College of Health Sciences
This is to certify that the doctoral dissertation by
Berneta D. Kent
has been found to be complete and satisfactory in all respects,
and that any and all revisions required by
the review committee have been made.
Dr. Mountasser Kadrie, Committee Chairperson, Public Health Faculty
Dr. Ronald Craig, Committee Member, Public Health Faculty
Dr. Scott McDoniel, University Reviewer, Public Health Faculty
Chief Academic Officer
Eric Riedel, Ph.D.
Food Insecurity as a Factor in Felonious or Misdemeanor Juvenile Crimes
Berneta D. Kent
MS, Armstrong Atlantic State University, 2003
BS, Savannah State University, 2000
Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
The sociology of food theory details how access to food may influence social skills and
behaviors. As an increasing number of juveniles are incarcerated in public and private
detaining centers, the question arises of whether the problem may stem from food
insecure homes. Determining whether a food insecure household is a factor in juvenile
delinquency may aid in the rehabilitation process for this population. In this study, a
quantitative analysis was conducted to determine if a difference existed between food
insecurity and the number of felony crimes (N = 290) committed versus the number of
misdemeanor crimes (N = 294) committed by juvenile delinquents (N = 584) in 7 U.S.
States. A comparison was made between the juveniles’ food security and the crime they
committed. Food security was determined using the juveniles’ height and weight to
calculate their body mass index (kg/m2). Statistical analysis included a z score to compare
the crime types, and a 2-tailed t test to determine the significance of the population. There
was no significant difference in the food security of those who committed a felony (M =
23.83, SD = 3.98) and those who committed a misdemeanor (M = 23.72, SD = 3.57, p =
0.73). Food secure juveniles who committed misdemeanors comprised 97.96% of the
population, whereas food secure juveniles who committed felonies accounted for 97.58%
of the population. In turn, food insecure juveniles who committed misdemeanors
comprised 2.41%, whereas food insecure juveniles who committed felonies accounted for
2.04% of the population. These findings suggest that all crimes are being committed by
juveniles. The issue of juvenile delinquency should remain in the forefront of those
tasked to promote rehabilitation, such as detention center administrators, to ensure this
negative behavior does not follow the juvenile into adulthood.
Food Insecurity as a Factor in Felonious or Misdemeanor Juvenile Crimes
Berneta D. Kent
MS, Armstrong Atlantic State University, 2003
BS, Savannah State University, 2000
Dissertation Submitted in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree of
Doctor of Philosophy
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This research is dedicated to my parents, Dr. Bernard Kent, Jr., and Patricia A.
Kent, MEd, EdS, who breathe education. It is also dedicated to the children who are
hungry, incarcerated, or misunderstood.
God found me worthy and I thank him.
I would like to acknowledge my dissertation committee, Dr. Mountasser Kadrie,
Dr. Ronald Craig, and Dr. Scott McDoniel, for their encouragement, guidance, and
Table of Contents
List of Tables ..................................................................................................................... iv
Chapter 1: .............................................................................................................................1
Introduction to the Study ...............................................................................................1
Background of the Study ...............................................................................................3
Problem Statement .........................................................................................................8
Purpose of the Study ......................................................................................................8
Nature of the Study ........................................................................................................9
Research Questions and Hypotheses .............................................................................9
Definition of Terms......................................................................................................12
Significance of the Study .............................................................................................15
Summary and Transition ..............................................................................................16
Chapter 2: Literature Review .............................................................................................19
Introduction to Food Insecurity ...................................................................................19
Food Insecurity and Physical State ..............................................................................25
Food Insecurity and Behavior ......................................................................................29
Introduction to Juvenile Crimes ...................................................................................34
Felony Juvenile Crimes................................................................................................38
Misdemeanor Juvenile Crimes .....................................................................................41
Juvenile Detention Centers ..........................................................................................43
Physical State at Detention Center Entry .....................................................................45
Chapter 3: Research Method ..............................................................................................50
Research Questions and Hypotheses ...........................................................................51
Research Design and Approach ...................................................................................51
Research Design Appropriateness ...............................................................................52
Setting and Sample ......................................................................................................53
Data Collection and Analysis.....................................................................................555
Instrumentation and Materials .....................................................................................56
Reliability and Validity ................................................................................................58
Protection of Human Participants ................................................................................58
Chapter 4: Results ..............................................................................................................60
Research Question 1 ....................................................................................................65
Research Question 2 ....................................................................................................65
Research Question 3 ....................................................................................................66
Chapter 5: Discussion, Conclusions, and Recommendations ............................................69
Precursor to Food Insecurity ........................................................................................69
BMI Relative to Food Insecurity .................................................................................70
Juvenile Crimes ............................................................................................................71
Interpretation of Findings ............................................................................................72
Implications for Social Change ....................................................................................73
Recommendations for Action ......................................................................................74
Recommendations for Further Study ...........................................................................75
Appendix A: Sample BMI Growth Chart ..........................................................................85
Appendix B: Juvenile Demographics (N = 584) ................................................................86
Curriculum Vitae ...............................................................................................................87
List of Tables
Table 1. Common Crimes Committed by Juveniles ……………………………………37
Table 2. Distribution of Respondents …………………………………………………...62
Table 3. Independent Samples t Test ……………………………………………………63
Table 4. z - Score ………………………………………………………………………..64
Table 5. Question 1 Hypothesis Results ……………………………………………...…65
Table 6. Question 2 Hypothesis Results ………………………………………………...66
Table 7. Question 3 Hypothesis Results ………………………………………………...67
Introduction to the Study
The operational definition of the term food insecurity refers to a period of time
when a person is uncertain of the ability to obtain food. In cases of food insecurity, the
person’s ability to eat when hungry is never guaranteed. In addition, the amount of food
available to eat may be limited. The U.S. Household Food Security Scale defined food
insecurity more specifically as “the lack of adequate financial resources to purchase
enough food” (as cited in Cook et al., 2004, p. 1432).
There are different levels of food insecurity. At the normal level, the amount of
food at meals is reduced or one meal is missed. Food insecurity can reach severe levels.
During this time of severe food insecurity, a person may not eat for several days (Cook et
Children are often adversely affected by food insecurity. A study conducted by
Cook et al. (2004), using 11,538 participants, showed that young children were at greater
risk. The total number of children who were deemed food insecure comprised children
age 1 year or younger (21.8%), age 1 to 2 years (20.6%), age 2 to 3 years (20.9%), and
age 3 years and older (36.7%). In other words, 63.3% of children affected by food
insecurity were under the age of 3 years. In addition, in 2001, 17.4% of households with
children younger than age 6 years were food insecure (Cook et al., 2004, p. 1435).
Children account for 40% of the total number of people living in poverty (Casey
et al., 2001). Of the millions of people who accept welfare assistance, more than half are
children (Casey et al., 2001). The prevalence of food insecurity in children is evident in
homes with low income. Casey et al. (2001) surveyed 3,837 low income households that
included children and found that 3% of the total numbers of households were food
insufficient and 7.5% of low income households reported food insufficiencies. The
amount of time between meals was as long as five and a half days (Casey et al., 2001).
Food insufficiencies have great implications for the health of children. A lack of
an adequate amount of food leads to weight loss (Whitaker et al., 2006) and malnutrition,
a phenomenon that affects more than half a million children in the United States (Casey
et al., 2001). Food insufficiencies also cause significant problems in a child’s overall
development. These children are at risk of poor health and negative behavior (Casey et
al., 2001). They do not exhibit signs of self-control, ideal weight, and positive behavior,
as children who reside in food secure homes (Cook et al., 2004); however, studies
suggest that children who are not food insufficient are healthier overall (Alaimo et al.,
Children of food insecure households exhibit signs of low dietary quality, poor
cognitive development, and emotional problems (Kaiser, 2005). They also perform lower
academically than food secure children (Kaiser, 2005). Physically, food insecure
children have more symptoms of cold/flu and suffer more frequently from ear infections,
asthma, stomachaches, and headaches (Alaimo et al., 2001).
Many behavioral functions are impaired in children who suffer from food
insecurities. These impairments stem from the lack of required nutrients found in fruits,
vegetables, and other staples. Food insecure children are also defined as nutrient
deficient. The nutrients they are lacking include, but are not limited to, B vitamins (e.g.,
vitamin B12, thiamin, and niacin), zinc, and iron (Fanjiang & Kleinman, 2007).
Malnutrition has been associated with attention deficits in children (Fanjiang &
Kleinman, 2007). These attention deficits may be due to the child’s inability to
concentrate due to hunger or due to the lack of nutrients obtainable in “brain food.” Brain
foods are those that aid in a child’s creativity and intelligence. Unfortunately, lack of
proper nutrients may have a long-term effect on children that could carry through
adulthood (Fanjiang & Kleinman, 2007).
Children with food insecurities often display the effects of their lack of food
(Whitaker et al., 2006). Dysfunctional behavior is not an uncommon occurrence.
Examples of this behavior include anxiety, depression, and hyperactivity. These children
also tend to not have strong relationships with their peers, resulting in confrontations,
arguments, and fights (Whitaker et al., 2006).
The purpose of this study was to determine (a) if food insecurity exists for
children entering a juvenile detention center and (b) the effects of food insecurity on
childhood behavior, psychosocial dimensions, environmental biases, and preventative
methods. However, based on the lack of supporting literature, there is a gap in
determining the outcome of these variables when a child moves from a food insecure
environment to one that is food secure.
Background of the Study
There have been many studies that detailed the attempts of organizations to target
the hunger crisis. The organizations include large banking institutions, local grassroots
operations, private conglomerates, and national groups. Each of these organizations
proposed that the use of coalitions would be the best method to battle hunger. They
attempted this battle in different ways. Some provided money, others provided food, and
still others offered program participants the knowledge to produce their own food.
One example of such an organization is the World Bank, which created The
World Bank and Health, Nutrition and Population Program. The purpose of the program
was to determine the effects of monetary donations to poverty stricken countries
(Heikens, 2009). Over the course of 5 years The World Bank donated 1 trillion dollars to
hunger relief efforts in Africa (Heikens, 2009). This support through lending was
unsuccessful and the poverty rate in Africa increased. The World Bank failed to include
the community in their relief efforts and was unable to determine how to best assist the
population (Heikens, 2009).
The World Bank and Health, Nutrition and Population Program had its share of
limitations. The only support provided by the World Bank to the population was
monetary (Heikens, 2009). They failed to involve the community in decision making and
planning (Heikens, 2009). Finally, no education was provided to the population that
allowed them to continue their food secure state (Heikens, 2009).
The USDA and Food Assistance and Nutrition Program focused on different
methods to prevent food insecurity. In 2005, a food security survey was administered to
50,000 U.S. households (Nord et al., 2006). The purpose of the survey was to determine
the number of people living in food insecure environments. Based on the results, it was
determined that food insecure homes had 34% less food than homes of the same size
(Nord et al., 2006). This research provided support for additional food assistance
programs. Limitations of this study included the large number associated with the lack of
Valera et al. (2009) used a method called Photovoice to document the access of
food in New York City. The overseeing group was the New York Coalition Against
Hunger. The authors detailed research of a population of low income women aged 20-45
years. They took photographs of their area and found that these women had less access to
food than those who lived in higher income areas. These structural barriers compounded
low income barriers. As with the Nord et al. (2006) study, Valera et al.’s (2009)
Photovoice method was performed with a small number of participants.
Algert et al. (2006) also provided an evidence base for The Partnership to End
Childhood Hunger in the Nation’s Capital. They analyzed persons who utilized food
banks to provide assistance with the food stamp and other food assistance programs.
Information was gathered from 14,317 persons at two food banks. Their eligibility as a
food stamp recipient was determined. Of the participants, 90% were low income; 75%
spent three quarters of their income on housing, 59% were Hispanic, and 44% were
homeless (Algert et al., 2006). The authors concluded that the less educated, those who
were single parents, and the homeless qualified for assistance but did not receive it. This
study provided a basis for Part 10 of the Partnership to End Childhood Hunger in the
Nation’s Capital, which stated that “all eligible District of Columbia families will know
about the food and nutrition programs available to them” (askmehowdc, 2006, para. 4).
