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In recent years there has been a profusion of laws that punish parents for their children's offences. These parental responsibility laws are based on the assumption that parents of children who offend have not accepted their responsibility and that they can be made to do so by the imposition of court orders and financial penalties. In this article I will examine the efficacy of punishing parents for the crimes of their children. I will consider whether parental responsibility laws are an effective means of tackling youth crime; or should policies that strengthen the family and improve parenting skills be pursued as strategies for preventing juvenile offending behaviour.
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Arthur, R. (2005) Punishing Parents for the Crimes of their Children, Howard Journal
of Criminal Justice 44, 3, 233.
Punishing Parents for the Crimes of their Children
Raymond Arthur
In recent years there has been a profusion of laws that punish parents for
their children’s offences. These parental responsibility laws are based on the
assumption that parents of children who offend have not accepted their
responsibility and that they can be made to do so by the imposition of court
orders and financial penalties. In this paper I will examine the efficacy of
punishing parents for the crimes of their children. I will consider whether
parental responsibility laws are an effective means of tackling youth crime; or
should policies that strengthen the family and improve parenting skills be
pursued as strategies for preventing juvenile offending behaviour.
Keywords: Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, juvenile offending, penalising
parents, family support.
Dr Raymond Arthur
Lecturer in Law,
Centre for Law,
The Open University,
Walton Hall,
Milton Keynes MK7 6AA.
Tel: 01908 655893
Punishing Parents for the Crimes of their Children
In recent years there has been a profusion of laws that punish parents for
their children’s offences. These parental responsibility laws are based on the
assumption that parents of children who offend have not accepted their
responsibility and that they can be made to do so by the imposition of court
orders and financial penalties. In this paper I will examine the efficacy of
punishing parents for the crimes of their children. I will consider whether
parental responsibility laws are an effective means of tackling youth crime; or
should policies that strengthen the family and improve parenting skills be
pursued as strategies for preventing juvenile offending behaviour.
The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003, which received Royal Assent in
November 2003, is the latest instrument in the government‟s fight on youth crime. In
the White Paper which preceded the Anti-Social Behaviour Bill, Respect and
Responsibility (Home Office 2003), the government outlined what it believed to be
the causes of juvenile anti-social behaviour and the measures it intended to take to
combat the problem. Families and family life featured heavily as both a cause and a
solution to youth offending. The White Paper proposed that intervention and support
should be provided to families where their children‟s dysfunctional and delinquent
behaviour is ruining other people‟s lives and where families and parents are failing
to meet their responsibilities to their communities, we will work with them until they
do. Where people need our support, we must provide it (Home Office 2003: 5) Two
weeks after the White Paper was published, and with no consultation, the Anti-Social
Behaviour Bill was introduced and subsequently became law on the 21st November
2003. The Anti-Social Behaviour Act adopted a more punitive attitude towards the
families of juvenile offenders. Instead of providing families with support, the Act
serves to underline the government‟s intention to punish and penalise the parents of
persistent young offenders.
In this article I will examine the provisions of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act
2003, and other related legislation, that penalise parents for their children‟s behaviour.
I will consider evidence from over half a century of criminological research that
establishes that the focus of parental involvement in delinquency cases should be on
the treatment and rehabilitation of the child and on the parent‟s role in facilitating
their child‟s development rather than punishing parents. I will contend that legislation
that punishes parents for their children‟s offending not only disregards this
overwhelming criminological evidence but also flouts Britain‟s obligations under
domestic and international law. I will argue that these laws do not represent a serious
attempt to tackle the root causes of youth offending but instead merely reflect
successive governments‟ proclivity for talking tough on youth crime.
Parental Responsibility Laws in England and Wales
The parental responsibility provisions of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003
are not a new development; parental responsibility laws have been part of the
response to youth offending since the nineteenth century. In this section I will
examine the history of parental responsibility laws in England and Wales.
Enforcing Parental Responsibility for Juvenile Offending: pre-1990s
Enforcing parental responsibility for juvenile offending has been a
characteristic feature of the history of youth crime control since the nineteenth
century. The Youthful Offenders Act 1854 permitted the setting up of reformatory
schools by voluntary societies to contain and morally re-educate „deviant‟ children.
Under the Reformatory Schools Act 1884 children between 5 and 16 years of age
could be sent to reformatory school for up to two years and their parents could be
ordered to pay for their upkeep. The payment of maintenance was intended to enforce
parental responsibility. The establishment of industrial schools also ensured that
parents were required to contribute to the maintenance of their children. Children
found begging or who had no visible means of subsistence were deemed to be beyond
parental control and could be sent to an industrial school indefinitely, under the
Industrial Schools Act 1857. The burden of maintenance created an incentive for
parents to conform to the dominant middle class child-rearing practices (Muncie
1999a). Parental shortcomings were thus viewed as a fundamental cause of juvenile
offending behaviour and the state aimed to compel responsible behaviour on the part
of parents. The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 was the first Act to empower
the courts to require parents to pay the fines of a juvenile offender. The Criminal
Justice Act 1982 ordered parents to pay a juvenile offender‟s fines or compensation.
Accordingly, by the time of the Criminal Justice Act 1991 specific measures were
available which allowed for the imposition of financial penalties upon parents when
crimes were committed by their children.
The Criminal Justice Act 1991
In a White Paper published in February 1990 the government expressed its
intention to take further measures to enforce parents‟ responsibility for the criminal
acts of their children aged between 10 and 16 years (Home Office 1990). Originally it
wanted to make it a criminal offence for parents to “fail to prevent their children from
committing offences.” However this proposal was heavily criticised by, among others,
the Magistrates‟ Association and was subsequently dropped. The main criticisms were
that most delinquents1 came from families that were inadequate in some way and they
tended to live a chaotic lifestyle. Most young offenders lives are characterised by
economic and social disadvantage, family breakdown and a lack of a positive role
model such as an appropriate father figure. It was argued that resources could better
be diverted to helping such families through education and social work support. It was
further argued that the proposal was likely to be counter-productive in that it might
lead to the complete disintegration of already fragile family units (West 1982).
