Involvement in Crime and Delinquency – How do behavioral problems in childhood relate to later life involvement in crime and delinquency?


Involvement in Crime and Delinquency – How do behavioral problems in childhood relate to later life involvement in crime and delinquency?

Over the past few decades, research on development delinquent behavior and child development has shown that individual, social and community conditions together with the interactions of children influences their behavior (Farrington & Coid,2003).Some of the factors that have an effect on the behavior of children include the following:

Individual competencies, capabilities and characteristics

Some of behaviors can be observed in children in their first year of life such as: complying with the instructions that a mother gives, not touching some objects that a child is not supposed to touch and the duration of attention to a toy. These behaviors can help in predicting whether a child can misbehave or not in their early stages of life. However, it can be challenging to predict their behaviors later in life from such traits although Thornberry (2018) explains that aggressive behavior is one of the dimensions that remain stable. The trend of aggressiveness can be seen from childhood to adulthood. Delinquent behavior can be predicted by social behavior features such as physical aggression (Walsh & Beaver, 2009). These behaviors can be manifested in most children between the end of first year and second years and by 24 to 36 months physical aggression can be peak although relatively minor. By the time children join kindergarten they may have learnt other means of being aggressive in getting what they want and solving conflicts. In some cases, children are at high risk of failing in school, being rejected by their peers and they can also be involved in delinquency. A study by Forrest & Edwards (2015) show that children who are more at risk of delinquent behavior are those who tend to be impulsive, fearless and have difficulty delaying gratification while those who are behaviorally inhibited such as being anxious and shy are less at risk of delinquent behavior. According to Garbarino & Plantz (2017), delinquents have a lower school achievement as well as lower verbal IQ compared with non-delinquents.

Family influences (family structure)

One aspect of family structure that has historically received a great deal as being a risk factor for delinquency is children who grow up in a family that has experienced either divorce or separation. Although some studies such as Pardini et al. (2015) have a found a relationship between broken homes and delinquency, there is still a debate regarding the association. For instance, Sarwar (2016) carried out a longitudinal study that shows that there is an increased level of behavioral disturbance and a high level of conduct disorder in children of divorcing parents prior to the divorce. In this regard, antisocial personality of parents and disruptive parenting practices are some of the effects of divorce and remarriage. Therefore, it is likely that family conflicts before the separation or divorce could be the main reason for increased risk of delinquency that children in broken homes experience as opposed to even the family breakup itself (Chen, 2016). In a longitudinal study carried out by Stuewig et al. (2015) the findings show children who are born and raised in families that have single parents tend to have high rates of antisocial behavior and delinquency. In some cases, economic conditions rather than the composition of a family can lead to high rate of delinquency among children.

Children in single parent families have high chances of being exposed to factors that lead to criminal activities such as having frequent changes in their father figure. Single parents may find it hard to supervise their children since in most cases they have to work hard to support their families and themselves. As such, lack of proper supervision can result to high rates of delinquency among children (Walsh & Beaver, 2009).

Peer influences

Children who are involved with deviant peers since their childhood tend to have antisocial behaviors which can have a direct effect on subsequent delinquency other than prior delinquency.  Nisar et al. (2015) explain that adolescent antisocial behavior is associated with factors such as time spent with peers, peer approval of deviant behavior and allegiance or attachment to peers among others. The rates of delinquency among peers increase if the adolescent peers believe that their delinquent behavior is approved by their deviant peers and it they spend so much such peers among others factors.

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There is a strong association of peer influence to delinquency in the family conflict context. For instance, when adolescents do not respect their parents, their antisocial behavior is influenced and it leads to increased antisocial affiliations (Farrington & Coid, 2003). In most cases, children become involved with deviant peers prior to becoming delinquent themselves. Thornberry (2018) argues that the influence of parents has an effect on how children can be influenced by their peers. In most cases, children who have less interaction with their parents tend to experience a great peer influence. Associating with delinquent peers does not only lead to delinquent behavior but it also leads to committing crimes among the peers.  There is a likelihood of deviant peers always supporting one another as they carry put their deviant activities. It is advisable for people who intervene to give serious attention to the groups which have been among peers in schools or home setting and are said to be involved in delinquent activities.

