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Effects of Parenting, Father Absence, and Affiliation with Delinquent Peers on Delinquent Behavior among African-American Male Adolescents

Article excerpt

Delinquent behavior by African-American male adolescents is of special concern to society due to their overrepresentation in juvenile detention centers and adult prisons, morbidity and mortality statistics, and reports of academic underachievement (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2000; National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2000; National Center for Health Statistics [NCHS], 2000; Snyder & Sickmund, 1999). In 1997, African-American adolescents represented about 15% of the total U.S. adolescent population, but they represented 41% of juvenile delinquency cases involving detention and 52% of juvenile delinquency cases judicially waived to criminal court (Snyder & Sickmund, 1999). In 1998, 47% of homicide victims in the 15.- to 19-year-old age group were African-American males (NCHS, 2000). The high rate of violence-related mortality is consistent with self-reports of violent behavior by African-American male students. In 1999, 44% of African-American male high school students reporte d that they had been in a physical fight in the past 12 months and 23% reported carrying a weapon (gun, knife, or club) at least once in the past 30 days (CDO, 2000). High rates of delinquent behavior on school property also have been reported by African-American male high school students (CDC, 2000), which has adversely affected their relationships with peers and teachers, led to a disproportionately high frequency of disciplinary actions, and contributed to persistent academic underachievement (Gibbs et al., 1988; NCES, 2000; Taylor, 1991). For these reasons, understanding and preventing delinquent behavior among African-American male adolescents must be a priority.

Parenting

Research and theory suggest that parenting is an important determinant of delinquent behavior among adolescents in general (Baumrind, 1991; Hirschi, 1969; Jackson, Henriksen, & Foshee, 1998; Jessor & Jessor, 1977), and among young African-American males in particular (Mincy, 1994). Poor parental supervision and monitoring, harsh and! or inconsistent disciplinary practices, infrequent parent-adolescent communication, and poor parent-adolescent relations have been shown to be associated with higher levels of delinquency and aggression among adolescents in general (e.g., Clark & Shields, 1997; Mason et al., 1994; Patterson & Stouthamer-Loeber, 1984). However, relatively few studies have investigated the effects of these aspects of parenting specifically among African-American male adolescents (e.g., Cernkovich & Giordano, 1987; Griffin et al., 1999; McLoyd et al., 1994; Paschall, Ennett, & Flewelling, 1996).

Cernkovich and Giordano (1987) compared the effects of parental control and supervision to intimate parent-adolescent communication and relations and found parent control and supervision to be more strongly (and inversely) associated with delinquent behavior in a sample of African-American male 12- to 19-year-olds. Similarly, Griffin et al. (1999) found parental monitoring to be more strongly (and inversely) associated with substance use and delinquent behavior than parent-adolescent communication in a sample of African-American male adolescents; parent-adolescent communication was positively associated with delinquent behavior in their sample. In a study focusing on violent behavior by male adolescents, Paschall, Ennett, and Flewelling (1996) found no relationship between attachment to parents and violent behavior among African-American males. Thus, several studies focusing on African-American male adolescents (Cernkovich & Giordano, 1987; Griffin et al., 1999; Paschall, Ennett, & Flewelling, 1996) found no evidence for protective effects of parent-adolescent relations, as reflected in measures of attachment and communication, on delinquent behavior. However, due to the limited number of studies that have focused on young African-American males, it is difficult to draw definitive conclusions about which aspects of parenting are most important as deterrents of delinquent behavior. …