Despite these criticisms, the first law in England and Wales which held parents
directly responsible, as opposed to financially liable, was enshrined in the Criminal
Justice Act 1991. Section 58 of the 1991 Act requires a parent to accompany to court
any of their children, aged between 10 and 16 years and accused of a criminal
offence, and to pay any fine and/or costs. The most significant aspect of the 1991 Act
was the introduction of the parental „bind over‟. The parent could be „bound over‟ by
the court to exercise control over an offending child. Failure to meet the terms of the
bind over could result in a fine of £1000.2 This is the first time that parents have been
fined for their failure to control their children‟s behaviour. In relation to a young
person between 10 and 16 years of age, this power must be exercised where the court
is satisfied that it would be desirable in the interests of preventing the commission of
further offences by the offender.3 If the court is not satisfied that it would be
appropriate to impose a bind over on the parents of an offender under 16 years, it
must state openly why it is of this opinion.4 The rationale for this approach to juvenile
offending and parental responsibility was set out clearly by the then Minister of State
at the Home Office, John Patten, who described the families of young offenders as
families who:
could cope but simply chose not to…these are families which have failed not through
misfortune or misjudgement, but through wilful neglect by parents of their
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998
The Crime and Disorder Act 1998 built upon this principle of parental
responsibility by introducing the „parenting order‟ enabling the court to require the
parent of every convicted juvenile offender6 to attend parenting programmes and if
necessary to control the future behaviour of the juvenile in a specified manner. The
parenting programmes deal with issues such as experiences of parenting,
communication and negotiation skills, parenting style and the importance of
consistency, praise and rewards and can include a residential element.7 In effect, the
parenting order requires a parent to attend counselling or guidance sessions once a
week for a maximum of 12 weeks. Parents may also be required to apply control over
their child, for example they may be ordered to ensure their child attends school or
avoids associating with particular individuals who are adversely affecting their
behaviour. The court may impose a parenting order in the following circumstances:8
where a child safety order has been made in respect of a child;9 where an anti-social
behaviour order, or sex offender order, is made on a child or young person;10 where a
person is convicted of an offence under section 443 (failure to comply with a school
attendance order) or section 444 (failure to secure regular attendance at school of
registered pupil) of the Education Act 1996; or where a referral order has been
made.11 The relevant condition that has to be satisfied to justify making a parenting
order is that the order is desirable in the interests of preventing any repetition of the
kind of behaviour that led to the order being made and the prevention of further
offending by the child or young person. Should a parent fail to comply with the
requirements of the order they may be liable to a fine of up to £1000.
In 1997 the Home Office consultation paper Tackling Youth Crime first
detailed the underlying principle of the parenting order, which was to make parents
who wilfully neglected their responsibilities answerable to the court (Home Office
1997a: para. 32). This consultation paper was followed by the White Paper No More
Excuses: A New Approach to Tackling Youth Crime in England and Wales (Home
Office 1997b) which stated that the government intended to make parents more
responsible for their children‟s behaviour by making available sanctions for parents
who evade their responsibilities. When introducing the Crime and Disorder Act 1998
the then Home Secretary, Jack Straw, stated that the parenting order would help to
confront parents with their responsibilities and respond to the crime breeding „excuse
culture‟ which allows young people to continue wasting their own and wrecking
other people’s lives” (Straw 1998: 2). He envisaged that parenting orders would
provide a mechanism for coercing parents who are „unwilling‟ to address their child‟s
The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003
The Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 perpetuates the statutory assumption that
parents of children who offend have not accepted their responsibility and that they can
be made to do so by the imposition of court orders and financial penalties. Section
87(3) of the 2003 Act allows for the issuing of Fixed Penalty Notices to parents of
offenders between the ages of 10 and 16. The Anti-Social Behaviour Act also
increases the circumstances in which a parenting order can be made. Section 26
empowers Youth Offending Teams (YOTs) to apply to the courts for parenting orders
where the YOT suspects that the parent is not taking active steps to prevent the child‟s
anti-social or criminal type behaviour, and it is clear that this behaviour will continue.
Local education authorities will also be able to seek a parenting order where a child
has been excluded from school for serious misbehaviour.12 The Minister of State at
the Home Office, Baroness Scotland of Asthal, described the Anti-Social Behaviour
Act 2003 as a necessary tool in underlining the responsibility of parents to teach their
children the difference between right and wrong. She believed that where families are
reluctant or incapable to accept this role, the 2003 Act empowers the court to order
the parents to participate in an appropriate programme of support.13
The punitive ethos of the Reformatory Schools Act 1884, the Industrial
Schools Act 1857, the Children and Young Persons Act 1933, the Criminal Justice
Act 1982, the Criminal Justice Act 1991, the Crime and Disorder Act 1998 and the
Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 produces a powerful impact which tends to
undermine rather than reinforce the ability of parents to offer their children help and
guidance. The accusation is blunt All parents are to blame for the delinquent acts of
their children; and imposing financial penalties upon such parents is considered an
appropriate way to prevent youth offending. The parental responsibility laws ignore
the evidence that suggests a far more complex inter-relationship between parents,
their children and juvenile offending behaviour. A better understanding of offending
by young people is required in order to develop effective steps to reducing juvenile
offending. Therefore in the next section I will consider the association between
parenting and youth crime and assess whether penalising parents for the delinquent
acts of their children is an efficacious way of preventing youth offending and anti-
social behaviour.
Parenting and Youth Crime
Criminological research conducted over fifty years has clearly documented
many correlates of juvenile offending behaviour (Farrington 1996; Utting 1996; West
1982). Significantly throughout the literature, the family has been regarded as a major
influence in the presence or absence of youth offending. This research has shown that
the major contributing factors within the family to the development of criminal
propensities are to be found in the child rearing and parenting processes (Farrington
1996; Kolvin et al 1990). These explanations of youth crime suggest that the
relationship between parent and child is the causal mechanism that determines
whether tendencies towards anti-social and offending behaviour are inhibited or
allowed to develop. Weak relationships between parents and children, poor child
rearing skills, family discord, low family income, lack of interest in children‟s
activities or schooling and ineffective supervision are all related to „troublesome‟ and
subsequent offending behaviour. Involvement and interaction of parents with their
children and strong family bonding have the potential to protect children against the
development of anti-social and offending behaviour.
Every study of the personal and social experiences of known juvenile
offenders reveals that almost all of them have endured various kinds of abuse, neglect,
deprivation and misfortune (Arthur 2002, 2003, 2004). Juvenile offenders are far
more likely than the general population to have been in local authority care, to have
suffered family breakdown or loss, to be homeless or insecurely housed and to have
experienced child abuse. Neglect by parents, poor maternal and domestic care, family
conflict and the absence of a good relationship with either parent have all been shown
to increase the risk of behaviour problems and subsequent offending (Utting et al
1993; Yoshikawa 1994). Competent parents show high levels of warmth and support,
articulate standards for behaviour, monitor their children‟s behaviour and engage in
inductive reasoning and consistent discipline when infractions occur. Parents who rely
heavily on harsh punishment or who are erratic in their discipline are twice as likely
to have children who offend (Newson & Newson 1989). Parental monitoring of
children is also a key component of positive parenting, both as a predictor of
delinquency and as a protective measure as research has confirmed strong links
between poor parental supervision and juvenile convictions (Graham & Bowling
Poverty is another persistent feature in the lives of young offenders. The
aetiological linkages between economic deprivation and juvenile offending are well
established in academic criminology and are vividly evidenced in many seminal and
defining studies. For example, the Glueck‟s retrospective comparison of the
backgrounds of 500 delinquents and 500 non-delinquents found that 57.4% of the
families involved in their studies had been dealt with by numerous social welfare
agencies, largely economic relief organisations (Glueck & Glueck 1974). Similarly
Miller et al analysed the records of 63 children, mostly boys, who were convicted
before their 15th birthday and found a “clear excess of delinquent children from
families from lower social classes” (Miller et al 1974: 209). Wadsworth, in his
national sample, discovered that 4% of sons of „upper-middle‟ families had become
delinquent by age 21 compared with 21.9% of sons from „lower-manual‟ families
(Wadsworth 1979). These results show that delinquency, as indicated by criminal
records, is three times more common among the sons of unskilled manual workers
than those of professional and salaried workers. West, in the Cambridge study into
delinquent development, also found that family income was a key factor: 33.3% of
boys from low-income families became juvenile offenders compared with 16.7% of
boys from higher income families (West 1982). West concluded that future offenders
were more likely to have been part of a low income family, lived in run-down housing
and shown signs of neglect by their parents. Recidivists with two or more convictions
stood out even more starkly, 20% came from a background of low income compared
to just 5.5% among the rest.