Coates et al. (2006) performed a study to determine if persons who are food
insecure have certain like characteristics regarding their households. Survey data were
collected from 22 studies to determine commonalities. They found that inadequate
amounts of food and a lack of sufficient food quality were common in all cultures.
However the similarities surrounding inadequate food supplies were the result of cultural
beliefs and actions. The qualitative data were not enough to support the theory that food
insecurity was a common occurrence.
Other organizations have promoted programs related to food security. In order to
garner participation and ensure effectiveness, the organization must understand how to
best relate the program to the population. In order to promote credit card usage and
encourage new membership, American Express joined with Save Our Strength to adopt a
4-year marketing plan. This campaign used 30-second television advertisements on major
U.S. networks and cable channels. This campaign was intended to educate consumers on
hunger in order to increase awareness (Nelson et al., 2007). The limitations of this study
included that the campaigns aired for only 30 days out of the calendar year and they were
only shown during the holiday season. Better exposure could have ensured a wider
audience was captured.
Sanchez et al. (2008) explored the need for sub-Saharan Africa to become self-
sufficient in food production. Several task forces collaborated to provide political support
and village interventions. Ultimately, maize production increased annually with the help
of government subsidy. Sanchez et al. found that the amount of available food can
increase by introducing countries to modern agricultural techniques. Known as the green
revolution, several varieties of high yield crops were introduced. Yet, increased
production was dependent on climate. In the event the weather did not cooperate, the
results of this study would change drastically, rendering it a failure.
The term food insecurity has meant different things to different people. It has both
local and global meanings that relate to the supply of food available for consumption
(Pinstrup-Andersen, 2009). Children are often adversely affected by food insecurity. As
previously mentioned, Cook et al. (2004) determined that young children were at a
greater risk of these adverse effects.
In 2001, 20% of children in the United States lived in poverty (Alaimo et al.,
2001). An additional 34% will experience at least one year of living in poverty by the
time they reach their 17th birthday. One in three children younger than age 12 years is at
risk of being food insufficient (Alaimo et al., 2001). This number equates to a total of 2.4
to 3.2 million. Children aged 12 years to 16 years represent 0.7 to 1.3 million living in
food sufficient homes (Casey et al., 2001). African American children lead this
percentage at 69%; in contrast, 26% of White children will spend at least one year in
poverty (Alaimo et al., 2001). Food insufficiencies have a great implication to the health
of children. A lack of adequate food leads to weight loss (Whitaker et al., 2006) and
malnutrition, a phenomenon that affects more than half a million children in the United
States (Casey et al., 2001). Unfortunately, lack of proper nutrients may have a long term
effects such as a slower recovery from surgeries (Secker & Jeejeebhoy, 2007).
Malnutrition is also responsible for over 5 million deaths in children annually worldwide
(Phengxay et al., 2007).
There is a problem with the number of incarcerated juveniles in the United Sates.
Despite rehabilitation efforts, repeat offenses are occurring. This problem has negatively
impacted the justice system as well as society because in 2008, 86,814 juveniles were
incarcerated (Sickmund, 2010). A possible cause of this high number of incarcerated
juveniles is a lack of an adequate food supply, which leads to negative behavior
(Whitaker et al., 2006). This behavior may be classified as a misdemeanor or felony. It is
necessary to investigate this correlation to determine a possible link between food
insecurity and incarceration.
The research problem focused on the effects of food insecurity on the type of
crime committed. The target population was incarcerated teenagers aged 14-18 years. An
ideal quantitative analysis focused on food insecurity and its effects on children within
the juvenile detention system or within an adult facility. This research investigated the
physical state of children entering the detention center and their specific crime.
Purpose of the Study
The purpose of the research was to determine if there is a correlation between
food insecurity and negative behavior as it relates to juveniles and the crimes they have
committed. An assessment was made of the relationship of the juvenile’s food security
and the crime. This research is significant as it has the potential to detail why juveniles
commit a specific type of crime. If a high number of juveniles enter the detention center
in poor physical health and have committed a felony crime, this relationship may be an
indicator that food insecurity is the culprit.
Nature of the Study
In this study, a quantitative analysis approach was used. Secondary data were
collected to detail the state of health of the participants upon arrival at the adult or
juvenile detention center. Additional secondary data were used to note the type of crime
the participants committed. The use of secondary data is due to its ability to be replicated
and confirmed. In addition, secondary data augmented the results of the final data
collected. The data collected for research included demographics of the juveniles
including sex, height, and weight. Data also detailed the state of health of the child upon
entering the facility by calculating their body mass index (BMI). A more in-depth
analysis is discussed in Chapter 3.
Research Questions and Hypotheses
The primary focus of the research determined if there is a relationship between a
juvenile who stems from a food insecure household to a felony crime. Likewise, the
research will seek to investigate if a child who does not stem from a food insecure
household will commit a less malicious crime. The research questions included the
1. Is there a difference in food security with juveniles who commit
2. Is there a difference in food security with juveniles who commit felony
3. Is there a difference in food security with those who commit misdemeanor
crimes versus felony crimes?
This researcher hypothesized those juveniles who committed a crime while living
in a food insecure household may be more likely to commit felony crimes. As felony
crimes are the more heinous of the two crimes, emphasis is put on the fact that negative
behavior is increased due to inadequate and nutritional food (Whitaker et al., 2006).
Food insecurity has an adverse effect on behavior. Some issues of poor nutrition
stem from the individual behavior of people. Though there is no food theory, socialists
have connected theoretical concepts to form ideals. In 1983, Murcott theorized that
people associate food with how they live. If people live in a food secure environment
they tend to feel better about themselves and their surroundings. Murcott also stated there
was a direct relationship with people’s morals based on certain food structures, also
known as the sociology of food. This theory incorporates how food is divided and
distributed among people, as well as a person’s ability to consume food. An improper diet
and lack of nutrition accounts for many negative behavioral and social skills (Whitaker et
al., 2006). Yet, according to Murcott, if a person has immediate and unhindered access to
a food supply, he or she rarely, if ever, displays negative behavior or improper social
McIntosh (1996) expounded upon the theory of the sociology of food by arguing
that food has the ability to make or break relationships on a social level. McIntosh (1996)
proposed that social conditions relate to choices in diet and health, otherwise known as
the sociology of food and nutrition. As with Murcott’s theory, access is the basis of this
theory. The ability to access food without regard to time or place determines what social
group people align themselves with. The type of food also determines who is more likely
to consume it. Children without access to coveted social groups may attempt to obtain
acceptance by displaying negative behavior. This attempt is done in order to compensate
for their lack of food or social status.
Children who grow up in an environment with a high socioeconomic status tend
to remain that way through adulthood. They also tend to maintain a good health status.
By contrast, those children who do not grow up in such an environment portray negative
attitudes and have poor health (Schneiderman et al., 2001). High socioeconomic status
affords children to attend better schools. In doing so, they achieve higher in aptitude tests.
Their overall self-esteem is heightened with better achievement (Sirin, 2005). Children of
lower status do not feel quite as good about themselves and exhibit feelings of depression
and lack of self-worth.
Low socioeconomic status can result in unstable employment history as well long
bouts of unemployment (Cohen et al., 2007). Without jobs and income, the unemployed
are unable to purchase food or provide for their families. Jun et al. (2004) discussed the
fact that parents with higher incomes tend to be better parents. Their skills are better
developed and they exhibit better behavior, thus they are better role models for their
children. Unemployment has a great impact on individuals psychologically. Those who
are unemployed show a higher level of stress (Mantler et al., 2005). They are unable to
cope with stress, find themselves unfocused, and have diminished problem-solving
abilities. This stress in turn leads to poor health choices and increased mortality.
Cultural materialism is a theoretical ideal introduced by Harris (1979). Harris
(1979) stated food is eaten based on “efficiency and functuality” (p. 123). For example,
though insects may provide a source of protein for an individual, there are other forms of
protein available that are just as easily accessible. One would not eat 300 bugs when the
same nutritional value could be found in one fish. Harris also described the function of
cows in some societies, thus their ability to be saved from the slaughter house. From
people’s individual thoughts, Harris determined that people may cause their own food
insecurity by their refusal to eat certain foods.
Children are one of the most common groups who refuse to eat certain foods.
They have a preference for foods high in fat or sugar (Nestle, 2006). They also tend to
choose foods that are packaged or processed rather than natural or home grown.
Vegetables are the food group children steer away from if given a choice on meals
Definition of Terms
Adolescent: A young person who has not reached the full maturity of an adult,
between 13 and 18 years of age. (Siegel & Welsh, 2011)
Body mass index (BMI): A measure of body fat based on height and weight.
Felony: A crime or law offense serious enough to be punishable by death or a jail
sentence in a state or federal court. (Siegel & Welsh, 2011)
Food insecurity: A period of time when a person is uncertain of the ability to
Juvenile delinquent: A person under the age of 18, found guilty of committing a
crime in which he or she cannot be punished as an adult. (Siegel & Welsh, 2011)
Juvenile detention center: A secured, residential facility for juvenile delinquents
awaiting court hearings and/or placement in long-term care facilities and programs, due
to their involvement in criminal activity. (Siegel & Welsh, 2011)
Misdemeanor: A lesser crime tried in low courts punishable by fines or a county
jail sentence. (Siegel & Welsh, 2011)
The basic assumptions of research can be accepted without having immediate
proof. Persons of reasonable thinking will adopt these assumptions without question.
Frankfort-Nachmias and Nachmias (2008) described these assumptions as “premises
considered to be unproven and unprovable” (p. 5). This research focused on two
assumptions: all natural phenomena have natural causes and nothing is self-evident.
The notion that all natural phenomena have natural causes coincides with the
theory that negative behavior is the result of food insecurity. In addition, it is assumed
that this negative behavior leads to the commitment of crimes. The assumption that
nothing is self-evident means that things that have happened historically may not always
happen. There are errors in research. Thus, when researching food insecurity as a factor
in felony or misdemeanor crimes a discovery may be made that food insecurity plays no
part at all.
This quantitative health analysis targets a vulnerable population: children and
juveniles. Based on laws and policies, it is difficult to gather information from juveniles
as well as children without prior consent. Being able to validate this analysis may prove
to be a challenge. This is mainly due to the fact that juveniles and prisoners are protected
The sample population included juveniles who entered the detention center for
their first episode. As such, the crime that the juvenile was initially charged with may not
be the crime they are adjudicated for. Based on the length of time it takes to complete the
legal process from arrest to conviction, this researcher was unable to see the process
through to the end.
Data were obtained over a short period of time and only focused on juveniles
housed in detention centers in seven states. This research did not represent a population
on a national level. Additionally, the sample was not random and provided a
generalization of the results.
The data used to determine if a juvenile is food insecure was secondary data
obtained from the public records of the juvenile and adult detention centers. Data relative
to the overall health of the juvenile was not collected. In addition, the juveniles were not
interviewed to determine how often they received a meal.
The BMI was used to determine the state of food security of the population. The
BMI had two limitations. The first limitation of the BMI was that body fat may be
overestimated in persons of athletic or muscular build. The second limitation of the BMI
was that body fat may be underestimated in persons who have lost muscle.
Delimitations of this study may have occurred from the overall restrictive nature
of the research. As participants were evaluated solely on their BMI, no other variables
were researched. Inasmuch, mental status, peer pressure, a flawed justice system, or other
issues may facilitate the criminal behavior of participants, yet did not play a role in the
This research did not include status offenders in the population sample. A status
offense would not be considered a crime if it were committed by an adult. Examples
include runaways and school truancy. Thus, the need to rehabilitate the offender for the
future would not apply. Status offenses are nonviolent crimes and would not provide an
accurate balance to the sample.
Significance of the Study
The implications of hunger on public health are great. As food insecurities cause
behavioral, psychosocial, and environmental issues, it is necessary to attempt to prevent
all occurrences. Ultimately, eradicating it would be an ideal situation. Though food
insecurities are not eliminated, they do decrease. If participation in food assistance
programs guarantees food security, participation may mandate policy in the hopes of
ensuring the number of food insecure children declines; in turn, providing assurances
within society that behavior may become better.
