CitationWei, Qing (2014). Family structure and juvenile delinquency: An examination of inter-individual difference and intra-individual variability.
AbstractAlthough a wealth of research in criminology identifies that family structure variables are critical in understanding adolescent and young adult involvement in delinquency and crime, family structure has been treated as static variables in most of the studies and the relationship between family structure and juvenile delinquency is often tested cross-sectionally. However, a full understanding on the role of family structure requires an examination of impacts of both the state and the change of family structure on adolescent behavior. It also requires an examination of both the short-term and the long-term impact of family transition on children's behavior.
Using three-wave data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, this dissertation extended the existing study by integrating the cross-sectional examination of family structure and juvenile delinquency with longitudinal examination of the impacts of family transition. From a life-course theoretical perspective, this study examined both short-term impacts of family transition on juvenile delinquency and long-term impacts of family transition on early adulthood criminal conviction. This research also explored gender differences relating to family transition and juvenile delinquency.
To examine short-term impacts of family transition, I utilized a multivariate, multilevel item response theory model and found that children in single-parent families are more likely to engage in property crime and violent crime, and children in non-biological-parent families are more likely to engage in violent crime. Controlling for the decreasing trend of engaging in delinquency over time, this study found no significant immediate effects on deviant propensity as related to moving in or moving out of certain family structures. Using logistic regression models, this study revealed significant long-term impacts of family transition on early adulthood criminal conviction, especially for those experience changes from single-parent families to cohabiting families or stepparent families. This study also found high depression level and low parental attachment predicted adolescent engagement in delinquency. Finally the analysis of gender differences revealed that change in family structure has no significantly immediate impacts on adolescent deviant behavior regardless of adolescent gender. However, changing from single-parent families to cohabiting families has stronger impacts on young adulthood criminal conviction for females than for males.