Pursuing the lives of a more recent generation, the Child Health and Education
Study of over 13,000 British children born in 1970 has confirmed that antisocial
behaviour in pre-school children is consistently associated with social and economic
disadvantage (Osborn 1984). In the Newcastle 1,000 Family Study three generations
of families were studied over a thirty-year period (Kolvin et al 1990). The survey
began by investigating the health of 847 children born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne
during May and June 1947. The study was resumed in 1979 and included a
comparison between the backgrounds of children who later acquired a criminal record
and those who did not. The families were classified as „non-deprived‟, „deprived‟ and
„multiply deprived‟ using a variety of measures including parental illness, poor
housing, poor mothering and marital instability. The more deprived the family, the
more likely it was that their children would offend. By age 33, 18% of the non-
deprived children had been convicted of an offence, much less than the 49% of the
deprived and 66% of the multiply deprived. The findings showed that one in six
children living in more affluent districts became offenders compared to one in three in
the poorest neighbourhoods.
What emerges from the official crime figures and longitudinal research is that
children from low income, working class families are more likely to become juvenile
offenders than those from comfortable middle class homes (Bartol & Bartol 1998;
Heimker 1997). Economic hardship has a growing and devastating effect on families
and influences children through its impact upon parents‟ behaviour towards children.
For example the stress caused by poverty is believed to diminish parents capacity for
supportive and consistent parenting. Families living in poverty are often unable to
provide the necessary emotional support and stimulation critical to healthy child
development. Family incomes and poor housing can also lead to weaker parental
supervision and control (Tarling 1993). Thus economic and environmental factors
collaborate to make it more difficult to be an effective parent. Economic hardship,
even among parents living together and in rural areas, can contribute to parental
conflict and poor parenting and consequently to delinquency and other behavioural
problems among the children in these families (Conger 1992). Low income and lack
of full-time employment have also been shown to increase the likelihood of abuse by
parents. Also living in disadvantaged settings can lead to the belief that economic
survival through conventional channels is not possible (James 1995; Guerra et al
1995; Henry et al 1993).
The important conclusion from this analysis is that delinquency is found in
damaged, and damaging, families. The connection between the difficult family
circumstances which plague increasing numbers of children and their subsequent
offending behaviour cannot be ignored or denied. The family problems of young
people propel them into deviance and subsequently into expanding young offenders‟
institutions. The corollary of these findings is that children are less likely to offend if
their physical, emotional and social needs are met throughout childhood with
protection from all forms of neglect, abuse or exploitation. No assertion is being made
here that parents are to blame for behavioural problems such as juvenile offending
behaviour. Rather, the point being made is that many juvenile delinquents are victims
of deprived and depriving families and should be seen as under-socialised individuals
in need of help and assistance. Given the need to make families function better, the
obligation and objective of our society must be to develop and provide the
environment, the resources and the opportunities through which families can become
competent to deal with their own problems. The family should be assisted in guiding
and nurturing the child, through the provision of various resources and support
services which equip them to be good parents, reduces their isolation and promotes
the welfare of parents and their children. Parents who are bringing up their children in
difficult circumstances can be helped to improve their parenting skills and produce
better behaved, more trustworthy children who need less expensive supervision and
intervention later on. Adults who have practical and social support are in a better
position to become effective parents, than those who feel stressed, penalised and
alienated. Youth crime prevention policies and interventions therefore need to avoid a
narrow focus on the crime and take into account the family, social and contextual
factors that are frequently associated with juvenile offending. Accordingly juvenile
offending behaviour should be viewed less as a narrow breach of legal codes and
more in the wider context of a failure by the family and child to teach and learn,
respectively, proper conformity to lawful social order. The evidence from the
criminological research emphasises that policies that strengthen the family could be
effective as youth crime prevention strategies.
Laws that penalise parents for their children‟s behaviour ignore the complex
patterns and interrelated problems that such families invariably endure. These laws
cast parents as „failures‟ and confront them with the prospect of financial penalties.
The parental responsibility laws exacerbate the impact of risk factors in the lives of
youth at greatest risk of offending. The criminological research suggests that in many
cases where children are in trouble, the reality of parenthood undoubtedly involves
vulnerability and poverty, with many parents (especially mothers) living on state
benefits and experiencing housing problems. Thus the parents punished for „failing‟
are likely to be striving to hold their family together in the face of severe pressures.
Punishing parents for a perceived lack of responsibility on their part accelerates
family conflict and breakdown. For example these measures aggravate the poverty
that lies behind so much anti-social behaviour. Fining parents deprives not only the
child whose conduct triggered the court action but also any siblings of at least some
measure of the parents financial and personal support. Parental responsibility laws are
unlikely to ameliorate any of the damaging family conditions which induce young
people into offending behaviour, indeed these laws fail to address the underlying
problems and serve to deepen divisions and further alienate vulnerable families. They
lead to strains in families where relationships are already tense and fragile and they
convert parents and children into adversarial parties in the home.
Recognition of these adverse effects may explain why the courts have been
less than enthusiastic in imposing parenting orders, only 3106 parenting orders have
been made to date under the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.14 There also appears to be
a wide variation in the use of parenting orders by the courts. In some areas less than
10 orders were made between spring 1999 and the end of 2001 (Holdaway et al 2001;
Youth Justice Board 2001). The criteria for recommending an order appear to lack
consistency both within and between YOTs and in some areas they are not supported
by adequate resources (Audit Commission 2004). It is difficult to explain entirely the
small number of orders, but undoubtedly the reasons outlined above play an important
role. Evidence also suggests that the courts see a division of parents into the „willing‟
and the „not bothered‟, with the latter group being unlikely to respond to anything and
the former best treated via voluntary means.
This apathetic reaction of the courts to parenting orders suggests that the
parental responsibility provisions of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act are triggered more
by party political needs (Day Sclater 2000; Payne 2003; Muncie 1999b) and represent
a continuation of the government‟s commitment to penal populism and its stated
policy to „nip offending in the bud‟ (Home Office 1997b). The criminalization of
inadequate parenting also resonates with „new right‟ underclass theories popular in
the 1980s. The American social policy analyst Charles Murray argued that the state
welfare system was enabling young mothers to live independently of fathers and thus
increased the number of young people growing up without an appropriate male role
model. These young people consequently turn to drugs and crime (Murray 1984,
1990). Murray‟s solution to this was to advocate the removal of state benefits. In
Britain Dennis and Erdos (Dennis & Erdos 1992) expounded similar views. They
argued that juvenile crime was the inevitable result of the disintegration of the family
unit and the growth of „fatherless families‟. The tragic murder of James Bulger in
February 1993 buttressed this climate of blame and created an insistence that parent‟s
make more effort to control and discipline their children or face being held
accountable in courts. New Labour, with its focus on individual and parental
responsibility and its desire to cement its position on the law and order high ground
has continued this trend (Muncie 1999a).
