Juvenile delinquency is defined as illegal acts committed by youngsters under the age of 18, especially for juveniles who grow up in low-income families and living in urban areas. Low income and juvenile delinquency is a popular theory and has always been linked in studies (Farnworth, 1984). Juveniles are usually classified as poor if they live with parent(s) or guardian whose yearly income is below the official poverty threshold. It has also been proven that children are more likely to live in poverty than adults, and that children around the ages of 6 – 11 are at risk of engaging in criminal behavior. Although children living with higher income are also reported to have committed crimes as well, researchers have proven that the crime rate is not as high as children living in low-income families (SecureTeen, 2014). According to the National Center for Children in Poverty (2008), an average family of four who live on a yearly income of $21, 200 would rank below average for the federal income level. Studies have shown that youngsters develop well in families of higher income, whereas juvenile delinquency is shown to have a connection with children who grow up in low-income households. Because yearly income of a family is associated with certain parental characteristics such as employment status, marital status, and age, it is hard to detach the source of the outcome of a youth. Reports have also shown that twenty percent of youths are charged with a crime, which is more than the youths with middle to higher income (18 to 21 percent) (Kent, 2009). According to the Census Bureau, 29 juveniles who grow up in low-income households are less likely to earn their high school diplomas, in comparison to the 13 percent of juveniles with middle-high income who don’t earn their diplomas (Gately, 2014). Parents who are poor are usually depressed and are not in good health, emotionally and physically. They may even start to behave less firmly towards their children. Because poor parents are always out and struggling to get money, they start to spend less time with their children, making their children feel neglected (Duncan, 1997). While some poor parents do make money, they may not be able to afford important necessities for their children and the household (food, toys, clothes, books, etc.). Teenagers who live in low-income households usually feel ostracized from their peers, and may join any delinquent groups in order to boost their self-esteem and improve their reputation. They may even try to distance themselves from their family due to embarrassment of the yearly income their parents or guardians make, and even resort to drastic measures to earn income for themselves, such as stealing and drug dealing (World Youth Report, 2003 The Global Situation of Young People, 2004).
The purpose of this study is to test and measure the importance of low income with juvenile delinquency. Juvenile delinquency is a serious issue in this society, and learning more about different causes, such as low income, would help find solutions to the problem. It will also help prevent the problem as well. The results will be presented in two ways. First, the population (the juveniles) will be tested. The income will range from the lowest ($10, 000) to the highest (100,000). The results of this examination will show how low income and the delinquent behavior of juveniles are linked. The second thing in this study that will be tested will be the unit of analysis (the race, class, age, gender, neighborhood, and personal experiences of the juveniles). By examining these groups separately, the results will signify the degree to which negative outcomes are concentrated in low-income families.
To date, a few journals and literature have been written about problems of juveniles who live in low-income families who become juvenile delinquents when they become older. The journal “Low-Income Families With Potential Adolescent Gang Involvement: A Structural Community Family Therapy Integration Model” by Sharde N. MacNeil addresses the issue of children who come from low-income households getting involved with gang activity. It also discusses structural family therapy, a type of therapy that emerged from working with families that deal with stress related to their low-income. Another approach that has been addressed for families who struggle with low income is community family therapy. This approach emerged due to needed assistance for low-income urban families that were at risk for mental and physical health problems. The journal “Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry” addressed the issue of juvenile delinquency by publishing a study conducted by college student W. Alex Mason. Surveys were passed to an estimated amount of 800 youngsters from low-income families. The ages ranged from 10 to 25 years old. The participants were asked to complete closed-ended questionnaires regarding involvement in delinquent behavior, sexual activity, and alcohol consumption. They were also asked about these things as well. The results from the questionnaires reported that the juveniles from low income families were more likely to start engaging in sexual behavior at the age of 11 and that the juveniles aged 10 and higher were at risk of having a history of delinquent behavior than juveniles who grew up in middle-high income families. Another literature, “Consequences of Growing Up Poor,” addresses the consequences of children growing up in low-income households. Many studies are conducted by ecologists and psychologists, when they visit schools to suburban areas and pass out surveys with open-ended questions about the risks of growing up in a low-income household. The book also examines if factors such as single-parent homes, broken marriages, and neglect contribute to the bad outcomes of being raised in a low-income household.
There are huge racial and ethnic differences in the amount of juveniles living in lower class families. According to the US Census Bureau, Asians and White juveniles have the lowest poverty rate at around 13 percent, ranking lower than average for the US. Black children, along with other race groups, have the highest poverty rate, ranking around 38.2 percent. It also shows that 35 percent of African American juveniles live in low-income households (Alexander, 2010). The majority of people who were in poverty were either immigrants, because they are more likely to live in low income households than children who were born in the United States. In the early 1900s, prisons were full of individuals that were poverty stricken, and they were mostly immigrants (Wight, V., Chau, M., & Arataki, Y, 2010). Results show that consequences of growing up in low-income families are more emphasized for ethnic and racial minorities. Apart from living in low-income households, there are many other sociodemographic factors (such as living in a single parent household) that increase the risk for delinquent behaviors, especially for African – Americans (O’Donnell, P., Richards, M., Pearce, S., & Romero, E., 2011). Poverty rates for juveniles who grow up in single-family households are the highest because the employment rates are low for single parents, especially single mothers (Duncan, 1997). This is because the single parent may not have a high school diploma that is required for a job. It has also been proven that low-income and minority juveniles who get arrested and sent to juvenile justice are disproportionately affected. Because they come from a low-income household, they are more vulnerable to contacts with law enforcement. Also, their parents or guardian may not be able to afford legal representation for their children. African – American juveniles whose parents or guardians who have low income usually get lawyers who are poor at defending their clients. White juveniles who have been arrested and sent to juvenile justice are more likely to retain private lawyers.
