The Impact of Parental Attachment and Supervision on Fear of Crime among Adolescent Males
May, David C., Vartanian, Lesa Rae, Virgo, Keri, Adolescence
Despite recent reports that the crime rate has decreased, even among juveniles (Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2000), the general public has the impression that violence is rampant. Until very recently, the study of fear of criminal victimization, and the subsequent discussion of causes of this fear, had been limited to adults (see Hale, 1996). However, there has been an effort to expand fear of crime research to adolescent populations (May, 2001; May & Dunaway, 2000a, 2000b). This initial work suggests that though adolescent and adult fear of crime share many of the same predictors, there are still some significant differences as to which factors contribute to fear of crime. This is particularly true in the areas of race and class, which appear to predict fear of criminal victimization in a much more consistent way among adults than among adolescents (May, 2001).
This exploration of correlates of fear of crime among adolescents has opened several new and potentially interesting avenues of study. For example, May and Dunaway (2000a) have examined interactions among fear of crime, gender, and race, while May (2001) has examined the specific relationship between fear of sexual victimization and fear of nonsexual victimizations. Further, May and Dunaway (2000b), in an exploratory analysis that attempted to provide specific theoretical explanations of adolescent fear of crime, have demonstrated that components of two theoretical explanations of delinquency appear to predict fear of crime as well, although in somewhat different ways than for delinquency. The findings from their research suggest that those youth who perceive their opportunities as blocked are more fearful of crime (key component of strain theory), while those whose friends demonstrate less deviant attitudes are more fearful of crime than their counterparts (a key component of differential association theory , although in the opposite direction).
Using a sample of 318 adolescent males incarcerated by the Department of Corrections from a Midwestern state, the present study borrows further from the fields of delinquency theory and developmental psychology to assess the relationship between adolescent fear of crime and two known insulators from delinquency: parental attachment and parental supervision.
Despite over thirty years of research on fear of criminal victimization among adults (see Ferraro, 1995, and Hale, 1996, for reviews), research in the area of fear of crime among adolescents is relatively new. Since adolescents are more likely to be victimized by violent crime than are any other group (Rennison, 2000), this fact is particularly interesting in that research among adults suggests that fear of crime is heightened when individuals perceive themselves as more vulnerable and likely to be victimized. It follows that if adolescents accurately perceive themselves at greater risk of criminal victimization, it is possible that they may be even more fearful of crime than are their adult counterparts (Ferraro, 1995; Parker, 1988).
Using a small, urban, and racially homogeneous sample, Parker and Onyekwuluje (1992) determined that although the directions of the relationships between fear of crime and gender, income status, and education were the same as those found in adult samples, none of those demographic variables had a statistically significant effect on fear of crime among adolescents. The lack of statistical significance may have been due, at least in part, to the small sample size and a lack of variation on some key causal variables. Nevertheless, May and Dunaway (2000a), using a larger, more heterogeneous sample, replicated Parker and Onyekwuluje's (1992) finding that the relationships between fear of crime and demographic variables were not the same for adolescents as they were for adults. May (2001) and May and Dunaway (2000a) further determined that the only demographic characteristic found to have a statistically significant association with fear of crime was gender, and this effect was specified by race. May and Dunaway (2000a) also observed that youth who perceived their neighborhoods as being disorderly and perceived themselves to be at risk of victimization were more fearful of crime--a finding consistent with the literature on adult fear of crime (Hale, 1996).
Using the same data as described in the previously reviewed study, May and Dunaway (2000b) then began an exploration of the theoretical predictors of fear of criminal victimization. After controlling for demographic and contextual predictors of fear of criminal victimization, they determined that both perceived blocked opportunity and peer attitudes toward nonconformist activity directly predicted fear of criminal victimization. Youth who perceive their opportunities as blocked, as well as those youth whose peers have conformist attitudes, were determined to be more fearful of criminal victimization than were their counterparts.
While the studies cited make significant contributions to the literature, there are still many areas of adolescent fear of crime that need to be explored. As May and Dunaway (2000b) highlight, only one of those studies has offered a specific theoretical explanation for fear of crime. In fact, the entire field of fear of crime has been relatively void of theoretical models. Thus, this study attempts to add to the literature by examining a factor found to have a substantial impact on many other areas of adolescent development and functioning-the role of parental attachment and supervision.
Development of Fear of Crime Over the Life Course
Humans are born with a "fear potential" or the capacity to learn fear (Scruton 1986). Although fear develops through influences that are present from birth (innate influences), this capacity to learn fear develops through socialization and is essential for survival (Cole, 1964). Parents socialize their children (either consciously or unconsciously) to fear a number of situations and things, including strangers, snakes, spiders, heights, and often storms (Marks, 1978).
As children become older, they pick up clues from their caregivers to evaluate situations in which they should be fearful. Hirshberg and Svejda (1990) examined this effect when they studied infant reactions to parental influence in the development of fear. The researchers presented the infants with toys that made noises (e.g., a hissing alligator) and instructed parents to look happy or excited by some toys, and worried or afraid by others. They determined that infants were significantly more likely to avoid those toys which the parents pretended to fear. Children thus often share the fears of their parents; further, the more uncertain the child is in a situation, the more the child turns to the caregiver for clues as to how he/she should behave (Marks, 1987). Of course, the role of the parents is important in the development of all emotions, but particularly fear.
Adults also fear numerous other situations. Combat, parachuting, and death and dying are just a few dramatic examples (Marks, 1978). Many adults also fear social situations such as performing in public, or those involving new experiences. Such fears by adults are often passed on to their children. In general, "...Where man can find no answer, he will find fear" (Cousins, 1945, p. 1). As mentioned earlier, parents, and subsequently children, generally fear that which they cannot control or understand. Crime fits both criteria.
Humans are taught not only what to fear, but what not to fear. In fact, parents not only discourage their children from being afraid of certain phenomena, they often discourage them from showing their fear by telling them "don't act like a baby." Shame associated with fear early on may serve as a regulator of the expression …
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Publication information: Article title: The Impact of Parental Attachment and Supervision on Fear of Crime among Adolescent Males. Contributors: May, David C. - Author, Vartanian, Lesa Rae - Author, Virgo, Keri - Author. Journal title: Adolescence. Volume: 37. Issue: 146 Publication date: Summer 2002. Page number: 267+. © 1999 Libra Publishers, Inc. COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group.
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