Whilst some of the thinking underlying the parenting order is laudable (the
underlying recognition that poor parenting skills may contribute to delinquency),
there appears to have been too little thought given to the context of its delivery, the
idea of delivering „supportive‟ parental programmes in a punitive context is likely to
be alienating and counter-productive (Gelsthorpe & Morris 1999; Goldson &
Jamieson 2002). How much better if parents attended these courses voluntarily,
before the crisis? If young people are committing offences because their childhood
history includes abuse or neglect, poor parental supervision or a failure to equip them
with appropriate decision making skills, then it would be more appropriate to assist
the family in guiding and nurturing the child through the provision of various
resources and support services which reduces their isolation and promotes the welfare
of the family. Resources need to be targeted at tackling the established risk factors
rather than penalising parents. Such a view is consistent with Britain‟s obligations
under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other instruments
of international and domestic law, conversely penalising parents for their children‟s
offending behaviour is totally at variance with Britain‟s duties under international
conventions. In the next section I will examine the state‟s legal duty to provide
support and assistance to parents in their efforts to tackle the root causes of youth
The duty to support families: International Law
The preamble of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child
(UNCRC) recalls that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims
Childhood is entitled to special care and assistance”. In accordance with this ideal
Article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides for the right of every
child to “a standard of living adequate for physical, mental, spiritual, moral and
social development.” Article 18.2 of the UNCRC sets out the obligations of the state
to assist parents in raising their children: “…States Parties shall render appropriate
assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing
responsibilities and shall ensure the development of institutions, facilities and
services for the care of children.” The United Kingdom ratified the UNCRC in
December 1991, ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the
Child is a commitment binding in international law. Ratifying states are required, as a
matter of legal obligation, to protect Convention rights in their law and practice. Thus
in England and Wales the state has a conventional obligation to safeguard and
promote the general health and welfare of its youngest citizens up to their 18th
The principles and provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child are
informed by a number of more detailed Standards and Guidelines, for example the
United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice
(the Beijing Rules) 1985 and the United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of
Juvenile Delinquency (The Riyadh Guidelines) 1990. Although these instruments are
purely recommendatory and are non-binding in that they have no direct legal impact
upon either international or national legislative bodies, they serve to identify current
international thinking on human rights for juveniles and they represent the minimum
recommended standards on juvenile justice issues. The United Kingdom has
committed itself to aspire towards fulfilling all the obligations outlined in these
instruments.15 Article 1.2 of the Beijing Rules 1985 stresses the idea that the state
should ensure a productive life for young people within the community such as to
encourage in them a process of personal development and education “during that
period in life when she or he is most susceptible to deviant behaviour.”16 These rules
point to the important role that a constructive social policy for juveniles could play in
the prevention of youth offending. These broad fundamental perspectives refer to
comprehensive social policy in general and aim at promoting juvenile welfare to the
greatest possible extent, which will minimise the necessity of intervention by the
juvenile justice system, and in turn, will reduce the harm that may be caused by any
intervention. Such care measures for the young, before the onset of juvenile offending
behaviour, are basic policy requisites designed to obviate the need for the application
of the Rules.
The 1990 Riyadh Guidelines emphasise that policies should avoid
criminalising and penalising a child for behaviour that does not cause serious damage
to the development of the child or to others. The Riyadh Guidelines stress that the
successful prevention of juvenile delinquency requires efforts on the part of the entire
society to ensure the harmonious development of adolescents with respect for, and
promotion of, their personality from early childhood. By engaging in lawful, socially
useful activities and adopting a humanistic orientation towards society, young people
can develop non-criminogenic attitudes. The Riyadh Guidelines recommend that
policies and measures should involve the provision of opportunities to meet the
varying needs of young people and to serve as a supportive framework for
safeguarding the personal development of all young people, particularly those who are
demonstrably endangered or at social risk and are in need of special care and
protection. The Guidelines support preventive policies which facilitate the successful
socialisation and integration of all young people, in particular through the family.
Article 33 states that Communities should provide a wide range of community-
based support measures for young persons, including community development
centres, recreational facilities and services designed in view of the special problems
of children in a situation of social risk.”
At the 96th plenary meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations,17
Resolution 40/35 was adopted, which recognised that the prevention of juvenile crime
includes measures for the protection of juveniles who are abandoned, neglected,
abused and in marginal circumstances and in general those who are at social risk. It
was also acknowledged that one of the basic aims of the prevention of juvenile crime
is the provision of requisite assistance and a range of opportunities to meet the
varying needs of the young, especially those who are most likely to commit crime or
be exposed to crime, and to serve as a supportive framework to safeguard their proper
development. Member States were requested to study the situation of juveniles at
social risk and to examine the relevant policies and practices of prevention within the
context of socio-economic development and to adopt distinct measures and systems
appropriate to the welfare of juveniles at social risk.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the associated
Rules and Guidelines are not a part of UK national law therefore it is not possible to
bring a challenge in the UK courts where there are grounds for believing that the state
is violating Convention rights. This is not to say that the rights in the Convention are
totally without protection, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child
monitors how states are making progress in securing Convention rights for children
within their jurisdiction. The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child
has repeatedly recommended that the UK establish a system of juvenile justice that
fully integrates into its legislation, policies and practice the provisions and principles
of the Convention, the Beijing Rules and the Riyadh Guidelines (United Nations
Committee on the Rights of the Child, 2002). In particular the Committee on the
Rights of the Child recommended that the UK adopt the best interests of the child as a
paramount consideration in all legislation and policy affecting children throughout its
territory, most notably within the juvenile justice system. Furthermore, the Committee
recommended that there be a review of all orders introduced by the Crime and
Disorder Act 1998 in order to ensure their compatibility with the principles and
provisions of the Convention.
In addition to this wealth of UN material, the child‟s right to protection from
involvement in anti-social and offending behaviour can be found in instruments of the
Council of Europe. In 1987 Recommendation R(87)20, on social reactions to juvenile
delinquency, was adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
The Council of Europe recommended that each of the member states review their
legislation and practices in view of putting into practice a global policy of prevention
of maladjustment and delinquency. Similar to the various United Nations rules and
resolutions, this Recommendation places emphasis on the role of the family and
society in the treatment of young people. The exposé of the motives summarises this
orientation, “intervention with young people should, as far as is possible, take place in
the environment of the young person, with the family being assisted adequately in
order that it can contribute to the educational process.”18 Furthermore in 1996 the
Council of Europe adopted a European strategy for children urging member states to
fully implement the United Nations Convention as well as relevant European
Conventions to ensure children‟s rights.19 Although the recommendations of the
Council of Europe are not legally binding they are adopted unanimously and so carry
weight and indicate a common approach to policy and minimum standards (Van
Beuren 1992).
The philosophy that directs the general principles of the United Nations
Convention, Rules and Guidelines, as well as the other international conventions, is
essentially based on the protection of the personality of all young people below 18
years of age and on the mobilisation of existing resources within the community.
These instruments of international law emphasise the need for prevention policies and
interventions to avoid a narrow focus on the crime and to take into account the family,
social and contextual factors that are frequently associated with juvenile offending.
They promote the principle that in order to reduce the risk some children face of
becoming offenders, the best strategy is to promote positive life and family
experiences for all children, and not to penalise families. They recognise that
sometimes parents need extra support to give them the skills and confidence to
address their children‟s behaviour problems and that help should be provided to
families where they need it. This view concurs with the overwhelming criminological
evidence which explains offending behaviour by reference to the nature of the
negative family experiences of children. If juvenile offending behaviour is understood
as a phenomenon triggered by negative family factors working upon the innocent
individual, then a parentalistic rehabilitation approach might be favoured to correct
the problem. Parental responsibility laws contravene these instruments of international
law and the criminological research, rather than penalising parents the criminal justice
system should seek to help and support families. Instead of penalising families, the
state should strive to create the conditions in which families can flourish and all
children have the chance to succeed.