This quantitative analysis focuses on determining if food insecurity affects
potential criminals. By gathering enough information on this occurrence there may be the
opportunity to reduce the number of initial as well as repeat offenders (Lipsey & Cullen
The population used for this study was incarcerated juveniles housed in either a
juvenile or adult detention center within seven states in the United States. The states
included were Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, New Jersey, and
Oklahoma. Juveniles received sentences ranging from 3 months to life. The age range for
those incarcerated was between 14 and 18 years.
Between 50% and 60% percent of juveniles are incarcerated as repeat offenders
(Siegel & Welsh, 2011). They are usually admitted to the same juvenile detention center.
Because some of the detainees are repeat offenders, it is important to ensure that they are
rehabilitated during their first incarceration. This rehabilitation will include them
improving their behavior to acts that are positive within themselves and their
Summary and Transition
The first chapter of this dissertation provides an introduction to the study. The
purpose is to identify the social problem as well as a research problem. The main focus is
on food insecurity and its negative effects on juveniles. Due to the large number of
children living in food insecure environments, it is important to bring this issue to the
forefront. The importance of background information is that it assists the reader in
understanding the magnitude of the research problem. Juveniles will grow into adulthood,
thus if any negative behavior can be prevented, it should be done at the age prior to
adulthood. Additional background information details prior studies that focused on food
insecurity; this not only included small operations, but also global institutions. The
problem statement identifies why this is a social problem. The purpose identifies why this
issue is a research problem.
Chapter 2 focuses on literature relevant to the research. The literature collected
represents published data between 2006 and 2011. The literature first provides an
introduction to food insecurity. It details how it occurs, where it may occur and who is
affected. Next, how food insecurity results in poor physical health, malnourished states,
and negative behavior is discussed. The literature review also goes on to detail juvenile
crimes within society. Statistics on juvenile felonies committed and juvenile
misdemeanors is also assessed. Finally, the literature review details the process of
juveniles entering detention centers. The physical state of the juvenile is noted upon entry
as well as the state and local nutritional requirements for housing detained juveniles.
The methodology for this research is detailed in chapter 3. As this is a quantitative
research study, the design and approach is presented. The population, sample size and
characteristics of the population are mentioned. The steps taken in order to gain access to
the population are also discussed. Finally, the process of data collection and the materials
used are discussed.
Chapter 4 presents the findings of the research. The answers to the research
questions are presented. Chapter 5 further discusses the findings and interprets the results
of the research. Chapter 5 also provides data on how this research can bring about social
change. Recommendations for future studies are also examined.
Chapter 2: Literature Review
This literature review presents previous studies that focused on the issues
surrounding food insecurity and juvenile delinquents. In addition, the literature is
assessed to note the state of juvenile detention centers. Literature comes from peer-
reviewed journal articles. These articles were obtained through Internet search engines,
the Walden University online library database, and article citations. Databases included
PubMed and Google Scholar. The terms “food insecurity”, “juvenile detention centers”,
and “juvenile crimes” were used to search for literature. The literature provides in-depth
knowledge of the topic. Prior studies support this researcher’s need to further study this
The literature is presented in a manner that includes a background on food
insecurity, juvenile crimes, and juvenile detention centers. Malnutrition is one result of
food insecurity. Its effect on society is described. It has also been determined that
negative behavior is associated with food insecurity (Whitaker et al., 2006). Crimes
committed by juveniles can be categorized as felonies or misdemeanors. The literature
distinguishes between the two. Finally, information is provided on the state of juveniles
as they enter the detention center as well as the local and state requirements of the center
Introduction to Food Insecurity
Prior to the 1980s food insecurity was brought on by the lack of availability of
food (Coates et al., 2006). This lack of availability was ultimately verified by the national
or global food supply tallies. The use of this measure of food insecurity was not without
misunderstandings. There was still the need to differentiate between access to food, food
consumption, poverty and malnutrition. In the early 1990s food insecurity was defined by
one of four “domains” (Coates et al., 2006, p. 1439S): uncertainty or worry over food,
food is of inadequate quality, food is of inadequate quantity, or food was acquired
through socially unacceptable means.
The ambiguity of the definitions of food insecurity led to the need to construct a
formal definition that could be applied to all cultures. The four domains were used by the
Unites States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a basis to develop a new definition.
The result was the USDA Household Food Security Survey Module. Not only does this
collection tool provide measurements that are continuous, it also provides different
grades of food insecurity. Information from the survey is used to report how prevalent
food insecurity is on a national level. In addition, the overall effects of programs geared
toward food assistance can be evaluated.
Overall the state of food insecurity leads to a variety of negative results (Bartfeld
& Dunifon, 2006). Because of this, it is important to determine specific indicators of food
insecurity. Additionally, issues such as prevalence and experiences should be addressed.
Knowing these issues will provide a better understanding of the role food insecurity plays
Bartfeld and Dunifon (2006) also researched the need to specify indicators of food
insecurity within households. Bartfeld and Dunifon’s primary focus was on those
households with children. The researchers agreed that the use of the USDA Household
Food Security Survey Module was effective. In addition, the notion that hunger is a
severe form of food insecurity was also agreed upon. Ultimately, they felt that the survey
could be used to determine households that are food secure, food insecure without the
state of hunger or food insecure combined with the state of hunger.
Annually, as many as 9 million people suffer from hunger (Kushel et al., 2006).
This number increases to 39 million when describing the number of people who are food
insecure. Food insecurity is a greater form of hunger and may also be more widespread.
This may occur for a short or long time span. An episode may last a few days or many
months. As a part of the whole spectrum of hunger, the sequence begins with being food
secure, moving to bouts of hunger and ends with a person living in a food insecure state.
Kushel et al. (2006) sought to determine if there was an association between food
insecurity and access to health care in those persons considered low-income Americans.
Although the main focus of this article was on health care access, the authors provided an
abundant amount of information regarding the significance of food insecurity. If there is a
choice to be made between seeking health care and obtaining food, the choice may often
result in a person obtaining food. This is due to the inherent need to satisfy the basic
needs of eating food, having clothing, and having shelter. Kushel et al. described it as a
need to prioritize.
Kushel et al. (2006) provided parameters for persons to be deemed food insecure.
In order to qualify, participants had to respond in the affirmative to any one of three
questions. Those questions were taken from the 18-item scale provided by the USDA (p.
1. In the past year did they or their family worry that their food would run out?
2. In the past year did they or their family have the food that they bought not last
and not have the money to buy more?
3. In the past year did they or their family cut the size of meals or skipped meals
because there was not enough money for food?
Of those persons who responded to the questions asked of Kushel et al. (2006),
42.7% were found to be food insecure. Respondents who worried about running out of
food comprised 38 %. An additional 32.5% stated their food did not last. Finally, 21.4%
of the respondents skipped meals because they lacked the money necessary to purchase
Isanaka et al. (2007) also defined the parameters of being food insecure. They
used a sample of 4,000 that included children 5-12 years in age as well as their mothers.
In this study food insecurity was measured using the USDA Household Food Security
Survey Module. They also used the Community Childhood Hunger Identification Project.
Both scales attest to the fact that behaviors associated with food insecurity are sequential
and have levels that are distinct.
The use of these scales was not without reason. Isanaka et al. (2007) wanted to
prove that there was a pattern of response to the questions regarding food insecurity. If
one question was answered in the affirmative, additional questions would likely be
answered in the affirmative. These results allowed Isanaka et al. to state that affirmative
responses can be characterized as food insecure.
Isanaka et al. (2007) asked participants a total of 16 questions. Households with
0-2 affirmative responses were characterized as food secure. Three to seven affirmative
responses were characterized as the household worrying they would run out of food.
Adjustments were also made in these households regarding the quality of food, yet the
actual quantity was not reduced. There were some households in which the adult either
skipped a meal or reduced the amount of food eaten in order to provide for the children in
the household. These households provided 8-12 affirmative responses and were
characterized as food insecure with moderate hunger. Those households with 13-16
affirmative responses were food insecure with severe hunger. Persons in this category
included both adults and children lacked the resources to obtain adequate amounts of
food, experienced hunger, and reduced their intake of food.
Broughton et al. (2006) also researched the characteristics of food insecurity using
the USDA’s Food Survey Module. The purpose of this study was to describe the
relationship that exists between food insecurity and indicators of nutritional status.
Performed in the city of Vancouver, the researchers conducted a survey in neighborhoods
considered low-income. As with alternate studies, Broughton et al. (2006) noted that
there was a spectrum of food insecurity. Their analysis of it was that the progression
moved from a person feeling uncertain or anxious about their food supply to reducing the
quality of food consumed, to finally reducing the quantity of food consumed.
Broughton et al. (2006) included 142 households in their study. Each household
included a child between 2 and 5 years of age. Compared to a sample study, the
researchers found that all three stages of the continuum: anxiety, reduced food quality
and reduced food quantity, was five times higher. Although the greatest factor of food
insecurity was the overall income of the household, Broughton et al. (2006) also
discovered that there were potential barriers to food security, including a lack of access to
a quality food supply.
Coates et al. (2006) took a slightly different approach towards defining food
insecurity. They wanted to move from what is known as “second generation” indicators
(p. 1438S) which includes household income and the amount of food consumption.
Instead, they wanted to research “third generational indicators” (p. 1438S). These
indicators reported the actual experience of food insecurity. Coates et al. (2006) felt this
approach would be an advancement in determining household food insecurity. Issues
such as defining household access to food and actual quantities of food consumed are
There have not been many research studies that focused on food insecurity
measures specific to cultures. Once defined, the measures are assumed to be appropriate
for all cultures. Coates et al. (2006) pointed out that there is also no defined application of
food insecurity measures across cultural divides. As mentioned in prior studies, food
security surveys are utilized for research. Yet, the results of these surveys are used
without consideration of their validity in different countries. Regardless, of the severity of
food insecurity and the location of the person effected, a more effective measure of food
insecurity should focus on the experience of the household (Coates et al., 2006).
Food Insecurity and Physical State
Food insecurity negatively affects both the health and physical well-being of
individuals suffering from it (Cook et al., 2006). Persons who do not get enough food on
a daily basis often times lack many required nutrients. In addition, they suffer from the
following: “cognitive developmental deficits, behavioral and psychosocial dysfunction,
and poor health” (Cook et al., 2006, p. 1073). Many of those suffering from these
outcomes are children. If they continue with this lifestyle, these children risk the chance
of suffering from severe clinical health.
Cook et al. (2006) performed a study in which they sought to determine the
effects of food insecurity on the health of children. Between August 1998 and June 2004
the researchers conducted surveys in six cities: Baltimore, Boston, Little Rock, Los
Angeles, Minneapolis and Washington, DC. The purpose of the survey was to attempt to
uncover certain characteristics of the participating households. These characteristics
included, but were not limited to, food security status and the health status of a child
living in the home.
Cook et al. (2006) also used the U.S. Food Security Scale to determine the
conditions of the households. Participants surveyed were asked three questions about
their overall living conditions and experiences. Seven additional questions were asked
about experiences, behaviors and living conditions of those adults living in the
household. The final eight questions focused on the overall living conditions and
experiences of the children living in the household. The researchers found that children
associated with food insecurity within the household had a greater chance of displaying
poor health. On the other hand, those children living in a food secure home were less
likely to display characteristics of poor health.
Kirkpatrick et al. (2010) focused their research on the long-term effects of hunger.
Based on prior studies they ascertained that poor health is a result of severe food
insecurity in children. In addition, reports of an increase in hospitalizations were also
noted for this population.
Kirkpatrick et al. (2010) conducted a longitudinal survey using 5,809 children
between 10 and 15 years of age as well as 3,333 teenagers between 16 and 21 years of
age. The Canadian National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY) was
examined. Data taken over a 10 year span were used to determine if poor health resulted
from food insecurity. Hunger was assessed using answers from the questionnaire.
Poor health was determined if it was self-reported. Chronic health conditions were
determined if a child was diagnosed with any of the following: a heart condition, cerebral
palsy, epilepsy, kidney disease, asthma, bronchitis, or allergies (Kirkpatrick et al., 2010).
Of the total participants, Kirkpatrick et al. (2010) found that 1 in 10 children experienced
poor health. An average of 32.9% of those who were food insecure was also categorized
as being in poor health. As a comparison, participants who were food secure and reported
poor health averaged a total of 12.8% (Kirkpatrick et al., 2010). These findings supported
the notion that food insecurity is a factor in poor health among children.
