Society for Social Work and Research

Sixteenth Annual Conference Research That Makes A Difference: Advancing Practice and Shaping Public Policy
11-15 January 2012 I Grand Hyatt Washington I Washington, DC

16459 The Influence of Non Residential Father-Child Relationships On Delinquency Trajectories

Saturday, January 14, 2012: 4:30 PM
Arlington (Grand Hyatt Washington)
* noted as presenting author
Jamie Rae Yoder, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Daniel Brisson, PhD, Assistant Professor, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Amy Lopez, MSW, Doctoral Student, University of Denver, Denver, CO
Background and Purpose: The quality of the parent-child relationship, and specifically the father child relationship has a significant influence on delinquency trajectories through adolescence (Simons, Chao, & Conger, 2001). The relationship a child has with their father can serve as a protective factor against committing crimes, and higher non-residential father involvement has been shown to predict a decrease in delinquency over time (Coley & Medeiros, 2007). In contrast, a poor father-child relationship is predictive of youth engagement in delinquent behaviors (Cookston & Finlay, 2006; Harris, Furstenberg, & Marmer, 1998). Using attachment theory as a guiding theoretical framework, while focusing on non-residential fathers and delinquency among at-risk youth, this study addresses two research questions: (1) What are the delinquency trajectories of youth with a non-residential father living in low-income communities, and do the trajectories differ from other youth? (2) Do characteristics of fathers' relationship with their child, specifically anger, alienation, trust and communication, impact youths' delinquency trajectories?

Methods: Secondary data come from Welfare, Children, and Families: A Three-City Study. The Three Cities Study provides longitudinal data from a stratified random sample of 2,400 low-income families with youth living in low-income neighborhoods in three cities in the United States: Boston, Chicago, and San Antonio. Three waves of survey data, in the years 1999, 2001 and 2005 were collected from focal children and from parents or guardians. Different forms of delinquency were measured including total delinquency (composite of all delinquent behaviors), serious delinquency, school delinquency, and drug delinquency. Predictors included father-child anger and alienation and father-child trust and communication. To assess the growth of father-child relationships as it predicts different types of delinquency while accounting for spurious effects, growth curve models with random effects were used.

Results: The results of the unconditional models demonstrated on average, total delinquency decreases by .0139 log units (p < .05), drug delinquency decreases by .033 log units (p <.001), and school delinquency increases by .032 log units (p <.05) over the three waves. Father-child trust and communication had a negative relationship with total delinquency (β 10 -.037, p <.001) over time. Father-child anger and alienation had a positive relationship with drug delinquency over time (β 10=.056, p <.001). Father-child trust and communication had a negative relationship with drug delinquency over time (β 10=-.04, p <.001).

Conclusions and Implications: The results suggest the importance of considering how specific aspects of the father child relationship impact delinquency. The more trustworthy youth deem their relationships, the less total delinquency and drug delinquency they exhibit over time. Also, the more the youth report aspects of anger or alienation by their father, the more likely they are to engage in substance use over time. The study has significant implications for future interventions in parenting programs. In addition to considering the importance of inconsistent or broken father-child relationships, programs can be tailored to incorporate psychoeducational elements teaching fathers the importance of open trust and communication. Programs can also begin to consider developing intervention approaches around adapting coping mechanisms to handle anger or aggression.

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