In England and Wales many of the tools needed for addressing the risk factors
which predispose young people to offending behaviour are in fact already in place.
Therefore it is not necessary to legislate in order to ensure that resources of the right
kind are available. The obligations of the state to assist families who need help in
bringing up their children are laid down in the Children Act 1989. The Children Act
1989 actively promotes strategies and activities that reduce the impact of risk factors,
and enhance the influence of protective factors, in the lives of young people and their
families. In the next section I will examine the role of the Children Act 1989 in
tackling youth offending.
The duty to support families: the Children Act 1989
The Children Act 1989 identifies a unique role for the state in helping families
to meet their responsibilities, and in providing support to children whose lives include
many of the circumstances that have been identified as risk factors for offending.
While acknowledging that prime responsibility for children‟s upbringing lies with
parents, the 1989 Act places a duty on local authorities to safeguard and promote the
welfare of children within their area who are in need and to provide services
specifically aimed at reducing the need for criminal proceedings against children and
encouraging children not to commit criminal offences.20 The 1989 Act places a duty
on local authorities to provide support and services aimed expressly at improving
parenting skills, supporting families under stress and discouraging juvenile
involvement in crime.21 The Children Act 1989 empowers local authorities to develop
a holistic preventive approach to youth crime by providing young people and their
families with a range of services, including: family support; access to play and leisure
opportunities; counselling; improvement of literacy skills and numeracy; engaging
young people in suitable education, training or employment; training parents in
effective child rearing methods; pre-school intellectual enrichment programmes;
reducing school non-attendance; positive opportunities for physical, emotional, social
and intellectual development in childhood; alcohol and drug programmes; the
provision of day care; promoting healthy and law-abiding living; increasing the
protective and resilience factors of siblings and children of those involved in crime;
providing access to accredited intervention and offending behaviour programmes;
providing families and young people with access to behaviour modification models
such as anger management and conflict resolution; and providing respite breaks and
family holidays (Department of Health 1991). All of these initiatives provide sound
foundations for developing youth offending preventive interventions as they pre-date
any formal contact with the criminal justice system; improve parenting skills,
children‟s physical and mental health; reduce the risk of child abuse; and reduce many
of the risk factors identified in the criminological research. Given that the overriding
philosophy of the 1989 Act is that children are best brought up by their families,22
these provisions appear to be a general encouragement to local authorities to offer
services to families which may be experiencing some of the difficulties examined
earlier in this article, so as to try to avoid the worst effects of family conflict and to
prevent children engaging in offending behaviour.
The Children Act 1989 also provides local authorities with a statutory mandate
to seek the assistance of: the youth justice system, youth offending teams, other local
authorities, the police, housing authorities, education authorities, voluntary
organisations and other bodies in seeking to fulfil their youth crime prevention
duties.23 Local authorities are lawfully obliged to make use of and enhance current
information sharing protocols, such as ACPC‟s and child protection conferences, in
order to develop systems which will ensure that young people who are at risk of
offending are effectively targeted. The legislation also encourages local authorities to
consolidate links with pre-offending panels and youth inclusion panels which have a
remit to identify young people who are most at risk of offending and in need of
services. These important provisions of the Children Act 1989 seek to ensure that the
various arms of the public service should cooperate with each other. This is an
extremely valuable power which could help to minimise damaging family factors and
thus prevent children engaging in offending behaviour. Furthermore in Re F; F v
Lambeth London Borough Council24 Munby J held that a local authority would be
acting unlawfully if it failed to ensure effective inter-agency co-operation in the
manner envisaged by the Children Act. Juvenile offending behaviour should therefore
trigger a multi-agency assessment and referral to the most appropriate service through
the provisions of the Children Act, rather than penalising families who are struggling
to cope.
Local authority duties are also informed and influenced by section 17(1) of the
Crime and Disorder Act 1998 which provides that it shall be the duty of each
authority to do all that it reasonably can to prevent crime and disorder in its area. This
principle is also reaffirmed in section 37 of the Crime and Disorder Act 1998, which
places all those carrying out functions in relation to the youth justice system under a
statutory duty to have regard to the new principal aim of preventing offending by
children and young people.25 It is intended that this aim should be achieved through
interventions which tackle the particular factors that put the young person at risk of
offending (Home Office et al 1998). Paragraph 4 of the „framework document‟ for the
Crime and Disorder Act 1998 explains the incorporation into statute of this aim, it
argues that the youth justice system has for “too long been seen to be separate from
wider youth crime prevention workand that the new statutory aim makes clear the
important link that there should be between the work of the youth justice system and
wider work to help prevent children and young people offending” (Home Office
1998). The Crime and Disorder Act places a statutory duty on all local authorities,
police forces, police authorities, health authorities and local probation committees to
work together in combating problems of crime and disorder in their locality,26 and to
ensure that all youth justice services are available in their area.27
Evidence suggests that encouraging parents to make use of social services and
providing families with the types of support examined above may reduce the levels of
risk factors associated with youth crime (Olds et al 1997; Welsh et al 2001).
Programs combining early family support and education, serving low-income families
and involving both a child-focussed educational component and a parent-focussed
informational and emotional support component represent a promising method of
preventing the early onset of chronic juvenile delinquency (Farrington 1996;
Yoshikawa 1994). These forms of support, as available under Part III of the Children
Act 1989, have the potential to achieve a long-term prevention of anti-social
behaviour and delinquency through their effect on multiple early risk factors such as
parenting quality and family income.
Parenting support was shown to reduce childhood anti-social behaviour in an
experiment conducted in London and Chichester. A randomised controlled trial
involving 141 children aged between 3 and 8 years and all displaying high levels of
aggression and other behavioural problems, found a large reduction in juvenile
antisocial behaviour among those whose parents took part in a parenting support
programme. The parenting support programme involved providing information and
support to parents to help them become more effective in raising their children; and
helping parents to learn family management skills including non-violent discipline
(Scott et al 2001; Patterson et al 1992). The authors of the Newcastle 1,000 Families
study observed that children from deprived backgrounds who avoided a criminal
record had tended to enjoy good parental care and supervision (Kolvin et al 1990).
Rutter and Giller made a comparable point in their exhaustive review of the literature
on juvenile crime (Rutter & Giller 1983). They noted that any statistical relationship
between economic status and juvenile crime in the Cambridge study disappeared once
the influence of poor parental supervision was taken into account. From another
longitudinal research project, the Oregon Youth Study which focussed on ten year old
boys using criminal records and self-report data, it emerged that the statistical
connection between socio-economic status and the children‟s early offending
behaviour was entirely mediated by family management practices (Capaldi &
Patterson 1991). In other words, offering parents‟ support and encouragement can
mediate the worst effects of economic pressures, and influence the behaviour of
parents and their children.
Pre-school programmes have also been shown to lead to decreases in juvenile
offending and anti-social behaviour, school failure and other undesirable outcomes.
One of the most successful and best-known delinquency prevention programmes has
been the Perry Preschool Programme carried out in Michigan (Smith & Stern 1997).