The federal government of the United States measures the prevalence of food
insecurity in order to assess current food programs and to implement new ones. These
programs not only focus on food assistance but also nutrition. Some of these programs
include The Women’s, Infant’s and Children’s Program (WIC), The National School
Lunch Program, and the Food Stamp Program. Each of these programs is designed to
provide nutritious meals to children in an effort to eradicate food insecurity. Wilde (2007)
performed a literature review that measured the effects of food assistance programs to
determine the effectiveness of such programs.
During the research, Wilde (2007) discovered that food insecurity was still
present in households that participated in governmentally funded food assistance
programs. Healthy People 2010 posted an objective of reducing food insecurity in all
households by one half. The USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) constructed a
plan of action to measure the impact of participating in programs as well as their ability
to provide quality diets. Wilde concluded that food assistance programs positively affect
food insecure households. In addition, participation in these programs provides a greater
benefit to the overall health of participants. This includes a positive and increased weight
Weight change relative to food insecurity was also researched by Wilde and
Peterman (2006). They sought to determine if there was an association between living in
a food secure state and a change in weight. It was originally thought that a lack of access
to food was associated with low or decreased weight; however some studies suggest
obesity is a characteristic of populations who have a low income (Wilde & Peterman,
2006). These inconsistencies may be due to the access to the food, including the amount
and type of food available.
Wilde and Peterman (2006) conducted a study that utilized the National Health
and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). These surveys collected data on height
and weight. Both were measured as well as self-reported. In 1999 NHANES included the
collection of household food security. Data were collected over a 12-month period,
beginning the same time each year.
Participants of the study answered questions from the U.S. Food Security Survey
Module. This questionnaire asked 18 questions relating to the amount of food within the
household to determine food security. Some questions asked of the participants were, “In
the last 12 months did you ever eat less than you thought you should because there wasn’t
enough money to buy food?” and “I/we couldn’t afford to eat balanced meals’ (Wilde &
Peterman, 2006, p. 1396). Persons answering in the affirmative were deemed food
In order to determine the physical state of the participants, their change in weight
was assessed. By using the criteria provided by the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC, 2013) the BMI was calculated for all participants. Persons with a BMI
< 18.5 kg/m2 were categorized as being underweight, those ≥ 25 kg/m2 were categorized
as being overweight and persons ≥ 30 kg/m2 were categorized as being obese. The results
of the study found that persons who lived in a marginally food secure household showed
not only a weight gain, but were more likely to be obese.
The American Dietetic Association (ADA) has taken a firm position that
something must be done to end food insecurity within the United States. Food insecurity
has been associated with negative outcomes such as poor dietary intake, nutritional status
and overall poor health (ADA, 2006). Other negative effects are malnutrition, physical
impairments, chronic disease, and psychological issues (ADA, 2006). Actions should
include interventions that are long-standing, funding for nutrition programs, the use of
already established food assistance programs, new and innovative programs, education of
food programs, and economic self-sufficiency (ADA, 2006).
In the 2006 report the ADA noted that there is a relationship between the
nutritional intake for people and the lack of food (p. 449). Nutritional deficiencies pose a
serious health threat for children. It is most often noted in children who have a low
consumption of eggs, vegetables, fruits and milk. These children are also categorized as
being food insecure. In addition, they reported having unhealthy diets with low
nutritional value (ADA, 2006).
A literature review was performed by the ADA (2006) to determine the
association between food insecurity and weight. They found no evidence that food
insecurity supports weight gain in children. On the contrary, when children are not able to
access food on a regular basis they suffer from hunger and display a low body weight. In
addition, their overall physical functions are impaired.
Food Insecurity and Behavior
Food insecurity is an issue on a national level with 11% of households being
affected (Jyoti et al., 2005). Sixteen percent of these households have children (Jyoti, et
al., 2005). Food insecure households remain an issue despite programs that provide food
assistance to those affected.
Food insecurity has an adverse effect on children. Prior studies have determined
that the lack of food poses a threat to the physical state of children and diminishes health.
In addition, certain negative behaviors are displayed when a child has been deemed food
insecure. Jyoti et al. (2005) noted that in children ages 6 to 12, there was an association
between food insecurity and poor math scores, the need to repeat a grade, frequent
absence from school, tardiness, anxiety, aggression, psychosocial function, and difficulty
getting along with others (p. 2831). Children between ages 15 and 16 who were food
insecure displayed depression and symptoms of suicide (Jyoti et al., 2005).
Overall, food insecurity affects the academic performance and social skills of
children. Jyoti et al. (2005) performed a study using longitudinal data to show how this
relationship occurs over time. Using the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-
Kindergarten Cohort, 21,000 children were followed from kindergarten through third
grade. Food insecurity was assessed by interviews from the parents and by the use of the
child’s BMI. Academic performance was a direct assessment. The social skills of the
children were reported by the teachers.
The results of this study found that there was a significant association between
food insecurity and social skills. Children who moved from a food insecure environment
to one that was food secure displayed more positive social skills. Jyoti et al.’s (2005)
findings were consistent with prior studies that associated food insecurity with impaired
social skills in children (p. 2837).
Behavioral issues stemming from food insecurity negatively effects all ages.
Those within the age range of 13 to 17 are still considered children rather than adults, yet
this population is at risk for continuing their behavior into adulthood (Bolland et al.,
2007). Bolland et al. (2007) discussed how food insecurity effects youths in inner-city
The use of illegal substances, violent behavior, and sexual intercourse at an early
age are all risk factors of youth growing up in low-income neighborhoods (Bolland et al.,
2007). These risky behaviors may intensify as the age of the child increases. Compiled
with the environment of the inner-city, there is an added burden of suffering from food
insecurity. Food insecurity may cause developmental issues, which implies a relationship
between food insecurity and risky behavior (Bolland et al., 2007).
Atkins et al. (2006) also discussed the behavior of children suffering from food
insecurity. As with Bolland et al. (2007), the study focused on the population of children
and youth living in inner-city, urban communities. Atkins et al. (2006) wanted to bring
the need for mental health services to the forefront. Their study also focused on
promoting positive change behavior within this population.
Food insecurity is typically reserved to describe those persons living in urban
communities (Atkins et al., 2006) rather than those who reside in rural areas. Much of
these urban areas expose children to violence and crime. As many as 80% are affected
(Atkins et al., 2006). In turn, these children display high rates of depression and behavior
that is disruptive (Atkins et al., 2006). This behavior is prevalent in children who suffer
from food insecurity almost three times as much as others (Atkins et al., 2006). As a
result behaviors such as difficulty in school and juvenile delinquency are displayed
(Atkins et al., 2006).
Atkins et al. (2006) noted that almost 80% of children who lived in low income
environments and suffered from food insecurity did not receive services that addressed
their mental health issues. The preferred method of treatment is counseling. Children who
display negative and disruptive behavior do not always respond to counseling methods.
In fact, prior studies suggest that counseling may exacerbate the problem of disruptive
behavior (Atkins et al., 2006). Therefore, something should be done to address the
problem of disruptive behavior using other methods. One of which could be focusing on
the issue of food insecurity.
Kearney (2008) performed a review of the data surrounding children who suffered
from food insecurity and their behavior in school. The primary focus of the review was
on frequent and prolonged absences from school. Kearney (2008) noted that absences
from school can become a major issue for mental health professionals, physicians and
educators. It leads to high risk behavioral factors including violence, substance abuse,
and psychiatric disorders (Kearney, 2008). Psychiatric disorders include anxiety,
depression, and disruptive behavior (Kearney, 2008).
Absences from school have been linked to homelessness, poverty and food
insecurity (Kearney, 2008). If they continue, children often voluntarily drop out of
school, or they are forced out due to low grades or failing to meet the attendance
requirements of the school. Children who drop out of school have a high risk for
problems economically, mentally, and socially (Kearney, 2008).
Frequent school absences may be the result of underlying issues. One of which is
food insecurity due to homelessness and/or poverty (Kearney, 2008). Children who were
known to be chronic absentees were also found to have poor nutrition (Kearney, 2008).
This has been linked to negative behaviors including drinking alcohol, driving under the
influence of alcohol, sexual behavior and suicide attempts (Kearney, 2008).
Kearney (2008) focused on a study that diagnosed youths using the Child and
Adolescent Psychiatric Assessment. This assessment was applied in an attempt to
determine the behavioral issues associated with school absences. The results found that
leading issues included depression, separation anxiety, defiance, and poor conduct. In
addition, children were absent from school without the knowledge of the parent or legal
guardian, leading to acts of truancy.
Food insecurity can negatively affect children indirectly through their parents.
Prior research has shown that food insecurity results in stress on mothers (Whitaker et al.,
2006). Uncertainty of when and where a food source will appear may lead to feelings of
anxiousness (Whitaker et al., 2006). Whitaker et al. (2006) performed a study to
determine the risks associated with food insecurity in mothers. They hypothesized that if
a mother was deemed food insecure, their actions could lead to behavioral problems in
In order to test their hypothesis, Whitaker et al. (2006) conducted a survey of
2870 mothers of children aged 3. They used the US Household Food Security Survey
Module to categorize the mothers as being fully food secure, marginally food secure, or
food insecure. The behavior of the children was based on the Child Behavior Checklist.
This checklist categorized the children as being aggressive, anxious/depressed, or
Of the total number of mothers who participated in the study 71% were found to
be fully food secure, 17% were marginally food secure and 12% were food insecure
(Whitaker et al., 2006). An estimated 16.9% of the mothers who were fully food secure
suffered from anxiety and depression (p. 865). Of the mothers who were marginally food
secure, 21% suffered from anxiety and depression (p. 865). Of the mothers who were
food insecure, 30.3% suffered from anxiety and depression (p. 865).
The food insecurity status of the children who participated in the study was the
same as the mothers; categorized as fully food secure, marginally food secure, and food
insecure. The number of children living in a fully food secure environment who exhibited
behavior problems was 22.7% (p. 865). The number of children living in a marginally
food secure environment who exhibited behavior problems was 31.1% (p. 865). Those
children who were food insecure accounted for 36.7% of children exhibiting behavior
problems (p. 865). Whitaker et al. (2006) determined that as the food insecurity of the
mothers increased, so did the exhibition of behavioral issues within the children.
Introduction to Juvenile Crimes
The adolescence stage of a person’s life is the period in which many
psychological, social and biological factors are developing (Fagan & Piquero, 2007). This
is also the period in which crimes and antisocial behavior are most often likely to occur
(Fagan & Piquero, 2007). Adolescents do not always make good decisions regarding
crimes. Their ability to control their actions and make sound and just decisions may be
inhibited due to limitations in their development (Fagan & Piquero, 2007). Although
there is knowledge of right versus wrong, adolescents may be incapable of understanding
the consequences of their actions (Siegel & Welsh, 2011).
Adolescents not only think differently from adults, but also behave differently.
When adolescents make incorrect judgments and show improper reasoning, it can be
based on their psychosocial immaturity (Fagan & Piquero, 2007). For that reason, when
they commit a crime, an adolescent is treated differently than an adult. When a crime is
committed, the adolescent is charged as a juvenile delinquent, no matter their age or the
offense (Siegel & Welsh, 2011). They are also treated differently than an adult as their
records are kept confidential. This is in the hopes of not having the stigma of crime
follow the adolescent into adulthood.
There are a few likenesses between juveniles and adult criminals. Juveniles can be
arrested, be tried for their crime, and incarcerated. Juveniles may also be represented by
an attorney; either private or court appointed. The law also protects juveniles from illegal
searches and seizures.
Crimes committed by juveniles are an ever growing issue in the United States
(Alltucker et al., 2006). Not only does it negatively affect the individual, but it also has a
negative effect on families, communities and society as a whole. Juvenile delinquents
present a menace both socially and economically. The costs surrounding a delinquent,
including arrest, incarceration and treatment, may reach the millions of dollars (Alltucker
et al., 2006). For this reason, it is important to determine potential delinquent behavior
and intervene accordingly.
