behavior has characteristics that distinguish it from minor delinquent behaviors. Illegal violent behavior includes physical assault, threatening behavior, robberies, possessing an offensive weapon, and other physically harmful behaviors. Unlike violent behaviors, nonviolent behaviors purportedly have less physical harm. For example, stealing, burglary, vandalism, fraud and drug use are nonviolent acts. Many scholars consider aggressive behaviors to be generated in early childhood and to exhibit a great deal of stability across time (Fraser, 1996; Farrell & Flannery, 2006; Herrenkohl, Maguin, Hill, Hawkins, Abbott, & Catalano, 2000; Patterson, DeBaryshe, & Ramsey, 1989; Reid & Patterson, 1989).
Factors that lead to youth violence are complex and developmental. And some investigators indicate that the risks relating to youth violence may play different roles at different development stages (Dahlber & Potter, 2001; Herrenkohl, Maguin, Hill, Hawkins, Abbott, & Catalano, 2000). Among the multiplicity of social factors that have significant effect on child development, family is considered the most crucial element in shaping early childhood behavior (Fraser, 1996; Farrell & Flannery, 2006). Those children who are more violent often hail the families where parents did not supervise children consistently, used harsh punishment, exhibited neglect in rewarding and placing limits, and where negative parent-children relationships are observable (Patterson, Capaldi, & Bank, 1991).
As Fraser explains (1996), children often react to parents' requests undesirably, such as when parents ask a child to turn off the TV and crying or yelling occurs. At this moment, unskillful parents usually implement the coercive method to handle the child-parent interaction. Because coercion is modeled and acquiescence frequently follows resistance, children learn that aggression pays. Children will increase the frequency of aggressive strategies in following interactions, and gradually children will escape punishment and more often continue to confront parents' management. Without intervention, in the long run, aggressive behavior will continue to increase. This is a relatively common family interaction process.
A more serious situation is children living with an abusive or neglectful family and this may lead to more problematic behaviors during the following years. For example, Dembo, Williams, Wothke, Schmeidler and Brown (1992) found that child maltreatment experiences were stronger predictors than socioeconomic status of delinquent behaviors. Research suggests that children that witness violence or physical abuse during childhood have a risk of violent behavior during adolescence as mush as 40% higher (Elliott, 1994). It appears that children who grow up in families where violence and other antisocial behaviors are modeled consistently by siblings or parents are more likely to engage in violence. Living with a family member with antisocial norms and values, also has a negative effect (Herrenkohl, Maguin, Hill, Hawkins, Abbott, & Catalano, 2000). This is partly because aggression and violence are modeled for children frequently. As a result, these children lack effective internal controls (Wilson, Stover, & Berkowitz, 2009). Also, children exposed to trauma and violence has impaired neurological structures and physiology related to stress responses, affect regulation, memory, social development, and cognition (DeBellis, et al., 1999; Glaser, 2000). As DeBellis and colleagues'(1999) review states, children who suffered from maltreatment in the form of neglect, physical abuse, sexual abuse or emotional maltreatment, have problems in delay and exhibit failure of multisystem developmental achievements in behavioral, cognitive and emotional regulation. Maltreated or neglected children have diminished recognition of norms and inhibitions. Consequently, behaviors during later adolescence are built on a poor foundation and lead to relatively unchecked individual will.
Peers and Adolescence
Later into adolescence, youths are exposed to a more complex society beyond the family environment. Among a number of risks predicting youth…