The project targeted 3 and 4 year old children in disadvantaged communities who
were allocated to control and experimental groups. The experimental children
attended a daily pre-school programme backed by weekly home visits for up to two
years. There was significant evidence that by age 19 the experimental group was less
likely to have been arrested and more likely to have graduated from high school
(Schweinhart et al 1993). These results become more compelling when viewed in the
context of ten other pre-school programmes followed up in the USA (Consortium for
Longitudinal Studies, 1983). With quite impressive consistency all studies show that
pre-school has long-term beneficial effects on school success and offending
behaviour; participating children exhibited fewer antisocial and negative behaviour
and showed more positive social behaviour (Webster-Stratton et al 1989). Research
also suggests that the influence of pre-school education in disadvantaged children
extends into adolescence and beyond, improving their chances of employment success
and decreasing the risks of delinquency (Sylva 1994).
The experience of local authorities in coordinating arrangements to protect
children from abuse and neglect, their extensive responsibilities in the youth justice
field, and their role in developing children‟s service plans makes them most suitable
to play a role in youth crime prevention. Local authorities provide a structure which
spans youth justice services, social services and child and family welfare services.
The Children Act 1989, and related legislation, provide local authorities with the
legislative framework needed to deter young people from becoming involved in crime
in accordance with Britain‟s international law obligations and the vast criminological
evidence concerning what works in preventing youth offending. Progress towards
implementation of the Children Act should progressively ameliorate the conditions
which coerce children into engaging in anti-social and offending behaviour by
reducing the impact of risk factors. How far the Children Act 1989 will fulfil this
preventive aspiration will only be determined by investigating the kind of policies and
programmes the local authority develop, the organisation and structure of individual
local authorities, and the delivery of services to families.
Unfortunately research findings expose local authorities as taking a less than
proactive approach in fulfilling the youth crime prevention role envisaged for them in
the Children Act 1989 (Aldgate & Tunstill 1995; Social Services Inspectorate 2002).
The evidence warns that the central philosophy and preventive principles of the
Children Act 1989, including youth crime prevention, are being undermined (Colton
et al 1995; Social Services Inspectorate 1999). While there exists pockets of effective
and innovative practice in local areas, the resourcing of preventive efforts simply does
not match the scale of the problem. At a macro level policy trends have served to
promote rather than reduce criminality. Youth work has found itself vulnerable to cuts
in local authority spending. Increases in family breakdown and child poverty have
coincided with reductions in the ability of local authorities to undertake preventive
social work. Thus overburdened local authorities are reluctant to take on the youth
crime prevention responsibilities of the Children Act. This reality makes it practically
impossible to carry out the necessary interventions to support and facilitate the family
strengthening philosophy of this article.
The central philosophy and preventive principles of the Children Act 1989 and
the related international law, including youth crime prevention, are being undermined
because the family support aspirations and provisions of the 1989 Act are being
implemented partially and not prioritised (Farmer & Owen 1995). Therefore the
problem is not a matter of law, but its implementation. The parental responsibility
laws which penalise parents for their children‟s anti-social and offending behaviour
are being used to fill this vacuum, despite the fact that these laws fail to acknowledge
the need for, let alone provide, a means to tackle the social and familial roots of youth
crime and disorder. The Home Office Minister Hazel Blears described the provisions
of the Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003 as essential for persuading parents to “face up
to their responsibilities for the good of their children and the benefit of the wider
community (Department for Education and Skills 2004). Education Minister Ivan
Lewis asserted that where parents are simply unwilling to fulfil their responsibilities,
it must be right that society demands legal sanctions.” These comments disregard the
evidence examined in this article which shows that the state as well as the offender
has some responsibility for juvenile crime; the state is failing to provide young
offenders and their families with the help they need; and therefore the state is failing
to fulfil their duties under domestic and international law. Given this evidence I
therefore posit that the state can justifiably punish young offenders for their crimes
only to the extent it has fulfilled its obligations to those young people as members of
society. Just as the state has not been slow to enlist and enforce the co-operation of
parents in the fight against youth crime, so families should now feel entirely justified
in demanding the full co-operation of the state.
If juvenile offending behaviour is to be seriously addressed, the value of
services for young people and their families should be recognised as an investment for
the future of the families involved and the community as a whole. Policy responses to
juvenile offending should no longer be predicated upon a conceptualisation of a
demonised, threatening and lawless youth (Goldson 1999), but instead should reflect
the research which proves that most young offenders have suffered a vulnerable,
abusive and disadvantaged childhood. If efforts were focussed on providing help to
troubled children, there should be less need for punishing children and families in
An effective youth crime reduction and prevention philosophy is one that
addresses the life experiences of children and in which prevention is promoted
through the collaborative and integrated activities of a range of services. Increasingly
punitive measures used to deal with young offenders and their families camouflage
the state‟s unwillingness to maintain a social infrastructure that provides parents with
the support, resources and services they need to care for their children. The parental
responsibility laws oversimplify the complex linkage between parenting and
delinquency in a reductionist effort to blame parents for their children‟s wrongs. If the
government is serious about tackling juvenile offending behaviour then rather than
penalising parents, resources must be allocated to intervene positively in young
people‟s lives to prevent them engaging in offending behaviour. The Children Act
1989 offers a means of providing a proactive programme of support for young
offenders and their families. The Children Act represents the linchpin for the
development of an effective and supportive multi-agency youth crime prevention
strategy. Where the Children Act fails is in the application, operation and
interpretation of legislative provisions. A progressive approach to youth crime
prevention is ultimately bound up with the pursual and adequate resourcing of the
Children Act. Such an approach should help to keep children and parents out of the
criminal justice system, an already overcrowded system where vulnerable and needy
families do not belong.
I would like to thank Prof. John Hatchard and Prof. Gary Slapper for their comments
on earlier drafts of this paper. However, opinions expressed herein, together with any
errors remain the responsibility of the author.
1 Delinquents and young offenders refer to young people aged between 10 and 16 years and convicted
of an offence.
2 The Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 extended this power to include parents having to
ensure their child‟s compliance with the requirements of a community sentence.
3 Section 150(1) Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000
4 Section 150(1)(a) Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000
5 Hansard, Vol. 149, col. 767
6 Any young person aged between 10 and 16 years and convicted of an offence.
7 Section 8(7A) Crime and Disorder Act 1998 as amended by section 18 Anti-Social Behaviour Act
8 Section 8(1) Crime and Disorder Act 1998
9 Under section 11 Crime and Disorder Act 1998
10 Under section 1 and section 2 Crime and Disorder Act 1998
11 Section 324 and Schedule 34(2)(3) Criminal Justice Act 2003. Part III of the Powers of Criminal
Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 provides that the referral order is to become the standard sentence
imposed by the Youth Courts, or other Magistrate Court, for all first time offenders under the age of
eighteen unless their offending is so serious that it warrants custody.
12 Section 20 Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003
13 Hansard 18 July 2003 Col 1092
14 per Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department, Bob Ainsworth, Hansard, 8th
May 2003, Col 102
15 The „Beijing Rules‟ have been approved by each of the members of the United Nations. In 1985 the
Beijing Rules were adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.