Two other characteristics, age and gender, have also been noted in the research for juvenile delinquency being associated with growing up in low-income households. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, one in seven females who grow up in low-income households are more likely to become pregnant and have a child by the age of 18, in comparison to the 2 percent from middle-income families and 1 percent from high-income families (Gately, 2014). Despite this, delinquent behaviors from females are proven to be more likely to be influenced by surroundings, rather than their upbringing and income. Young females who live in poverty are more likely to find deviant ways to earn money, such as prostitution (World Youth Report, 2003 The Global Situation of Young People, 2004). For young males, their delinquent behavior is proven to be influenced by the amount of income their parents or guardian earn and also their upbringing (O’Donnell, P., Richards, M., Pearce, S., & Romero, E., 2011). Young males are not likely to be raised with minimal parental supervision, and are more likely to spend a lot time with their friends in order to seek patterns of masculinity, due to the absence of a father figure and living in a low-income households (Farnworth, 1984).
Another contributing factor which is noted in the research for low-income and juvenile delinquency is the residence of the juveniles. Families that are poor are more likely to live in a neighborhood with other families that are poor. Studies have also shown that states in the south rank the highest when it comes to negative outcomes in low-income families (Mather, 2006). . Most juveniles who grow up in low-income families and engage in delinquent behavior are usually located in urban neighborhoods. Neighborhood poverty is studied as an environmental threat to the social and mental well-being of a child. While poverty-stricken neighborhoods are proven to increase the risks of a bad outcome for juveniles, not all children who are born in risky neighborhoods react the same as juvenile delinquents do. Some children from low-income families do well, because they want to make sure they do not grow up in the same predicament their parents are in. Also, few children who come from wealthy households end up having hardships.
The data that is used in this research were collected from a part of a study “Gender Differences in Monitoring and Deviant Peers as Predictors of Delinquent Behavior Among Low-Income Urban African American Youth, 2011.” This project was created in order to analyze the effects of young males and females growing up in low-income African-American households (O’Donnell, Richards, Pearce and Romero, 2011).
A sample of 204 African -American children (40% boys and 60% girls, who were sixth graders) and their families were selected from six public schools in Chicago. The schools were selected because they were located around the cities that had the highest crime rates in Chicago. The students were all eligible to participate, and they were given a choice on whether they wanted to participate or not. The participants were from low-income households, with the median salary ranging from $10,000 to 20,000. The estimated number of family members per household were 5. Only 83% of the parents held a high school diploma, while 31% were unemployed.
The data on this project was collected a year apart, on two separate occasions, and over a week. During the assessment period that took a week to complete, colleagues completed a series of measurements and participated in respective interviews. Research personnel’s distributed these measures at each primary school that participated. The ESM collected additional data. For a week, participants in the study wore watches that were designed made a noise at random times. Participants were trained for at least 40 weeks before the week of paging. In order to not cause interruptions, colleagues were only signaled 51 times throughout the week, and they each had the same schedule. Participants were told to complete a brief self-report form in an ESM booklet any time there was a signal. The form only took two minutes to complete. The questions the students were asked collected information regarding their activities during the signal. The research staff had to visit the school every day to assist colleagues on the questionnaires to insure that they were completed correctly. The average response to signals were 42%, which was an 82% completion rate.
The juveniles were given self-reported measurements which evaluated their parents’ awareness of their daily lives (independent variable). Colleges were asked to rate their parents’ awareness of some of their activities on a 3 point scale (1 = unaware, 2 – know a little, 3 – completely aware). The total of the answers were used as a total score for monitoring of the juvenile’s behavior. At time #1, the measure added up to .74, and added up to .80 at time #2. The numbers are coded so that the scores are linked with the levels of monitoring. The ESM data was also included in order to create a list of experiences of adult supervision.
Peer deviance (dependent variable) was also accessed through adolescent self-reports. The questionnaires asked participants to rank the number of friends and/or associates they had on a 3 point scale (0 = none, 1 = very little, 2 = some, 3 = a lot) who engaged in deviant behavior. The total created a cumulative scores of .81 at time #1 and .86 at time #2.
Delinquent behavior (dependent variable) of the juveniles were also measured. The juveniles were to complete a Juvenile Delinquency Scale. The scale measured behaviors from minor (tobacco use, skipping school) to illegal behavior (theft, property damage, and drug use). They used a scale that ranged from 0 (never) to 5 (always). Colleagues were also asked to list the amount of times they engaged in the behavior. The sum of the scores were used as a list of child report of delinquent behavior (.89 for Time #1 and .88 for Time #2).
The colleagues with Time #1 data were excluded from the final report and analysis. Independent samples “t” tests analyzed the retention sample of participants (the ones with both Time 1 and Time 2 data accessible; n = 147) with the attrition sample (i.e., the ones with only Time 1 data accessible; n = 57) using the four following Time 1 measures: (1) juvenile report of monitoring from parents, (2) ESM report of monitoring, (3) juvenile report of deviant behavior from peers, and (4) report of juvenile delinquency. The attrition sample did not differ significantly from the retention sample on Time 1 levels of monitoring. However, significant differences existed between the two groups’ ESM reports of monitoring, with the attrition sample showing higher levels at Time 1. Furthermore, adolescents in the attrition sample reported significantly higher levels of peer deviance and delinquent behavior.