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Family Conflict: Sources & Influence on Delinquency

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  • 0:04 Trevor's Story
  • 0:56 The Changing American Family
  • 2:06 Family Stress & Conflict
  • 2:57 Effect On Delinquency
  • 4:53 Lesson Summary
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Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

The structure of the American family has changed significantly over the last 50 years. This lesson will discuss the changing American family, identify sources of conflict within the family, and show how this conflict can impact juvenile delinquency.

Trevor's Story

Trevor is a defiant 16-year-old teen who has a volatile temper. He lives in an apartment with his single mom and doesn't have any consistent male role models to help guide him. Trevor's mom is petite and doesn't know how to handle Trevor's anger when he flies into rages even about the most minor things, so instead of correcting him or offering him guidance, she often retreats, fearing her words will make matters worse.

Last week Trevor's school called his mom to inform her that Trevor was caught stealing illegal prescription drugs on school grounds. He was suspended from school and referred to a substance abuse treatment program. He will also face delinquency charges in juvenile court as well as a result of the incident. Trevor's mom is at her wit's end and doesn't know where to turn for help.

The Changing American Family

The face of the American family has changed dramatically. In the 1960s, for example, the norm was for women to stay at home and take care of household duties and children. Two-parent families were the standard, and single parents were frowned upon. This model had its benefits and disadvantages, but that's for another lesson.

Approximately 32 million adults were single in 1960, compared to 105 million in 2013. The majority of women in the 1960s lacked a college education, married by the time they were 30, and did not have access to oral contraceptives.

Fast forward to the American family today. Less than 50% of children are being raised in a traditional family. More children live in single family households or blended families than traditional two-parent families. Additionally, close to 75% of women work outside of the home, and many of them are in professional careers that require a college education. Women are delaying marriage into their 30s and having children much later in life. The ''traditional family'' is a thing of the past.

Family Stress & Conflict

The dramatic changes in the structure of the American family has resulted in some identifiable stressors and conflicts related to money, time, routine, child care, and parental dating. Specifically, these include:

  • Financial strains where single-parent households often struggle to make ends meet
  • Lack of time caused by increasing job-related and family obligations
  • Lack of consistency and routine, which occurs when children go back and forth between two households that may have different sets of rules
  • Lack of access to reliable child care, a critical factor when both parents are employed
  • Parental dating after a divorce, whereby children may not always care for the new partners, creating the potential for conflict

Effect on Delinquency

So, can family stress and conflict contribute to delinquency? The answer is a resounding yes. When families experience challenging and difficult times, family conflict can contribute to delinquency. This appears to be especially true when family conflict is experienced during childhood.

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