16 The United Nations Rules on the Administration of Juvenile Justice („Beijing Rules‟) 1985.
17 New York, 29th November 1985
18 Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 17 September 1987 at the 410th meeting of the Ministers‟
Deputies. This Recommendation was based on the work of a committee of experts from 17 European
Countries which met between 1983-1987.
19 Parliamentary Assembly of Europe, Recommendation 1286, 1996
20 Section 17 & Schedule 2 para 7 Children Act 1989
21 Schedule 2, paragraph 7(a)(ii) provides that every local authority shall take reasonable steps designed
to reduce the need to bring criminal proceeding against such children and paragraph 7(b) requires local
authorities to encourage children within their area not to commit criminal offences.
22 Section 17(1) Children Act 1989
23 Section 17(5) and Section 27 Children Act 1989
24 [2002] 1 FLR 217, para. 30
25 Crime and Disorder Act 1998, Section 37(1): “It shall be the principal aim of the youth justice
system to prevent offending by children and young people”. Section 37(2): “In addition to any other
duty to which they are subject, it shall be the duty of all persons and bodies carrying out functions in
relation to the youth justice system to have regard to that aim.
26 Section 5 Crime and Disorder Act 1998
27 Section 38 Crime and Disorder Act 1998
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... Both Carlen, Gleeson and Wardhaugh (1992) and Arthur (2005) ' (1992, p.25). They also argue that families are placed in 'a double bind' by English legislation, whereby 'on the one hand it requires parents to ensure their children's attendance at school while, on the other, paradoxically, it provides the child with legal protection from its parents' (1992, p.26). ...
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School attendance problems (SAPs) have been framed in terms of ‘truancy’, ‘school phobia’, ‘school refusal’, ‘school withdrawal’ and a range of similar terms. This variation reflects the heterogeneity of both SAPs (Kearney et al., 2019), and the varied backgrounds of practitioners conducting SAPs research (Birioukov, 2016). This longstanding discourse suggests the behaviour of absentee children is deviant or neurotic, and their parents are in some way deficient, failing, or neglectful (Southwell, 2006; Donoghue, 2011). However, this fails to address the experiences of parents who actively seek to resolve SAPs, and perceive a child is unable to attend for reasons of anxiety and distress, possibly in relation to school- based influences (e.g., Mind, 2021; Ditch the Label, 2020). These aspects of SAPs have received scant attention in the literature. Therefore, to understand this phenomenon better, this study set out to investigate the perspectives and experiences of parents in this situation. Email-based interviews were conducted with forty members of a social media- based support group for parents seeking support for their children’s SAPs. Thematic Analysis of data led to the concept of ‘Parents Journeys’ through SAPs, setting out an overview of common experiences. This indicated how social and systemic responses to SAPs act as barriers that prevent or hinder parents’ ability to comply with their legal duty to ensure children access an education (section 7, Education Act 1996). It was noted that a tension exists where parents who participated in this study have a shared understanding of SAPs which validates their experiences, yet this is at odds with the shared reality and understanding of school staff and other professionals. Recent research highlights the importance of holistic assessment of individual circumstances to better understand the influence of school and wider systemic factors upon cases of SAPs (e.g., Melvin et al. 2019). In this study an adapted version of Bronfenbrenner’s Bioecological Model (1979, 1998, 2005) conceptualised the social and systemic complexity of the SAPs context from the parental viewpoint. This adapted model offers a new way to understand how the successful resolution of SAPs will require multi-level changes in school attendance related discourse, practice, and policy.
... Consequently, this highlights the strength of romance scam perpetrators in gaining acceptance and support of their social network for their illicit acts. On the other hand, there are considerable implications of this finding on social control, as findings do not only imply the weakening of parental authority in checking children's deviant behaviours (Arthur 2005;Condry 2007;Fancy 2019), but also children's influence on parents' deviance. ...
Techniques of neutralization have largely been used to explain the triadic relationship between cybercrimes, offenders and victims, while the possible involvement of the offenders’ social networks as accomplices has been ignored. Interviewing parents, a qualitative study of their children’s romance scam involvement was conducted in Nigeria, exploring the parents’ disposition towards their children’s delinquent behaviour. In all, 52 interviews were conducted, and a thematic analysis of the narratives was carried out. Findings indicated that parents’ initial opposition to cybercrimes and support for enforcing laws against perpetrators changed towards accepting their children’s involvement in romance fraud. Parents adopted their children’s neutralization techniques in accepting their deviance. These findings have important implications in understanding the depth of Internet scams and parents’ social expectations in controlling their children’s behaviours.
... Actually, it is more accurate to say that it is the absence of certain parenting behaviours that is believed to be crucial for offending; i.e., parents of offenders are found lacking, or have failed. An extreme response is the proposition of punishment of parents for the crimes of their children (Arthur, 2005;Bessant & Hil, 1998). ...
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This conceptual paper utilises Situational Action Theory, the adolescence and parenting literatures, and a parental monitoring and crime use-case, to emphasise two separate but inter-related and co-existing distinctions i) between parenting behaviours that guide and control (behaviour distinction), and ii) between parenting behaviours that influence developmental and behavioural outcomes (goal distinction); and intersect these distinctions to identify four kinds of parental influence. The specificity of distinctions and their intersection are rarely made explicit in parenting research, resulting in concepts, design, analysis, and conclusions which conflate various parenting features and processes. This paper goes right back to basics and contributes to clarity in the conceptual foundations of parental influence on adolescent development and behaviour. By facilitating conceptual clarity and detailed specification of mechanisms, this paper under-labours to support the future development of better models of parental influence. In turn, this can underpin strong empirical research into the causes of adolescent behaviour that has the most utility for effective policy.
... Formal punishments for criminal acts can extend to significant others. The legal system can hold parents responsible for severe wrongdoing of their kin (Arthur, 2005;Brank and Lane, 2008;DiFonzo, 2001;Gueta, 2017). Legal punishment for parents of children who commit offences is an extreme formal consequence of a child's criminal behaviour, but families may be affected in other ways. ...
The detriment of incarceration experienced by the formerly incarcerated has been increasingly explored in the literature on reentry. A tangential but equally concerning issue that has recently received more research attention is the effect on family members of the incarcerated. The stigma of a criminal conviction is most apparent among families of convicted sex offenders, who experience consequences parallel to those of their convicted relative. Drawing from interviews with 30 individuals with a family member incarcerated for a sex offence in the United States, this study explores manifestations of stigma due to familial association. The findings suggest that families face negative treatment from social networks and criminal justice officials, engage in self-blame and that the media’s control over the narrative exacerbates family members’ experiences. Given the pervasiveness of criminal justice system contact, the rapid growth of the sex offender registry in the United States, and the millions of family members peripherally affected by one or both, justice system reforms are needed to ensure that family members are shielded from the harms of incarceration and registration.