Using your answer to the first part of this question as a springboard, explain why early intervention programs are so critical to the prevention of antisocial behaviors

Early intervention programs are very vital in prevention of antisocial behaviors and crime in general. Anti social behavior in a child is influenced by the delinquent behavior of a child in most cases (Walsh & Beaver, 2009). Additionally, research reveals that single parenthood, parents’ history of convictions, poverty and some parents being very young could be some of the factors that could be associated with anti social behaviors and delinquent behavior among children in their later lives. Since risk factors that lead to antisocial behavior and delinquency later in children’s’ lives are known, it is necessary to have early interventions. These intervention programs can be used to divert individuals from being offenders. In America, studies involving early childhood interventions have indicated that programs whose assessments have been tend to have a favorable impact on early interventions. Some intervention programs such as parenting programs aid in enhancing interactions between children and their parents. Forrest & Edwards (2015) assert that parents who have children who are antisocial in most cases tend to be deficient in their child rearing methods. These parents may not have told their children how to behave; they may not have monitored their children’s behavior and may not have had proper rules on how their children should behave. Training parents on different methods of child rearing is an essential aspect of intervening. Moreover, peer programs can aid in teaching children early enough on how they can resist peer pressure by being aware on their friends’ behavior. Youths who are less associated with delinquent peers tend to feel less peer pressure to be involved in delinquent behaviors. Additionally, school programs are critical forms of intervention since children are not taught at home on how to avoid ant social behaviors but they are also taught at school.

Explain in detail the risk-factor approach to intervention/prevention efforts. What are the pros to using the risk factor approach? What are the cons to using the risk factor approach?

The risk factor approach are aspects of individuals or the environment as well as life experiences that make it more or less likely that individuals will develop a give problem or achieve a desired outcome. Risk and preventive factors can be considered as both sides of the same coin. Garbarino & Plantz (2017) explains that for instance a family with an alcoholism history can be considered as a risk factor for becoming an alcoholic. In another scenario, when someone grows in a family that parents had frank conversations with their children about alcohol and set an example themselves may be a considered a preventive factor. When the risk factors are at a high rate, the more likely it is for individuals to experience adverse outcomes of development, education and health.

Some of the features associated with the behavior of children such as temperament are developed during the early years of their lives. This foundation together with the exposure of children to certain risk and protective factors has an influence on the possibility of children becoming delinquent at an early age. Nevertheless, it can be difficult to identify the risk and preventive factors although there are no specific solutions that exist to prevent or correct child delinquency. However, when developing interventions to prevent child delinquency from escalating to high criminal activities, identification of risk and protective factors is essential. In this regard, there are advantages and disadvantages associated with using risk factors approach.

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Individual risk factors

The behavior of children is as a result of social, environmental and genetic factors. In regards to child delinquency, physical, cognitive, emotional and genetic characteristics can be defined as the individual risks and protective factors. The interrelation of these factors aids in coming up with protective factors. As such, the risk factor approach can aid in the prevention of delinquent behaviors. Some of the individual factors are: low intelligence, hyperactivity, early antisocial behavior and poor cognitive development among others.

Antisocial behavior

The risk factor approach aids in identifying the early antisocial behavior which can be used in predicting delinquent behaviors in future. Some of the antisocial behaviors include aggression such as vandalism and theft as well as forms of oppositional rule violation. Pardini et al. (2015) explain that having early aggression is one of the main characteristics of social behaviors that can be used in predicting delinquent behavior among children. Physical aggression can be a predictor of being involved in crimes in future while prosocial behavior such as sharing, helping and cooperation can be a preventive factor mostly for those with risk factors for committing property crimes and being violent.


This in most cases occurs together with other risk factors in the family that are associated with early-onset offending.  When one focuses on the association between children’s aggression and physical abuse, it is found that most of the children who have been abused have delinquent behaviors prior to reaching adulthood (Sarwar, 2016).  Most of the children who have been neglected or abused in most cases end up having delinquent behaviors in their adulthood. Neglected or abused children tend to begin delinquent behaviors in their early ages. Overall, these elements can aid in early interventions among children in order to avoid cases of delinquency in their adulthood.

