As theories claim certain risk factors and ignore others, it is critical to evaluate the most common risk factors despite their discipline fields. There are five broad domains for risk factors: Individual, family, school, peer group, and community. Another key component to understanding risk factors is the age of onset, in which early onset is considered age 6-11, and late onset is considered age 12-14 (Shader, 2002). Each of the risk factor domains are also coupled with protective factors, such as high IQ and parental monitoring, that subtract from the probability of risk factors blossoming into delinquency. Risk factors of juvenile delinquency can be grouped together in a variety of ways, and the five domains of individual, family, school, peer group, and community can be distilled further into: individual, social, and community categories. The three categories also branch into sub-categories, for example, the social category includes both family and peer group domains.
The individual domain of risk factors for juvenile delinquency includes constructs that are only relevant to, or initiated by, the individual. Individual risk factors include being male, low IQ, antisocial behavior, substance use, and aggression (Shader, 2002). Aggression is only considered a risk factor in males and it is often regarded as a biological consequence. Male aggression can be attributed to male hormones, and is not necessarily a result of a singular emotional trigger (Binder, Geis, & Bruce, 2000, p. 55). Substance abuse, and most commonly alcohol abuse, in the youth population is a significant risk factor for juvenile delinquency. Alcohol abuse in underage persons is already an illegal offense and has the potential to nurture the development of criminal action. Alcohol can intensify childhood antisocial behavior, which is another individual risk factor. The correlation between crime and alcohol use in the youth population is high among juvenile offenders (Sampson, & Laub, 1993, p. 3-4). The relation between substance abuse and antisocial behavior displays an instance where risk factors are difficult to separate and create a cumulative effect. Protective factors against individual risk factors for delinquency include being female, positive social orientation, and high IQ (Shader, 2002). The individual protective factors are described as behaviors that are more resistant to delinquency. Although these protective factors reduce the probability of delinquency, they are not antidotes to juvenile criminal acts.
The social category of risk factors includes the school, peer group, and family domains of influence. The school domain involves such risk factors as poor attitude and poor academic performance or failure. The protective factors in the school domain are commitment to school and recognition for involvement in conventional activities (Shader, 2002). Risk factors in the peer group domain include having weak social ties, having antisocial peers, and gang membership. The most profound protective factor against peer influence is the interactions with friends who engage in conventional behavior (Shader, 2002). Social interaction in the school environment and consequently peer interaction (or its lacking), set a strong social tone in the adolescent's life (Sampson, & Laub, 1993, p. 100). These interactions provide a background for the adolescent and generally establish a social pattern. Strong antisocial behavior and having deviant friendships or gang affiliation introduce strong risk factors for juvenile delinquency.
The family domain of risk factors have a remarkable influence on juvenile delinquency, and is one of the most scrutinized categories aiming to link social influence and criminality. The family category also touches on a range of research disciplines, including economic impacts, psychological, and social impacts (Murry, Willaims, & Salekin, 2005). Risk factors stemming from the family domain include: low socioeconomic status/poverty, antisocial parents, harsh, lax, or inconsistent discipline, abusive parents, neglect, and poor parent-child relationship (Shader, 2002). The family represents the smallest subunit of any culture, and provides its own dimension of structure to any adolescent's life. The structure experienced in the family can be strict or nonexistent, and both extremes are capable of producing delinquent risk factors. Not only is the family an opportunity to nurture structure and moral balance, the family is also a platform for social interaction. The complexities presented by the family make it a dynamic contributor to risk factors of juvenile delinquency.
An additional risk factor arising from the family domain is the presence of criminality in a family, and the idea that crime "runs" in a family. Criminal and antisocial parents tends to have children who are also delinquent and antisocial (Farrington, 2002). The Cambridge Study in Delinquent Development surveyed 400 males ranging from age 8 to 48, and found that 63% of males with convicted fathers were themselves convicted (Farrington, 2002, p. 204). It was found that the most important relative was the father in regards to impact on risk for juvenile delinquency. The parent-child relationship and ensuing child-rearing methods also portrays a complex web of risk factors. The various extremes of child-rearing and the context of the parent-child relationship create the potential for juvenile delinquency, including modes of child supervision, discipline, reinforcement, warmth or coldness of emotional relationship, and parental involvement (Farrington, 2002, p. 207). Poor parental supervision is one of the strongest predictors of delinquency as it refers to the low extent of monitoring by parents of the child's activities. Children who are allowed to "roam the streets" unsupervised from an early age, and parents who do not know where there children are, are at greater risk of committing criminal acts (Farrington, 2002, p. 207).
Another key family risk factor is parental discipline, and the types of punishment given for a child's improper behavior. Harsh discipline, including physical punishment, is a predictor of juvenile delinquency. One study of 700 Nottingham (UK) children found physical punishment at ages 7 and 11 predicted later convictions, and that 40% of offenders had been smacked or beaten as children (Farrington, 2002, p. 208). The intricate nature of parent-child relationships and its tie to emotional needs produces a vehicle for a range of risk factors for delinquency despite economic class, race, or education. Even beyond the role of "parents," studies have been performed to capture the influence of the maternal relationship vs. The paternal relationship. One such study was a 30-year examination observing the impact of child rearing influences on the outcome of male criminals. The results of the study suggested maternal behavior had influence on juvenile delinquency and later adult criminality, and paternal interaction with the family had the greater impact on probably of adult criminal behavior (McCord, 1991).
The impact of family relationships on juvenile delinquency is significant, and the protective factors developed from parent-sibling-child relationships can be just as profound in terms of behavioral influence. Protective factors arising from the family unit comprises warm, supportive relationships with parents or other adults, a parent's positive evaluation of peers, and balanced parental monitoring (Shader, 2002). The timing of protective factors is also critical, and it is important to have positively developed bonds during the youth's most impressionable ages. Good maternal care and good maternal health for children under the age of 5 years, and good parental supervision at ages 11 years and 15 years have been considered the strongest protective factors for juvenile delinquency (Farrington, 2002, p. 215).
The last domain of risk factors is community, and is a domain that researchers have increasingly been examining as a contributor to juvenile delinquency within the last few decades. The basis of the community domain understands that the environment in which youth are raised can influence the probability of delinquency. Similar to family interaction, children and adolescents also encounter their community every day, and the community has the potential to promote delinquency (Roucek, 1958). One community within the child's and adolescent's life is the school community and consequent school policies. School policies regarding when to hold back an adolescent for another school year, suspension and expulsion, and school tracking of delinquency can have negative impacts for at-risk youth and affect minorities in disproportional rates (Shader, 2002). Suspension and expulsion tactics are common policy in the majority of school systems, however they do not appear to lower the presence of undesirable behavior (Shader, 2002). The other major community influence on delinquency is the concept of neighborhood. The existence of neighborhood crime, drugs, and neighborhood disorganization are all risk factors for youth especially in the late onset ages of 12 to 14 years. Although a community cannot dictate an individual's personal choice, a neighborhood with high abundance of poverty and crime increases the risk for youth to become involved in criminal activity (Shader, 2002). Protective factors do not typically stem from the community sector. Living in a neighborhood that does not have high poverty and crime rates can reduce the risk, however those living in an economically poor, criminally rich neighborhood does not generally have access to services to protect its youth.
The presence of risk factors suggests a higher probability for the potential of a juvenile to commit delinquent acts, but does not address the actual cause of juvenile delinquency.…