Juvenile delinquency also has a negative effect on victims. When a person’s rights
are violated they may retaliate, causing more criminal behavior. Juvenile delinquents
commit crimes that are less serious, such as loitering and those that are more serious,
such as murder. State officials and law enforcement agencies must rehabilitate the
juvenile as well as the victims (Siegel & Welsh, 2011).
Alltucker et al. (2006) examined the reasons juveniles fell into a criminal lifestyle.
Their primary focus was on juveniles who exhibited early delinquent behavior as opposed
to those who exhibited late delinquent behavior. Alltucker et al., (2006) noted that
adolescents who are arrested prior to 14 years of age are two to three more times likely to
become an offender as an adult (p. 480). Some of the factors contributing to a criminal
lifestyle were living in foster care, criminal behavior within the family, special education
disabilities and low socioeconomic status.
Some juveniles commit crimes young and continue through adulthood (Snyder &
Sickmund, 2006). Others commit crimes only as juveniles (Snyder and Sickmund, 2006).
The process of becoming a criminal may occur over several years (Alltucker et al., 2006).
Whether this behavior begins late in life or early on depends on outside variables. One
such variable that negatively effects child development is child abuse or neglect
(Alltucker et al., 2006). This neglect may include the lack of providing an adequate
amount of food.
Schwalbe et al. (2006) studied variables that may increase a child’s chances of
becoming a juvenile offender. They also focused on risk assessments in an effort to
determine if a child will repeat the criminal behavior. They found that this occurs most
when there are negative psychological, family, and peer issues.
Crimes committed by juveniles may or may not be reported to police or law
enforcement (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006). Thus, the actual number of juveniles
committing crimes may not be accurate. In addition, juveniles who commit crimes may
never be arrested or be made accountable for their actions.
Crime indexes were created to distinguish between violent / serious crimes and
less serious offenses. Violent crimes are referred to as felonies while less serious crimes
are known as misdemeanors. Felony crimes include, but are not limited to, murder,
manslaughter, rape, robbery and aggravated assault (Snyder and Sickmund, 2006).
Misdemeanors include, but are not limited to, burglary, theft, shoplifting, disorderly
conduct, loitering, and arson (Snyder & Sickmund, 2006). Table 1 lists and categorizes
common crimes committed by juveniles.
Common Crimes Committed by Juveniles
Theorists attempted to discover why some juveniles are violent felons and others
commit less violent crimes. Some juveniles will commit a crime once or twice in their
childhood, while others commit several crimes, and still others progress from
misdemeanor crimes to felonies (Siegel & Welsh, 2011, p. 125). Understanding this
behavior can be done using pathways.
The authority conflict pathway begins early in the life of a juvenile. Initially
stubbornness is displayed which leads to defiance, then avoiding authority. The covert
pathway begins with minor incidents such as lying and shoplifting. This pathway
escalates to more serious crimes such as larceny, fencing, and auto theft. The overt
pathway starts with aggression. This behavior leads to physical altercations and
Felony Juvenile Crimes
Felony crimes tend to be the more violent of categorized crime offenses. Not only
do they inflict the most harm but they cause the most monetary damage. In order to
determine the reasons juveniles commit felony crimes, criminologists have focused on
the correlation between the legal system and criminal activity (Fagan & Piquero, 2007).
Juveniles may internalize rules during their thought process. This thinking, without the
basis of clarity due to poor mind development, may increase violent behavior rather than
restrain it (Fagan & Piquero, 2007).
There is a theory known as the deterrence doctrine. This is based on the notion
that if a juvenile knows that a felony crime is met with “swift, certain, and severe”
punishment then that crime would never be committed (Fagan & Piquero, 2007, p. 716).
Contradictory to that theory is socioeconomic influences. Attitudes and beliefs regarding
law enforcement and criminal activity may stem from socioeconomic influences (Fagan
& Piquero, 2007). Some juveniles live with the understanding that criminal behavior is
not unlawful and is a way of life. Felony crimes that are committed are necessary and
should have no repercussions.
Fagan and Piquero (2007) also noted that felony crimes may be caused by
childhood experiences. Early association toward law enforcement and authority were
found to later shape the views of juveniles (Fagan & Piquero, 2007). As negative feelings
regarding law enforcement rises, the greater the threat of a violent crime being
committed. Felony crimes may be committed by a juvenile in the hope that they are
accepted socially (Fagan & Piquero, 2007).
Taylor et al. (2008) studied personality traits as they related to juveniles who
committed felony crimes. They associated violent behaviors on what is known as
borderline personality disorder (BPD). Juveniles with this disorder displayed poor social
relationships and were found to have lived in abusive environments. They also exhibited
impulsive behaviors associated with felony crimes (Taylor et al., 2008).
Trulson et al. (2011) performed a study in which they reviewed the relationship
between misconduct within the institution and juvenile delinquents who were rearrested.
Trulson et al. (2011) studied male delinquents who committed violent crimes. It is
common for juvenile delinquents to commit crimes while still incarcerated (Trulson et al.,
2001). The notion is that if a juvenile commits crimes on the “inside”, they will continue
this destructive behavior upon release.
Steinberg et al. (2006) took a different approach to studying felony crimes
committed by juvenile delinquents. A group of 1,355 juvenile delinquents were followed.
The authors hypothesized that there was an association between the style of discipline the
juvenile received and the likelihood they would commit a felony crime. Four parenting
styles were studied: authoritative, authoritarian, indulgent and neglectful. The participants
described their home situations which allowed the parents to be placed in a discipline
category. Steinberg et al. (2006) found that children of authoritative parents are
psychosocially mature, perform better academically, and have less distress. Children
who described their parents as neglectful displayed characteristics of immaturity,
incompetence, and troubled lifestyles. Children of neglectful parents also were found to
commit felony crimes.
Abrams and Hyun (2009) theorized that juveniles who commit violent, felony
crimes due so because of learned actions. Juvenile delinquents are affected by their
families, friends, communities, neighborhoods and schools. Juveniles who grew up in
violent homes typically display the same violent behaviors (Abrams & Hyun, 2009).
Abrams and Hyun (2009) noted a strong connection between violent events that have
occurred in a juvenile’s life to them displaying violent, criminal activity. Not only do
juveniles display negative behavior but they also show signs of having accomplished
important goals by behaving adversely. Some juveniles see themselves as not only the
caretaker, but the leader of their family. A tough exterior and respect among other
criminals is required for this title, yet leads to the delinquent lifestyle.
Odgers et al. (2010) conducted a review of the literature to determine if there is a
link between poor health and violent behavior. The authors review included the fields of
psychology, criminology, and medicine. Odgers et al. (2010) discovered that juvenile
delinquents who are in poor physical health engage in violent behavior. In addition, these
juveniles are less likely to engage in healthy behavior (Odgers et al., 2010). If this
behavior continues, the juvenile runs the risk of being in poor physical health as an adult
(Odgers et al., 2010).
Odgers et al. (2010) focused on juvenile delinquents who were in poor physical
health. This was defined by the findings of medical examinations and assessments from
clinical visits. Health issues included poor diet and the lack of regular doctor checkups.
Misdemeanor Juvenile Crimes
Misdemeanor crimes are defined as those that are nonviolent. These crimes may
include but are not limited to theft, burglary, loitering, and trespassing. Misdemeanor
crimes more often focus on property rather than harm to an individual (Richards, 2011).
Misdemeanor crimes are also referred to as white collar crimes. This is due to the
crime being deemed nonviolent. In 2005 a person who committed fraud was imprisoned
for 23.6 months (Weissmann & Block, 2007). A murder conviction received a sentence
of 228.4 months (Weissmann and Block, 2007). Weissmann and Block (2007) agreed
that some crimes are worse than others. Yet, Weissmann and Block (2007) argued if
persons who commit misdemeanor crimes should receive a punishment different from
those who commit felony crimes. It may be that those who commit misdemeanor crimes
may be easier to rehabilitate (Weissmann and Block, 2007).
Juveniles commit misdemeanor crimes more than felony crimes based on a
number of reasons (Richards, 2011). The main reason is that a juvenile has less
experience in criminal activity than that of an adult (Richards, 2011). Juveniles also tend
to commit crimes while in a group (Richards, 2011). This draws attention to the criminal
activity. Juveniles commit crimes while in areas that are public (Richards, 2011). Public
areas are more likely to have witnesses to the juvenile’s crime. Lastly, juveniles often
commit crimes near their homes or residences (Richards, 2011).
Richards (2011) discussed the state of juveniles who committed misdemeanor
crimes in the country of Australia. Richards (2011) noted that juveniles who committed
crimes were treated as adults until early in the twentieth century. In fact, children
received hard labor and corporal punishment the same as adults (Richards, 2011). Prisons
were homes for children as young as six years of age (Richards, 2011).
The practice of treating juvenile criminals the same as adult criminals became an
unfair practice. Juvenile delinquents were doing long stents in jails of over two years, yet
they accounted for most of the misdemeanor, nonviolent crimes committed (Richards,
2011). Offenses such as vandalism, shoplifting and property destruction are typically
committed by juveniles (Richards, 2011). Crimes such as murder and sexual offenses are
rarely committed by juveniles.
Richards (2011) provided detailed facts that juveniles commit more nonviolent
crimes as juveniles. Per every 100 crimes, around 65% are misdemeanors and are
committed by a juvenile between 12 and 18 years of age (Richards, 2011). This same age
group accounts for 13% of felony crimes (Richards, 2011).
Between 2007 and 2008 the Australian court system recorded the types of crimes
committed by juveniles. Sixteen percent of the crimes were categorized as intent to harm
(Richards, 2011). Another 14% of crimes were theft charges (Richards, 2011). Unlawful
entry accounted for 12% (Richards, 2011). Traffic offenses were noted as 11% (Richards,
2011). All of the crimes committed were listed as misdemeanor crimes. These numbers
totaled almost two-thirds of the juveniles appearing before the courts (Richards, 2011).
Juvenile Detention Centers
The goal of juvenile detention centers is to provide a balance between punishment
and the rehabilitation process (Abrams and Hyun, 2009). In 2004, 140,000 juveniles were
placed in institutions (Abrams and Hyun, 2009). This was a 35% increase from the mid
1980’s (Abrams and Hyun, 2009). On average, juveniles are incarcerated from 3 months
to a year. During that time, the detention center provides the juvenile with different
therapies and services to rehabilitate them. The overall goal is to shift the focus from
crime to that of a law abiding citizen.
Separate court systems for adults and juveniles were created at the beginning of
the twentieth century. The attempt to try adults and juveniles within the same system was
frowned upon by groups called “child savers” (Siegel & Welsh, 2011, p. 14). This group
argued that certain rights of the juveniles were violated by punishing them as adults. This
led to the theory of parens patriae.
Parens patriae states that juveniles are not responsible for their delinquent activity.
In fact, it is the fault of the parents that adverse behavior is displayed. Parens patriae also
states that criminal activity is the result of poor home care. As such, the state should
intervene before more serious offenses occur.
The juvenile court system is now its own entity. Not only are juveniles housed
separately from adults, but they also receive different punishments. Police departments
have a task force that work specifically with juveniles. Siegel and Welsh (2011) noted
that “adults are tried in court; children are adjudicated. Adults can be punished; children
are treated” (p. 15).
Incarcerated juvenile delinquents reside in both public and private institutions.
The actual number of juveniles housed in facilities is provided by the Census of Juveniles
in Residential Placement (CJRP). The CJRP is sponsored by the Office of Juvenile
Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP). The census provides information such as
gender, date of birth, race, ethnicity, state of offense, type of offense, and date of
admission. JRFC also sponsors the Juvenile Residential Facility Census (JRFC). The
JRFC focuses on facility ownership, operations, and services. It also accounts for deaths
and injuries of juveniles in custody.
Juvenile detention centers vary greatly. They can be secure or non-secure.
Facilities may also be run by the state or owned by private companies. Holding of
juveniles may be short term stemming from a few hours, or long term which may last up
to a year. Juvenile detention centers are also known as juvenile halls, shelters, diagnostic
centers, group homes, youth development centers, residential treatment centers, reform
schools and correctional institutions (Sickmund, 2010).