The juvenile justice system is made up of public and private agencies that have some responsibility for the care and supervision of children who have committed offenses that would be defined as criminal acts if these offenses were committed by an adult, or who have committed offenses that apply only to children, such as running away from home or being incorrigible with parents or school administrators, which are considered as offenses if the person committing the act is in an age category the statutes of the state the person resides in defines as child or juvenile.The Juvenile justice system also protects youth who have not engaged in any behavior considered deviant but who are in need of care and assistance because their parents or guardians are either incapable of or unwilling to provide the care (food, clothing, shelter, supervision) the child needs.The juvenile justice system that emerged in the early part of the twentieth century in the United States, while considered unique to the United States, has its roots in English Common Law. Traditional standards for determining if a child had the mental ability to distinguish between “right and wrong,” the parens-patriae doctrine, and institutions for treating children, such as the houses of refuge, have their roots in the common law.The mission, goals, and methods used to achieve the goals, both legal and service oriented, adapted by the components of the juvenile justice system used to respond to those youth who are in violation of the laws or who are in need of care and supervision have changed considerably since the creation of the juvenile courts in early part of the twentieth century. The system has changed and adapted to the demands brought about by changes in the societies in which the systems operate. The traits and skills of the personnel and administrators of the agencies that constitute the system have also changed.KeywordsJuvenile justice systemJuvenile delinquencyStatus offender Parens patriae Juvenile courtChild-savers movementCommon lawJuvenile justice administration
This article explores the current parenting culture, particularly the promotion of competitive and excessive parenting, as an important background issue against which the debates around pre-natal testing take place. It offers an alternative vision of parenting, relying on care ethics, which sees parenting as a relationship, rather than a job. A relationship that should change a parent's understanding of what is valuable in life. Parenting should not be about moulding the 'perfect child' but being open to being profoundly changed. The parent-child with a disability relationship offers particular opportunities to find new meanings and values in life. This analysis is offered as another dimension to the debates over pre-natal testing. It is not intended as an argument against such testing, but rather raises concerns about some of the broader attitudes around it.
School psychologists have been involved with developing and installing individual contingencies designed to remedy individual students' academic deficits. Group‐oriented contingencies can be applied to broader efforts designed to prevent learning problems class‐wide. Independent group‐oriented rewards are frequently used in school settings to enhance learning by rewarding strong academic performance (e.g., reward for each student who maintains a 90% average). Research suggests overreliance on these contingencies may not be educationally equitable because they may be less effective or ineffective in influencing the behavior and learning of students with weaker academic skills. Theoretical and applied research is analyzed which suggests that maintaining ubiquitous independent rewards and providing supplemental interdependent group‐oriented bonus rewards may allow educators to a) maintain their academic standards, b) enhance educational equity by improving learning in students who may not respond to typical independent group‐oriented rewards, and c) enhance classroom climates. Also, recommendations are provided that may allow educators to mitigate concerns over perceived unfairness associated with interdependent group‐oriented rewards. Students with weaker academic skills may not meet the high academic standards required to earn rewards. Applying supplemental interdependent group‐oriented rewards can enhance the performance of those with weaker skills. Supplemental interdependent group‐oriented rewards also can enhance the performance of those with strong academic skills. Students with weaker academic skills may not meet the high academic standards required to earn rewards. Applying supplemental interdependent group‐oriented rewards can enhance the performance of those with weaker skills. Supplemental interdependent group‐oriented rewards also can enhance the performance of those with strong academic skills.
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The USA does not have a consistent age of majority for criminal responsibility in its justice systems. This article examines empirical evidence regarding benefits and drawbacks of serving youth younger than 20 in the adult criminal justice system and provides a case example of Vermont, the first state to raise the age to 20. A review of the effects of serving youth in juvenile versus criminal courts published between January 2000 and December 2019 was conducted, as well as an examination of current state laws regarding the age of responsibility. The review produced six overarching themes—parent/family involvement, recidivism and education, developmentally appropriate service provision, the impact of a criminal record, institutional and community safety, and cost-effectiveness. These themes and the case example from Vermont support legislating a consistent age of juvenile jurisdiction at 20 years old. Raising the age is congruent with the social work value of social justice and the Grand Challenge to Achieve Equal Opportunity and Justice. Moreover, given the recent reauthorization of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (P.L. 115-385), there is strong bipartisan support for juvenile justice reform. Social workers are uniquely positioned to change policy practice to improve equity and the lives of youth, their families, and communities, by raising the national age in juvenile justice to 20 years old.
This study examined 3 factors that were hypothesized to increase risk for aggression among urban children: economic disadvantage, stressful events, and individual beliefs. Participants were 1,935 African American, Hispanic, and White elementary-school boys and girls assessed over a 2-year period. The relation between individual poverty and aggression was only significant for the White children, with significant interactions between individual and community poverty for the other 2 ethnic groups. With a linear structural model to predict aggression from the stress and beliefs variables, individual poverty predicted stress for African American children and predicted beliefs supporting aggression for Hispanic children. For all ethnic groups, both stress and beliefs contributed significantly to the synchronous prediction of aggression, and for the Hispanic children, the longitudinal predictions were also significant. The findings are discussed in terms of their implications for preventive interventions in multiethnic, inner-city communities.
This article examines the theoretical links between socioeconomic status and violent delinquency. The arguments draw on work on social structure and personality and learning theories of crime and delinquency. Hypotheses derived from the resulting explanation are tested using covariance structure models and panel data from a national sample of males. Consistent with these arguments, the results show that violent delinquency is a product of learning definitions favorable to violence, which itself is determined directly and indirectly by association with aggressive peers, socioeconomic status, parenting practices, and prior violent delinquency. The article concludes that explanations of violent adolescent behavior must take into account the joint contributions of social stratification and culture.
This article traces the recent changes which have occurred in the international law on the administration of juvenile justice and examines the consequences for Europe in the light of European human rights case law and new United Nations instruments. The author's conclusion is that in order to bring European juvenile justice systems into line with the new United Nations' approaches the Council of Europe needs to adopt its own regional rules regulating Child justice.
On 1 June 2000 a new court order was implemented in England and Wales. The Parenting Order provided for the extension of state intervention (primarily through youth justice agencies) into ‘family life’. We have recently completed research with regard to youth justice parenting initiatives, and during the course of our research, our interest in, and concern with, the broader question of ‘parenting’, ‘parental responsibility’ and the ‘parenting deficit’ consolidated. This article sets out our principal concerns by locating the new statutory powers within their wider context. By tracing their historical antecedents, theoretical foundations and policy expressions we aim to critique the latest developments in state intervention. Similarly, by analysing the material circumstances of the parents who are targeted by such intervention, and reviewing the means by which children, young people and parents conceive such intervention, we argue that the new powers essentially comprise an extension of punitiveness underpinned by stigmatising and pathologising constructions of working class families.
After a year of frenetic activity New Labour's Crime and Disorder Act slipped quietly into the statute book on the last day before parliament's summer recess in 1998. Heralded as a radical shake up of criminal justice and youth justice, the major provisions of the Act are examined in this article and its likely impact on the treatment of young people is critically assessed. It does so by tracing how far the rhetoric of crime prevention represents a radical new departure or a continuation of the former government's commitment to penal populism. By unearthing the key foundational elements in Labour's agenda—authoritarianism, communitarianism, remoralization, managerialism—the article notes the significant presences and absences that are likely to be witnessed in youth justice in England and Wales by the turn of the century.
Recent longitudinal research employing complex measurement and analytic strategies has generated new, more intricate conceptualizations of the relationship between family life and delinquency, all of which have important implications for intervention with delinquents and their families. This critical review of the current research on the role of the family, its implications for family-based interventions with delinquents, and the existing treatment outcome research highlights four areas: the link between different family processes and delinquency, reciprocal relationships between parenting and delinquency, the effects of family context on parenting and delinquency, and the family as one cause of delinquency among many.