Family Crime And Violence Essay Samples
Crime and violence are forms of deviant behaviors that often exhibit themselves among family members. Social theorists have for a long time conducted studies on how the nature of the family environment influences the behavior of its members. It has often been shown that children who are raised in families who are intact have less likelihood of displaying or engaging in delinquent behavior. Delinquency has been found to be significantly higher in households that are not characterized by two biological parents. However, it is not simply the presence or absence of two biological parents that influences children behavior. There are several other factors that have to be taken into consideration.
The social learning theory provides an exemplary model that can be sued to explain family crime and violence. This theory assumes that children in the family are not inherently good or bad but that they acquire antisocial and prosocial tendencies based on their environment (Families and Crime, 2014). According to Ron Akers, who is the main proponent of this theory, differences in people’ associations results in differences in learning. In a family setting, children learn from their association with the immediate members of the family through modeling and operant reinforcement (Families and Crime, 2014). In many cases, children who engage in delinquent behavior such as crime and violence learn attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that favor such behavior.
The Patterson coercion model also provides an explanation for delinquent behavior such as crime and violence in families. According to this model, the development of delinquent behavior in children commences with an explosive and irritable parent who constantly engages in “negative scanning” of the child’s behavior leading to unprovoked criticism. This then causes the child to respond or react angrily and defiantly simply because they feel that they are being mistreated. Aversive exchanges reinforce the antisocial behavior of the child, and the child fails to learn prosocial and problems behaviors that involves compromise and sharing (Families and Crime, 2014). Alternatively, they learn to use defiance and anger as a means of solving their problems, and this is why these children end up becoming violent.
In many studies, the main emphasis has been on peer influence and its effect on delinquency. This has often led to an underestimation of the impact of family or parental influence. This aspect is brought out by Haynie and Osgood (2005, p. 1124) who argue that overestimating peer delinquency effects in past research has often resulted in the underestimation of other factors. The authors conducted a study whereby they controlled for peer delinquency and found that this did not produce any kind of reduction in the delinquency effects of age as well as parental attachment (Haynie and Osgood, 2005, p. 1124).
Reinforcement is observed to be particularly very powerful in family settings when it comes to delinquent behavior. Positive reinforcement occurs when a value accrues following an action (Simons, Simons and Wallace, 2004, p.38). This means that something is added after a situation involving a certain behavior has occurred, and this increases the likelihood that a similar behavior will recur if similar circumstances are encountered. An example is when a child is nagging a mother, and the mother gives in because she is busy and gives the child a popsicle. This reinforces this behavior of nagging in the child. Negative reinforcement in the opposite of positive of reinforcement and involves the removal or termination of something in a situation involving a certain behavior. Children are likely to repeat behavior that results in the removal of unwanted events or circumstances (Simons, Simons and Wallace, 2004, p. 39). If a child lies or profusely apologizes after beating up a sibling or stealing and hiding something, and the mother adopts a conciliatory tone and demeanor and becomes less angry, this increases the likelihood of the child engaging in similar behavior in the future and using the apology or lies to get out of trouble. This obviously reinforces delinquent behavior and crime, and the child is likely to exhibit such behavior even in the future.
Therefore, the family environment significantly influences the behavior of members including engagement in delinquent behavior such as crime and violence. The question that arises, therefore, is; how can the family environment be adjusted to ensure that it does reinforce delinquent behaviors? Perhaps another question of grave interest is; is it possible for children who are brought up in family environments that reinforce delinquent behavior to grow up to straight people who are not deviant? If it is possible, how can this be explained?
Haynie, D. L., & Osgood, D. W. (2005). Reconsidering peers and delinquency: How do peers matter? Social Forces, 84(2), 1109-1130.
Simons, R.L., Simons, L.G., and Wallace, L.E. (2004). Families, Delinquency, and Crime: Linking Society’s Most Basic Institution to Antisocial Behavior. Los Angeles, CA: Roxbury. (ISBN 1- 931719-30-6).
Families and Crime (CCJ 4931). 2014.
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