Academic journal article Family Relations

Moving beyond Fatherhood Involvement: The Association between Father-Child Relationship Quality and Youth Delinquency Trajectories

Academic journal article Family Relations

Moving beyond Fatherhood Involvement: The Association between Father-Child Relationship Quality and Youth Delinquency Trajectories

Article excerpt

Scholars have delineated two groups of youth offenders: life course persisting and adolescent limited (Loeber, 1985; Moffit, 1993). Youth who are life-course-persisting typically manifest behavior problems much earlier (Loeber & LeBlanc, 1990; Moffit, 1993) and are often exposed to certain factors that increase propensity for ongoing delinquency (Loeber, 1985; Loeber & Burke, 2011; Loeber et al., 1993). There are many social determinants of delinquency, but parent-child attachments are consistently documented among the most influential (Farrington, Coid, & Murray, 2009; Laub & Sampson, 1988), as parents are integral in the development of youth socialization and behavioral patterns (Schaffer, Clark, & Jeglic, 2009). Fathers, specifically, can influence youth cognitive, emotional, and behavioral outcomes (Bronte-Tinkew, Moore, & Carrano, 2006) and have been identified as a correlate to the development (Cobb-Clark & Tekin, 2011; King, Mitchell, & Hawkins, 2010; Rosen, 1985) and maintenance (Coley & Medeiros, 2007) of delinquent behaviors. For example, youth followed between the ages of 9 to 18 years had worse developmental trajectories with regard to frequency of engaging in physical aggression (physical fights or pushing others) if they were from a single-parent family or if they had a permissive parent (Ehrenreich, Beron, Brinkley, & Underwood, 2014).

Little is known about how delinquency trajectories change in the context of children's attachment with nonresidential fathers. The absence of a father in the household can be mitigated by supportive or positive interactions with the nonresidential father (Fabricius, Sokol, Diaz, & Braver, 2012). In our search of the literature, we found no longitudinal studies that included nonresidential father-child relationship variables such as anger and alienation or trust and communication-concepts that represent relational connectedness (Armsden & Greenberg, 1987). In fact, one systematic review of longitudinal studies on nonresidential fatherhood involvement indicated that further exploration of the bond between the biological father and child was needed (Sarkadi, Kristainsson, Oberklaid, & Bremberg, 2008), and a meta-analysis found few fatherhood studies focused on aspects of father-child relationships in relation to delinquency (Hoeve et al., 2009). Furthermore, although longitudinal effects of father involvement have been found (see Coley & Medeiros, 2007), researchers have yet to concurrently test characteristics of nonresidential father-child relationships and father involvement variables in longitudinal analyses. Thus, the goal of the present study was to examine the comparative influence of nonresidential father involvement and father-child relationship characteristics on delinquency trajectories using a multilevel modeling approach to analyze youth data in a three-wave longitudinal data set.

Attachment Theory

Attachment theory provides a framework for contextualizing the impact of father-child relationships. Father attachment has received specific attention by theorists arguing the cogency of attachment theory for explaining outcomes among youth (Cassidy & Shraver, 1999). Further, the characteristics used to measure the father-child relationship in the present study (e.g., anger, alienation, trust, communication) were developed and are rooted in attachment theory (Armsden & Greenberg, 1987). The theory suggests that bonds to others are a basic component of human nature and that early patterns of family attachment are a precursor to attachment patterns within all future relationships (Goldstein, 2001). When one's parent (or attachment figure) is accessible, reliable, and responsive to needs, a secure attachment is developed (Bowlby, 1988). Securely attached youth are more likely to have positive behavioral, emotional, and psychological outcomes (Gunnar, 2000). Conversely, when one's parent or caregiver is unresponsive or has an unpredictable response pattern, patterns of avoidant, ambivalent, or disorganized attachment may develop, which are associated with inappropriate behavioral and emotional responses during times of stress (Bowlby, 1988) and can potentially lead to pervasive patterns of behavioral and emotional dysfunction, including difficulty sustaining ing meaningful relationships (Sharff, 1996). …

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