Physical State at Detention Center Entry
Juveniles that are sentenced to detention centers often exhibit poor health (Golzari
et al., 2006). In addition, they portray risky behavior although they typically lack health
care (Golzari et al., 2006). Because of this, juvenile delinquents show high rates of
morbidity and mortality. Not only are juvenile delinquents removed from health care
access due to their incarceration, the time spent in a detention center may be their only
access to a health care provider. Once a juvenile is released, it is important to provide
additional medical care (Golzari et al., 2008).
The American Academy of Pediatrics introduced a concept that juveniles should
have a “medical home” prior to their release (Golzari et al., 2008). A medical home is
one in which health care is continuous and accessible for released juvenile delinquents.
Juveniles who are sentenced to detention centers typically enter the facility in poor health
(Golzari et al., 2008). By establishing this access to healthcare there may be a decrease in
the poor health of juvenile delinquents.
There have only been a few surveys that focused on the physical state of juvenile
delinquents. The most comprehensive study occurred in the 1970s and lasted ten years
(Golzari et al., 2006). Conducted in a detention center in New York City, the survey
consisted of 47,288 juveniles. Based on an average stay of 14 days, 46% of the juveniles
received a diagnosis of a medical problem (Golzari et al., 2006).
Another survey was conducted in the mid-1990s. This survey was conducted in a
detention center located in Alabama and consisted of 819 juveniles (Golzari et al., 2006).
Of this population 10.6% had a serious medical problem (Golzari et al., 2006). The
problem was considered serious if it required a follow-up once the juvenile was admitted
into the facility.
The state of Washington also conducted a survey in the mid-1990s. This survey
did not just focus on one detention center. Instead, the survey included 24 juvenile
detention centers (Golzari et al., 2006). The purpose of this survey was to determine the
most common reason for heath related referrals. This survey compared long-term and
short-term facilities. Long-term facilities reported dental care as the chief reason. Short-
term facilities reported substance abuse as their chief reason for referral.
A third survey was conducted in the mid-1990s at a juvenile detention center.
This survey took place in Maryland. A total of 202 male juveniles were surveyed to
determine the overall health of the participants. Sixty-nine percent of the juveniles were
categorized as High Risk and Worst Health (Golzari et al., 2006).
Odgers et al. (2010) discussed the state of health of juveniles within a detention
center. The authors focused on girls. Odgers et al. (2010) believed that female juvenile
delinquents and their state of health are an underserved population. This is an increasing
issue as the population of girls sentenced to serve time within a detention center increased
52% between 1991 and 2003 (Odgers et al., 2010).
The Department of Juvenile Justice is tasked with the proper care of juvenile
delinquents. As Odgers et al. (2010) stated, “The Department of Juvenile Justice has a
moral and legal obligation to provide for the medical needs of adolescents in their care (p.
429).”It is unfortunate that not all detention centers abide by this notion.
In 1999, a lawsuit was brought against the Cook County Detention Center in
Chicago, IL. The center was accused of having a multitude of infractions; one of which
was poor nutrition services. The lawsuit brought to light neglect within the juvenile
Television has the ability to promote poor dietary habits (Wallace, 2005). It is
especially detrimental to incarcerated juveniles (Wallace, 2005). Juvenile delinquents that
stem from low income homes are less likely to know specific details on proper nutrition
(Wallace, 2005). Incarceration may become a hindrance to good dietary habits.
On average, juveniles watch three hours of television per day (Wallace, 2005).
Within this time, many media messages promote poor eating habits (Wallace, 2005).
When a juvenile watches more than 3 hours per day it is considered heavy viewing. There
has been an association between heavy viewing and a lack of knowledge surrounding
proper nutrition (Wallace, 2005). Television programs as well as commercials have been
found to have an adverse effect on food choices (Wallace, 2005).
Wallace (2005) conducted a 15-week intervention within a juvenile detention
center. The purpose of the intervention was to teach the juvenile delinquents about proper
nutrition. It was also designed to increase knowledge of foods that were healthier.
Physical and nutritional needs of incarcerated juveniles are often not properly met
(Committee on Adolescence, 2011). They are considered a high risk population and have
health issues occurring at greater rates than their peers who are not detained (Committee
on Adolescence, 2011). Research has found that juvenile delinquents have health care
that is inconsistent or they have no health care at all (Committee on Adolescence, 2011).
Therefore, it is important to address these needs upon the juvenile’s incarceration.
The National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCHC) is a juvenile
detention center accreditation organization. They publish standards for the operation of
public and private juvenile detention centers. NCCHC identifies two minimum standards
for all juveniles entering a facility. The first standard is that all juveniles are screened at
intake by a qualified health care professional (Committee on Adolescence, 2011). The
second standard states that all juveniles must receive a comprehensive health assessment
within 7 days of incarceration (Committee on Adolescence, 2011). The health assessment
includes a physical examination that determines the juvenile’s state of health. The use of
this assessment will identify juvenile delinquents who enter the detention center in a food
This chapter presented a review of the literature that provided a basis for the
proposed research. The background information for food insecurity, crimes and juvenile
detention centers supplies an overview of the study. Evidence suggested that children
who stem from food insecure homes are more likely to commit crimes than those children
who live in food secure environments. Jyoti et al. (2005) noted a significant association
between food insecurity and negative social skills in children. The Whitaker et al. (2006)
study also presented data that showed negative behavior was associated with food
insecurity. Golzari et al. (2006) presented that juveniles in poor health within detention
centers exhibit risky behavior. These studies are necessary to determine the physical state
of juveniles when they enter detention centers so their needs may be addressed. In order
to move forward in the research process, the theoretical framework and methodological
structure must be established. The literature discussed in this chapter confirmed the
relevance of the research. Chapter 3 will detail the methodology used for the research.
Chapter 3: Research Method
This research study, examined the role food insecurity may have when a juvenile
commits a felony or misdemeanor crime. Data used for this research were derived from
secondary public data collected from juvenile and adult detention centers located in
Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, New Jersey, and Oklahoma. This
secondary data were routinely collected as a standard procedure of each facility.
The basis of this research study stemmed from prior research conducted by Jyoti
et al. (2005). Jyoti et al. found that children who were food insecure were aggressive and
had poor social skills. Their study provided evidence that food insecurity has a negative
effect on behavior.
Jyoti et al. (2005) used longitudinal data to determine the relationship between
food security and changes in school test scores, weight, BMI, and social skills in children.
For the purpose of this current study, this investigator focused the data on the relationship
between food insecurity and its role in a juvenile committing a crime. Likened to Wilde
and Peterman’s (2006) use of the BMI score, BMI was used to categorize if the juvenile
is food secure or food insecure. These data were used to address the research questions.
This chapter details the Research Design and Approach. The justification for
performing a quantitative study is provided. In the Setting and Sample section the
research population is discussed. The Data Collection and Analysis explains the nature of
each variable used. Instrumentation and Materials describe the data collection instrument
used in this research.
Research Questions and Hypotheses
The study was intended to answer three research questions. This researcher
provided corresponding hypotheses based on a review of the literature.
Question 1: Is there a difference in food security with juveniles who commit
H1: A juvenile who commits a misdemeanor crime will be deemed food secure.
Question 2: Is there a difference in food security with juveniles who commit
H2: A juvenile who commits a felony crime will be deemed food insecure.
Question 3: Is there a difference in food security with those who commit
misdemeanor crimes versus felony crimes?
H3: Juveniles who are food insecure will represent the greater number of juveniles
who commit felony crimes.
Research Design and Approach
In order to gather information regarding the effects of food insecurity on
juveniles, a quantitative research design was used. This method takes a groups and
numbers approach. Temporal study variables are used for quantitative studies because
there is a need to advance what has already been proven (Creswell, 2009, p. 133). In
quantitative research literature is placed first. This placement allows the researcher to
pose a question and use the literature as a basis for why it is being taken on (Creswell,
2009, p. 133). If placed in the end of the study, the literary review compares what was
done in the past with what was done more recently. Quantitative research introduces a
hypothesis to determine what more could be done (Creswell, 2009, p. 133).
The quantitative design method was used for this study because a quantitative
approach to research is one that utilizes numerical calculations. Variables are introduced
in a way that allows them to be measured. Creswell (2009, p. 145) describes two types of
methods in a quantitative research study: survey and experimental. For the purpose of this
study the researcher took a survey approach.
Secondary data were used for this study. Therefore, direct access to participants
did not occur. Data used were routinely collected by each detention site and were
accessed by this researcher via electronic public records
Research Design Appropriateness
A quantitative, cohort study of incarcerated juveniles between 14 and 18 years of
age was performed. Quantitative research was used to examine the relationship between
variables. The research questions this study seeks to answer are as follows:
1. Is there a difference in food security with juveniles who commit
2. Is there a difference in food security with juveniles who commit felony
3. Is there a difference in food security with those who commit misdemeanor
crimes versus felony crimes?
Numerical data were analyzed in order to provide the results for these questions. The data
collected will either prove or refute the hypothesis.
A cohort design was used based on the distinctness of the target population. Issel
(2009) stated that “if the target audience is distinct, clearly defined, and can be forward in
time as a group, it is called a cohort” (p. 399). This design is fitting for the population of
juvenile delinquents used for this study. A cohort design is also appropriate as the ability
to collect pretest information does not exist and is not relevant to the outcome of the
Setting and Sample
The population used for this study was incarcerated juveniles housed in a youth
or adult detention center within seven states in the U.S. The states included were
Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, New Jersey, and Oklahoma. Juveniles
received sentences ranging from 3 months to life. The age range for those incarcerated
was between 14 and 18 years. The focus of the research was on juveniles who have been
charged with committing either felonies or misdemeanors. In the event a juvenile was
charged with both a felony and misdemeanor during the same episode, the most serious
offense was considered. These facilities were chosen based on their ability to house
juveniles who have committed both types of crimes and the reseracher’s access to public
data. Data on the juveniles was collected from different states providing a variation of
The intended data collected for research included demographics of the juveniles
including sex, height and weight. Data also detailed the state of health of each juvenile
upon entering the facility by calculating their BMI. All juveniles who were processed into
the detention center were eligible for entry into the study; however, only those juveniles
who presented their first detention episode were included. In addition, each juvenile was
counted once as a single individual.
In order to provide assumptions and draw conclusions relative to a population,
samples must be drawn in such a way that results in general data (Gerstman, 2008, p. 15).
Gerstman (2008, p. 16) described this data as “an element of chance”. The most common
way to achieve this is by using the simple random sample. By using this method each and
every member of the population has the ability of being included into the quantitative
study. This is an appropriate way to collect a broad range of participants.
Determining the appropriate sample size for the juvenile detention center requires
knowing the confidence interval as well as the confidence level for this population. The
confidence interval determines the margin of error. On the other hand, the confidence
level defines the rate of success. The confidence level details certainty. In the field of
research the confidence level is usually set at 95% (Gerstman, 2008, p. 198).
For the purpose of the juvenile population, the smallest confidence interval
allowed was utilized. This was set at four. This means that the total number of juveniles
used will be accurate plus or minus 4. The success rate was set at 95% so the confidence
level achieved was at its maximum. Based on Jyoti et al.’s (2005) population of 21,000,
the required sample size was N = 584 juveniles. Data collected began with juveniles
arrested in 2013 and stemmed back each year until the appropriate sample size was
Data Collection and Analysis
The primary focus of this research was to determine if food insecurity influences
the type of crime committed. This was determined by focusing on two independent
1. The juvenile is incarcerated for committing a felony crime.
2. The juvenile is incarcerated for committing a misdemeanor crime.
This research also utilized two dependent variables. These variables were
used to measure the following:
1. The juvenile enters the detention center in a food secure state.
2. The juvenile enters the detention center in a food insecure state.
Determining the dependent variables utilized the research performed by Wilde
and Peterman (2006). They calculated the BMI for participants to determine if they were
healthy or underweight. In doing so, they found that underweight children were food
insecure. This researcher also calculated the BMI of each juvenile selected by using the
criteria provided by the CDC. The BMI percentile calculator is specific for children and
teens under the age of 20 years. Juveniles with a BMI of <18.5 and falling into the less
than 5th percentile were categorized as being underweight and food insecure. Juveniles
with a BMI equal to 18.5 and greater and falling into the greater than 5th percentile were
categorized as being food secure (Appendix A).
The sample population was drawn from that of one that is normally distributed.