Peer Risk Factors

Chen (2016) opines that being involved with in deviant peers is associated with aspects of increased joining gangs, co-offending and various crime cases. Since studies show that most of the juvenile delinquents tend to be found with co-offenders, empirical evidence supports the theory that juvenile offending is as a result of deviant peer associations. However, there questions can be raised as to whether associating with deviant peers is just a manifestation of a child predisposition to delinquency. In other words, does “bad company corrupt” or do “birds of the same feather flock together”? Nevertheless, Stuewig et al. (2015) opines that deviant friends have an influence on non delinquent juveniles to become delinquent. Juveniles who already have some history of delinquent behavior are influenced by deviant peers to increase the frequency or severity of their offending.


The risk factor approach is a promising aspect that aids in understanding the delinquency among children in their later lives. There is a need for various risk factors that are needed in regards to delinquency. However, the risk factor approach can be associated with some problems. Walsh & Beaver (2009) argues that defining and identifying risk and protective factors is challenging. This is in terms of choosing interventions based on the indentified risks, establishing the causes, as well as in the evaluation of area based and multiple component interventions. Additionally, the approach can be challenging in terms of assessing the cost effectiveness and the overall effectiveness of the components of interventions.

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A question can also be raised as to whether a given risk factor can be changed when developing delinquency prevention programs. For instance some studies have indicated that increased levels of delinquency may be as a result of low socioeconomic status. Although, it may be hard to change socioeconomic conditions and as a way of offsetting the risk, programs may seek to increase certain protective factors. Nevertheless, some risk factors are more amenable to be amended. For instance, programs that teach parenting skills and provide family support services can address issues to do with poor parenting (Nisar et al., 2015). Preventing delinquency can be complicated and there are no specific solutions for the prevention. The use of risk factor approach aids in determining the children or youths who are likely to have delinquent behaviors.

Additionally, the approach can be used in trying to tailor prevention programs that offer unique needs of the individual youths and communities. However, these programs do not necessarily mean that the children or youth will not be involved in delinquent behaviors. In other words, the risk factor approach does not have a clear solution on how the delinquent behavior of the children can be prevented. Instead, it provides individuals with only certain risk factors that can be used in predicting the behavior of children as they grow up.


Chen, X. (2016). Childhood onset of behavioral problems and violent victimization among serious juvenile offenders: A longitudinal study. Youth violence and juvenile justice14(3), 243-256.

Farrington, D. P., & Coid, J. W. (Eds.). (2003). Early prevention of adult antisocial behaviour. Cambridge University Press.

Forrest, W., & Edwards, B. (2015). Early onset of crime and delinquency among Australian children. Annual statistical report 2014131.

Garbarino, J., & Plantz, M. C. (2017). Child abuse and juvenile delinquency: What are the links?. In Troubled youth, troubled families (pp. 27-40). Routledge.

Nisar, M., Ullah, S., Ali, M., & Alam, S. (2015). Juvenile delinquency: The Influence of family, peer and economic factors on juvenile delinquents. Applied Science Reports9(1), 37-48.

Pardini, D. A., Waller, R., & Hawes, S. W. (2015). 13 Familial Influences on the Development of Serious Conduct Problems and Delinquency. In The development of criminal and antisocial behavior (pp. 201-220). Springer, Cham.

Sarwar, S. (2016). Influence of parenting style on children’s behaviour. Journal of Education and Educational Development3(2).

Stuewig, J., Tangney, J. P., Kendall, S., Folk, J. B., Meyer, C. R., & Dearing, R. L. (2015). Children’s proneness to shame and guilt predict risky and illegal behaviors in young adulthood. Child Psychiatry & Human Development46(2), 217-227.

Thornberry, T. (Ed.). (2018). Developmental theories of crime and delinquency. Routledge.

Walsh, A., & Beaver, K. M. (2009). Biosocial criminology. In Handbook on crime and deviance (pp. 79-101). Springer, New York, NY.

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