Does Family Background Play A Role In Children Committing Crime?

Does Family Background Play A Role In Children Committing Crime?

‘… but in my experience there aren’t many evil people around. Just ill-informed, misguided and ignorant ones.’                                  

-Billion Dollar Brain by Len Deighton

When we hear that a crime has been committed the first thing that comes to our mind is “why”. Why would someone deliberately hurt no less, murder someone? What goes around their mind? What is their motivation? These are some of the questions which pop up first in our minds. We all know that  nobody in this world is born thinking they’ll hurt or kill someone else, a person is shaped with the influence of his parents, their upbringing, environment. Many researchers, policy makers and practitioners have discovered that one of the many reasons why people end up being criminals is because of their unhealthy or disturbing family background. Experts have developed a multitude of theoretical models and analyses linking family’s environment and structure to delinquency which later results in criminality. Criminologists suggest that a child who grows up in a dysfunctional family is more prone to lean towards aggressive and antisocial behavior. Their upbringing has been different from the others as they may not be taught how to control unacceptable behaviour or aggression. It is also possible that the child was not adequately supervised and brought up. These are some of the reasons of why the child is not able to socially adjust with the rest of the children of their age, moreover their inability to constrain their behaviour within acceptable boundaries gives others the more reason to avoid them.

Parental presence and control are very important for a child while growing up. We all know how children imitate their parents behaviour, habits and actions, it is very much likely that the child would lean towards delinquent behaviour if they see their parents involved in criminal activities. Parents are responsible for setting up standards for what is “normal” and what is not for the child, if they themselves make criminal and illegal activities common in their house, why would people be surprised if the kids end up in the same situation as their parents? Movies can give a great perspective at this particular scenario. ‘Godfather’ series being one of the most famous crime series can be taken as a great example. The mafia life and it’s work gets carried on through generations, not even a single successor could evade this lifestyle. Cillian Murphy’s ‘Peaky Blinders’ gives us another stance on how not only the adults but the children are also indulged in all the criminal and illegal activities that the family runs. Their behaviours, mindset and actions now replicates their parents and adults around them which makes it difficult for them to escape the environment even if they wanted to. Low level of parental control promotes delinquency behaviour. Even if the parental control is present , it is either too lenient or ineffective which results in development of delinquency in the kids. Lastly, antisocial behavior of parents , including the degree to which deviant methods of meeting goals are acceptable, seems to be a strong indicator of delinquent behaviour in young family members.

The tendency to commit crime isn’t something that happens overnight, it develops in stages associated with major psychological as well as sociological factors. These factors involve the normal process of growing up and are not caused by race or poverty. It involves absence of love, affection, dedication of both of the parents, the child’s needs and his ability to belong can be hampered. There are a few stages which a person goes through. The early infancy and the development of the capacity of empathy, it helps the child to imbibe a sense of co-operation agreements conveying a sense of community where he belongs. The second stage is mid-childhood and the experience of growing capacity to learn and co-operate within his community. Third, Adolescence and the need to belong as an adult and to be able to perform. If any of this phase is obstructed, it could very well lead to criminal behaviour of the child in future.  In all the above mentioned stages, lack of dedication and the rejection and conflict results in lessening the child’s chance to experience love, dedication, feeling of belongingness in his personal life. Instead of this, he/she might be used to rejection, conflict, isolation, abandonment or worse abuse. To compensate for the feeling of acceptance, the youngling is often attracted to the  people with similar kind experiences. Therefore, in the absence of acceptance and nurturance from adults, they end up conveying their own kind of acceptance. 

It is often believed that single parenthood would produce more delinquencies than the household where both the parents are present. There are possibly two reasons why people think that. According to sociologists, Matsueda and Heimer (1987), single parents are not able to supervise their children effectively because there is only one parent instead of two to look over the child. Because of this less supervision, it is inevitable that they would get involved with the wrong crowd. Dornbusch (1985) suggested a different view to this, specific to single mothers. He says that single mothers give more autonomy to the children which in turn reduces control over the child. Fatherless families where the mother is not able to provide basic affection and attention results in domestic violence, fights and inadequate child supervision. The child is unable to understand what is happening to him/her and isn’t able to pave through these difficulties alone without their parents or any caring adult figure in their lives. Further when they enter into their school lives, they are rejected and isolated by the people and students around them. This closes the only option they would have to escape the toxic environment they have at home. Without any options left the children are forced into the life of hardships. They tend to engage themselves with wrong influences like participating in gangs, illegal activities. There are various other reasons why children tend to be attracted to crime. A child would want any company that could comfort and accept him, and for that they will be willing to go to any extent. Peer pressure would be the final push for the person to enter the ugly side of the world and eventually they’ll get used to this. This cycle would then continue for their own kids and further. Sometimes, people tend to leave their criminal life behind when they receive the genuine acceptance, comfort and understanding level from a different person. We are all familiar with John Wick right? Yes that guy with a dog and his Ford Mustang. The movie depicts how he left the life of the underworld when he met his wife. A change in life is possible if the person is able to achieve happiness  and is able to go towards the right path in his own will.

About the Author

Fiza Abbas

I recently completed my honours degree in Social Sciences and Humanities from Ambedkar University Delhi. Here, an o

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