Academic journal article Adolescence

The Impact of Parental Attachment and Supervision on Fear of Crime among Adolescent Males

Academic journal article Adolescence

The Impact of Parental Attachment and Supervision on Fear of Crime among Adolescent Males

Article excerpt

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. …

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