Thus, the method of analysis was a t test. The overall chance of an occurrence cannot be
more than 5% of a total of 100 times (Crosby, et al., 2006, p. 326). This will allow the
alpha level to be set at p = .05.
The t test will confirm if there is a difference between the mean of the population
and the hypothesis. This will attempt to determine which category each juvenile fits into;
that of a felony criminal or one who committed a misdemeanor crime. This technique
will provide the ability to accurately measure the linear strength of the dependent and
independent variables. The hypothesis will look at cause and dependent variables
associated with them. This data also utilized SPSS and descriptive statistics to generate a
percentage of the entire population.
The specific t test used was a two-tailed t test. This analysis generated a
difference in the resulting values. As the researcher could not predict which resulting
value would be higher, the use of the two-tailed test provided a more extreme measure to
reject the null hypothesis.
As a final level of analysis, data were assessed using proportions. Proportions are
a good way to simplify data. By keeping the data simple it is easily relayed to the
intended audience. Proportions are used to collect data on sample sizes rather than an
entire population. Specifically, the z score test statistic was computed. The information
that was not required or would not be used was never collected.
Instrumentation and Materials
A specific instrument was not used to gather the data for this research study. Data
were collected from public records provided from Internet based websites. Each state’s
Department of Corrections (DOC) provides data in an electronic form. Data were
collected from the following Internet websites:
1. State of Arkansas: http://adc.arkansas.gov/inmate_info/index.php
2. State of Colorado: http://www.doc.state.co.us/oss/index.php?ref=home
3. State of Florida: http://www.dc.state.fl.us/activeinmates/
4. State of Georgia:
5. State of Kansas:
6. State of New Jersey: https://www6.state.nj.us/DOC_Inmate/inmatefinder?i=I
7. State of Oklahoma:
A physical description is collected and documented on each juvenile who enters a
facility. The physical description captures information such as the juvenile’s name, age,
date of birth, race, height and weight. Data also includes physical marks, scars or
abnormalities, the juvenile’s offense, date of offense and the length of the sentence
Often times during research there are threats to the validity of the study. Some of
these threats include a person’s ability to recall data or events. The public data provided
by each state’s DOC was collected in real time and was not affected by the lack of recall.
The research collected during this research was transcribed from the Internet website onto
an electronic PowerPoint spreadsheet. The form is validated based on its ability to be
Reliability and Validity
The survey design explains the reasoning behind the study. It also details the type
of ways in which information is collected. Fink (2002) listed four specific types: self-
administered questionnaires, interviews, structured record reviews and structured
observations (as cited in Creswell, 2009, p. 146). These are known as instruments. Once
an instrument has been used and proven to be effective, its validity is established,
allowing others to use it for further research. If an instrument is used over and over and
proves to be consistent, it is confirmed to be reliable.
Each state provided a disclaimer for use relative to their website. The disclaimer
stated that all data is expected to be accurate and complete. The public website data were
accessible at any time. The data remained constant throughout the collection process.
A physical description is completed in full for each juvenile processed into a
juvenile or adult detention center. The description provided does not change and
accounted for all variables needed to complete this research. This confirmed its
reliability. The Internet website is not specific to any one individual juvenile delinquent.
The use of a regression analysis shows that the public data produces results that make it
appropriate for further research.
Protection of Human Participants
Data used for this research was collected from Internet websites provided by the
DOC from seven states in the USA. The necessary data were information routinely
collected as the standard operating processes of each facility. All data were made public
by each DOC. Because secondary data were used, the researcher had no physical access
to the study participants. The Walden University Institutional Review Board (IRB)
reviewed the request for research to ensure the participants’ rights were adequately
protected. The IRB approval number for this research is 03-25-13-0174592.
Measures were put into place to protect the security of the data collected from this
research. The names of the participants were not collected by this researcher.
Once collected, data from the research site will be maintained by this researcher.
Data, both raw and analyzed will be kept in the personal, home office of this researcher.
Documents will be secured in a file cabinet. The cabinet will be locked. This researcher
will have the only key and access to the data. Data collected from this research will be
securely stored for a period no less than 5 years.
Chapter 4: Results
The purpose of the research was to determine if there is a correlation between
food insecurity and negative behavior as it relates to juveniles and the crimes they have
committed. An assessment was made to the relationship of the juvenile’s food security
and the crime. This assessment utilized the juveniles’ height and weight to calculate their
BMI. The population sample was set at N = 584. The independent variables, felony crime
and misdemeanor crime, as well as the dependent variables, food security and food
insecurity, is detailed on the following tables. These variables are presented to detail how
they supported or refuted the research questions.
The sample population was chosen randomly with no regard to age, sex, race, or
state where the crime was committed. From the population, more than half of the
juveniles were from the state of Florida (56.84%). The state of Georgia supplied 32.7%.
Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Jersey, and Kansas provided 4.45%, 2.22%, 1.88%,
1.02% and, 0.86% respectively. Only one juvenile was 14 years old at the time of arrest
(.17%). An additional 10 (1.71%) were 15 and 38 (6.51%) were 16. Those juveniles who
were arrested at the age of 17 totaled 28.25%. The greatest percentage (63.36%) of
juveniles had reached their 18th birthday.
African Americans accounted for more than half (68.32%) of the sample
population. Whites were second with 26.37%. Hispanic juveniles totaled 3.25% and
Native Americans totaled 0.34%. The final 1.71% was a population of juveniles whose
race was unknown or of mixed origin. Male juveniles represented the greatest percentage
of the population, 96.75%. Female juveniles accounted for 3.25%. The demographics are
summarized in Appendix B.
Eighty-two different types of crimes were committed by the sample population.
The total number of felony crime types was 44. The total number of misdemeanor crime
types was 57. Based on the circumstance of the arrest, one juvenile might have been
charged with a misdemeanor, while another juvenile committing the same crime was
charged with a felony. A determination of the category of the crime was made based on
the length of the jail sentence. Juveniles sentenced to 7 or more years in jail were
categorized as committing a felony.
To answer the research questions, the total number of felony crimes committed
and the total number of misdemeanor crimes committed had to be calculated. Likewise,
the total number of food secure juveniles and the total number of food insecure juveniles
was documented. Misdemeanor crimes accounted for 50.34% of the population. Felony
crimes came in slightly lower at 49.66%. The greatest percentage (97.77%) of the
population were found to be food secure. The remaining 2.23% were food insecure. The
BMI values for food secure juveniles ranged from 18.5 to 41.6 kg/m2. The BMI values
for food insecure juveniles ranged from 16.3 to 18.4 kg/m2.
Distribution of Respondents
Secure / Insecure
Table 2 shows the distribution of the respondents when grouped as to state, race,
sex, age, juveniles who commit felonies and misdemeanors, and who are food secure and
food insecure. The results showed that a majority of the respondents came from Florida
(56.85%). Only a few were taken from Kansas (0.86%) and New Jersey (1.03%). For
race, a majority of the juveniles were Black (68.32%) and only 0.34% were Asian. As for
the age, the majority (63.36%) of them were 18 years while only 0.17%, the least of the
juveniles, was 14 years. The criminal charges were almost equal for the juveniles who
committed a felony (49.66%) and those who committed a misdemeanor (50.34%). As for
food security, 97.77% of the respondents were food secure while the rest were not
Independent Samples t Test
Food Security (BMI kg/m2) Comparison Between Felony and Misdemeanor Crimes
Levene's Test for
Equality of Variances
est for Equality of Means
An independent-samples t test was conducted to compare the difference in food
security with those juveniles who committed a felony and those who committed a
misdemeanor. There was no significant difference in the food security of those who
committed a felony (M = 23.83, SD = 3.98) and those who committed a misdemeanor (M
= 23.72, SD = 3.57); t (582) = 0.34, p-value = 0.73 since the p-value is greater than the
0.05 alpha level. These results suggest the type of crime committed by the juvenile does
not have an effect on their food security.
Secure / Insecure
Z scores were computed for raw BMI scores. The table shows a sample part of the
computed z scores. For the raw BMI score 30.1, z = 1.68. This z score confirms that the
juvenile who committed a felony had a higher than average BMI. For the raw BMI score
of 16.3, z = -1.98. This z score confirms that the juvenile who committed a misdemeanor
has lower than average BMI.
Research Question 1
Question 1 asked, “Is there a difference in food security with juveniles who
commit misdemeanor crimes?” This researcher proposed one hypothesis from this
question. The hypothesis stated, “A juvenile who commits a misdemeanor will be
deemed food secure.” Table 5 lists the results of this hypothesis.
Question 1 Hypothesis Results
Food Secure Juveniles Who Committed a Misdemeanor Crime
N = 294
N = 571
Of the 294 juveniles who committed a misdemeanor crime, 288 were found to be
food secure. This resulted in 97.96% of the population. Although this result may seem
high, this did not account for the entire population of food secure juveniles representing
97.77% of the whole sample population. From the population of food secure juveniles
where N = 571, the percentage of food secure juveniles represented 50.43%. Based on
this analysis H1 was disproved.
Research Question 2
Question 2 asked, “Is there a difference in food security with juveniles who
commit felony crimes?” This researcher proposed one hypothesis from this question. The
hypothesis stated, “A juvenile who commits a felony crime will be deemed food
insecure.” Table 6 lists the results of this hypothesis.
Question 2 Hypothesis Results
Food Insecure Juveniles Who Committed a Felony Crime
N = 290
N = 13
Of the 290 juveniles who committed a felony crime, seven were found to be food
insecure. This resulted in 2.41% of the population. As with the results from Q1, this did
not account for the entire population of food insecure juveniles representing 2.23% of the
whole sample population. From the population of food insecure juveniles where N=13,
the percentage of food secure juveniles represented 53.85%. Based on this analysis
almost half the population of food insecure juveniles could have committed either a
felony or misdemeanor crime. These results provided no support for H2.
Research Question 3
Research Q3 sought to determine if a link exists between the actual crime types.
Q3 stated, “Is there a difference in food security with those who commit misdemeanor
crimes versus felony crimes?” This researcher hypothesized that the greater number of
felony crimes would be committed by juveniles who were food insecure. The results were
summarized in Table 7.
Question 3 Hypothesis Results
Food Security and Juvenile Crimes
From the results in Table 7, there was virtually no difference in the number of
juveniles who committed misdemeanor crimes versus felony crimes. There was almost an
equal distribution in each category. A juvenile could have equally committed a
misdemeanor crime or a felony crime despite their food security status.
The three research questions attempted to determine if food insecurity played a
factor in felonious or misdemeanor crimes committed by juveniles. This researcher
hypothesized that there would be a trend of high number of felony crimes committed by
juveniles who were deemed food insecure. This was in part based on prior research that
food insecurity was related to negative behavior (Whitaker et al., 2006).
The results showed that food insecurity occurred in half of the juveniles who
committed felony crimes as well as in half the juveniles who committed misdemeanor
crimes. Likewise, the results of those juveniles who were deemed food secure accounted
for half of the population incarcerated for felony crimes. A juvenile who committed a
felony crime was just as likely to be food secure than a juvenile who committed a
misdemeanor crime. A juvenile who committed a felony crime was just a likely to be
food insecure than a juvenile who committed a misdemeanor crime.
The evidence presented showed there is no correlation between food insecurity
and crime types committed by juveniles. Each hypothesis was systematically disproved.
The evidence was unable to support any of the three research questions with the
This research in comparison to that of Wilde and Peterman (2006), who only used
the BMI to calculate the juvenile’s food security status. Wilde and Peterman (2006)
conducted their research with additional test measures. This comparison will be discussed
further in Chapter 5.
Chapter 5: Discussion, Conclusions, and Recommendations
This research was conducted to determine if food insecurity played a factor in
misdemeanor or felony crimes committed by juveniles. The purpose of this research also
sought to find if food insecurity was a contributing factor in the more heinous crime. This
research was based on three hypotheses. Each will be presented in this chapter, as well as
their results. The final conclusions will detail the role of food insecurity and juvenile
Precursor to Food Insecurity
The USDA established guidelines to categorize food insecurity. The USDA
Household Food Security Survey Module provides measurements that are continuous and
provide different grades of food insecurity. Food insecurity may range from a few days to
a few months. This process is a gradual increase, from a person feeling hungry, to not
having enough to eat, to becoming totally food insecure.
Prior literature detailed the issue of food insecurity. Kushel et al. (2006) provided
parameters for persons to be deemed food insecure. In order to qualify, participants had
to respond in the affirmative to questions were taken from the 18-item scale provided by
the USDA. The findings showed 42.7% of respondents being food insecure.
Food insecurity leads to a variety of negative results (Bartfeld & Dunifon, 2006).
It is important to determine specific indicators of food insecurity. Additionally, issues
such as the prevalence of food insecurity and individual experiences should be addressed.
Knowledge of these issues and experiences provide a better understanding of the role
food insecurity plays in households.
BMI Relative to Food Insecurity
In the 2006 report the ADA noted that there is a relationship between the
nutritional intake for people and the lack of food (p. 449). For children, this lack of food
posed a serious threat to their well-being. These children were categorized as being food
insecure. In addition, they reported having unhealthy diets with low nutritional value
The ADA’s 2006 literature review was performed to determine the association
between food insecurity and weight. They found no evidence that food insecurity
supports weight gain in children. On the contrary, when children are not able to access
food on a regular basis they suffer from hunger and display a low body weight.
Wilde and Peterman (2006) researched food insecurity in children using their
BMI. Much like this research, the BMI was used to categorize children into states of food
security and food insecurity. The results of the study found that children who lived in a
marginally food secure household showed a weight gain.
To begin their research Wilde and Peterman (2006) began with the notion that
weight change resulted in a change in food security status. Participants of their study
provided self-reported weight over a twelve month period. The weight was used to
determine the BMI of participants. From these results, persons whose BMI was less than
18.5 kg/m2 was categorized as underweight and those greater than or equal to 25 kg/m2
were overweight. Wilde and Peterman (2006) used the CDC criteria to place participants
into specific categories. Wilde and Peterman (2006) utilized self-reported weight in their
study. This researcher did not use self-reported weight however the weight obtained was
through a third party.
The research performed by Wilde and Peterman (2006) used a process that was
easily replicated. Wilde and Peterman’s (2006) research also resulted in similar results of
the current research. This correlation assisted in the results process.
All juvenile crimes continue to be a major issue in society due to the implications
of criminal actions continuing into adulthood (Fanjiang & Kleinman, 2007). Juvenile
crimes are also an ever growing issue in the United States (Alltucker et al., 2006).
Individuals, families, communities and society are impacted negatively by these crimes.
Juvenile delinquents present a menace both socially and economically. The costs
surrounding a delinquent, including arrest, incarceration and treatment, may reach the
millions of dollars (Alltucker et al., 2006).
The adolescent stage of a person’s life is the period in which many psychological,
social and biological factors are developing (Fagan & Piquero, 2007). This period also
serves as a time in which crimes and antisocial behavior are most often likely to occur
(Fagan & Piquero, 2007). Juveniles have an inability to control their actions and make
poor decisions regarding crimes.
Corresponding to the research presented, juveniles committed crimes from the
ages of 14 to 18 years. These crimes were both felonies and misdemeanors. The greatest
number of juveniles who committed crimes were aged 18 years (N=370). Nevertheless,
juveniles provided an adequate sample of the incarcerated population.
Interpretation of Findings
The research concluded that food insecurity does not play a role in misdemeanor
or felony crimes committed by juveniles. Hypothesis 1 stated, “A juvenile who commits
a misdemeanor crime will be deemed food secure.” Although this proved true for half of
the participants, it was not true for all of them. Inasmuch, this was not concluded with
Quite possibly, H1 was disproved due to a lack of full medical work up on the
participants. The use of their BMI provided several limitations that could have hindered
the true test of food security. As each juvenile’s food security status was captured in real
time, one may argue that a juvenile may have been in the beginning stages of suffering
from food insecurity, yet their BMI at the time they committed the crime placed them in
the food secure range.
Twenty eight participants reported a BMI less than 19.5 kg/m2 but greater than
18.5 kg/m2. Based on the CDC definition, persons with a BMI less than 18.5 kg/m2 are
defined as food insecure. The margin of 1.0 kg/m2 is not a large one. Without knowing if
the juvenile was in a food insecure environment leading up to their arrest, the lack of a
medical work up offers no support for H1.
The second hypothesis also disproved true. A possible explanation may have been
that the issue does not lie within the type of crime committed but in the act of committing
a crime of any kind. The results of this research proved that an equal number of juveniles
committed felony crimes and misdemeanor crimes. In addition, the results proved that
there was no difference in juveniles who were food secure versus those who were food
Hypothesis three stated, “Juveniles who are food insecure will represent the
greater number of juveniles who commit felony crimes.” A cause of this hypothesis being
disproved was the inability to interview the juveniles. Use of the USDA’s Household
Food Security Survey Module may have provided an insight to the lifestyle of the
juvenile. The amount of food they were consuming as well as how often it was consumed
could have excluded a juvenile from a specific food security category. Coupled with the
results from H1, the use of BMI alone to determine food insecurity may not have been the
most reliable method.
Implications for Social Change
As food insecurities cause behavioral, psychosocial and environmental issues, it is
necessary to attempt to prevent all occurrences. Ultimately, eradicating it would be an
ideal situation. Though food insecurities are not eliminated, they do decrease. If
participation in food assistance programs guarantee food security it may mandate policy
in the hopes of ensuring the number of food insecure children declines; in turn, providing
assurances that behavior may become better.
Between 50% and 60% percent of juveniles are incarcerated as repeat offenders.
They are usually admitted to the same juvenile detention center. Because some of the
detainees are repeat offenders, it is important to ensure that they are rehabilitated during
their first incarceration. This rehabilitation will include them improving their behavior to
acts that are positive within themselves and their communities.
The results of this research did not prove an association of food insecurity to
crime types. The data presented does however show that both felony and misdemeanor
crimes are being committed by juveniles. Prior literature confirmed that food insecurity
played a part in negative behavior. As such, there is a need to decrease the number of
Recommendations for Action
The research conducted showed that food insecurity did not play a factor in
misdemeanor or felony juvenile crimes. These results prompted two recommendations
from this researcher. As crimes could not be prevented based on providing juveniles with
a food secure environment, the recommendations are aimed at education and
Prior research has confirmed that food insecurity plays a role in negative behavior
(Cook et al., 2004). Although crime types may not be an issue, food insecurity should be
addressed relative to this behavior. Educational programs within adult and juvenile
detention centers should focus on providing the message that food insecurity does play a
part. Detention center administration and staff should attempt to obtain as much
information on newly incarcerated juveniles to determine their food security status, both
present and prior.
Understanding the complete state of the juvenile will provide detention center
staff with the ability to provide better rehabilitation processes. This rehabilitation should
include, proper diet, how and where to legally obtain food and information on how much
food should be provided. In addition, while a juvenile is incarcerated they should be
provided with an adequate daily food supply.
Recommendations for Further Study
There should be further research identifying the reasons juveniles commit felony
crimes. Those who commit a felony as a first time offender open the door to additional
questions. Although this current research used BMI as a factor in determining the crime
severity, further research could look at other risk factors relative to first time offenders
and felony crimes. Prior research confirms a link between food insecurity and negative
behavior (Cook et. al, 2004) therefore the use of BMI could be used in addition to other
Throughout this process, this researcher encountered challenges with gathering
data. Juveniles are a protected population. Some legal governing agencies of juvenile
delinquents stated the release of height, weight, and crime type, without the prior written
permission from the juvenile or their legal representative would be a violation of the
juveniles’ legal rights. Obtaining written consent from each juvenile would have been
outside the scope of time allotted to complete this research.
For further studies, this researcher would suggest implementing a survey
instrument in order to obtain additional data on each juvenile. Quantitative data coupled
with a qualitative analysis may provide data to support past hypotheses. This researcher
would also suggest ensuring the data process is performed over a series of months to
years in order to effectively gauge the food security environment of each juvenile.
Despite the methods used or the population of juveniles researched, it is
imperative that the topic of juveniles and crimes should not be ignored. More
importantly, this research should be ongoing. If a juvenile has not reached their
nineteenth birthday, there is still opportunity to rehabilitate them prior to adulthood.
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Appendix A: Sample BMI Growth Chart
Maple Tech International. (2013). BMI calculator retrieved August 5, 2013 from
Appendix B: Juvenile Demographics (N = 584)
Berneta D. Kent
Senior Clinical Research Associate
Powder Springs, GA, USA
Walden University, Minneapolis, MN
Doctor of Philosophy, Public Health Community Health Promotion and Education; 2013
Dissertation: Food Insecurity as a Factor in Felonious or Misdemeanor Juvenile Crimes
Armstrong Atlantic State University, Savannah, GA
Master of Science, Health Services Administration (cum laude); 2003
Master’s Thesis: A Comparison of Managerial Styles in the Healthcare Profession
Savannah State University, Savannah, GA
Bachelor of Science, Biology (cum laude); 2000
Bachelor Thesis: The Existence of a Male Menstrual Cycle
TEACHING AND RESEARCH INTERESTS
Clinical Research Methods
Juvenile Delinquent Behavior
ICON Clinical Research – Brentwood, TN
Sr. Clinical Research Associate (2012-Present)
Within various fields of clinical research, meet with physicians and healthcare staff to
convey procedures required for participation in clinical trials. Develop initial procedures
needed to successfully complete the research process. Create and deliver visual
presentations of study protocols. Continuously review progress of clinical trial
completion. Identify, select, initiate, and close-out appropriate investigational sites for
clinical studies. Monitor those sites in order to ensure that studies are carried out
according to the study protocol and applicable regulations. Become involved, when
required, in other areas of study management and staff training and contribute to the
review of ICON systems and procedures as appropriate. Provide a benchmark of
monitoring competence to inexperienced/less experienced colleagues.
Presenter – Cardiovascular Events in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes
INC Research – Raleigh, NC
Clinical Research Associate (2007-2012)
Completed project activities associated with monitoring functions of Phase I-IV clinical
research studies while developing mastery and a thorough understanding of the drug
development process, Good Clinical Practices (GCP), and relevant regulations. Provided
clinical and technical support for Clinical Research Associates (CRA) I and
administrative staff. Performed management of study site activities to ensure the
integrity of clinical data, in adherence to all applicable regulatory guidelines and
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Project Specific Operating Procedures.
Presenter – Relief from Onchyomycosis in the Toes
Presenter – Ventilator Associated Pneumonia in a Hospital Setting
Presenter – Bacterial Skin Infection
Presenter – Pediatric Intra-abdominal Infections
Presenter – Influenza in the Elderly
Presenter – Tuberous Sclerosis in Pediatric Patients
Presenter – Chronic Asthma in Adults
Presenter – Relief from Clostridium-difficile Associated Diarrhea
Georgetown University – Washington, DC
Clinical Research Assistant (2005-2007)
Within the department of Hematology / Oncology compiled results and data for over
twenty clinical trials. Worked closely with the Principal Investigator and Clinical
Research Nurse in the collection and entering of data utilizing appropriate databases and
forms. Confirmed eligibility and ineligibility requirements for possible subjects entering
research studies. Met with representatives from sponsor companies and cooperative
groups to relay new information. Maintained adverse event reporting. Tracked the
progress of subjects during the study and while in follow-up status. Adhered to standard
operating procedures and safety regulations as laid out by local and national governing
boards. Responsible for performing diagnostic testing. Scheduled laboratory, physical
examination and treatment appointments.
Principal Researcher, 2011-2013
Conducted a quantitative analysis to determine if there was a correlation between food
insecurity and negative behavior as it relates to juveniles and the crimes they have
committed. Directed an assessment of the relationship of the juvenile’s food security and
the crime type; whether felonious or a misdemeanor.
Armstrong Atlantic State University
Principal Researcher, 2002-2003
Performed a comparison of high level executives’ managerial styles as they related to
lower-level employees in the healthcare field. Sought to determine the overall
effectiveness of managerial styles based on employee performance.
Savannah State University
Principal Researcher, 1999-2000
Constructed measures and researched the presence of a monthly menstrual cycle in men.
Association of Clinical Research Professionals
American Public Health Association
English, Written and Verbal