Social Interventions: Positive Parenting

Positive parenting is a strong protective force against a child eventually adopting criminal behaviour. It not only assists their children's development, it can also counteract some of the negative influences that children are likely to encounter (also see Countering Violence).

An authoritarian, neglectful or physically punitive parenting style is more likely to lead to delinquency in children. Ineffective supervision, inconsistent discipline, familial discord and disharmony, and weak parent-child relationships are also associated with greater risk of delinquency.1

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Some parenting situations are more difficult than others. Longitudinal studies have found that large family size and single-parenthood are linked with greater risk of delinquency among children.2

One of the main risks in one-parent families is poverty. In 1999 in Canada, 42% of lone-parent families headed by women were living under the poverty line. Since the percentage of lone-parent families is growing – from 13% in 1994, to 16% by 19983 – support for these families is vitally important, particularly since it has been shown to be quite effective.

American studies have found that home visits by nurses to poor lone-parent mothers helped reduce later delinquency among their children by 50%.4 A project currently operating in Prince Edward Island – Best Start – found that providing a little help to "at-risk" mothers decreased the percentage of children being handed over to child protection authorities from 25% to just 2.3%! (See "Start them off right!" in Preventing Crime through Social Development Bulletin No. 7.)

Children born to teen mothers are also at higher risk for later criminal involvement. One American study found a dramatic correlation between teenaged mothers and later criminality among their children: 90% of men between the ages of 19 and 35 who were in prison had been born to teenaged mothers.5

The Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre in Winnipeg reports that childhood aggression, mid-teen depression, and a history of sexual abuse are strong predictors of teenaged pregnancy – and therefore, potential areas for intervention. The Centre has also found that community supports for adolescent mothers can help decrease their high school drop-out rates and give both the young women and their children a better chance for the future. (See "A place to call home" in Preventing Crime through Social Development Bulletin, No. 8, 2004.)

Parental criminality is also associated with greater risk of delinquency among children.6 American studies have found that programs which help incarcerated fathers stay connected with their parental roles are effective in reducing this transmission of criminality. This approach is currently being tried – with great success – in Quebec. (See "Dad's in prison" in Preventing Crime through Social Development Bulletin, No. 6, 2003.)

As well, children who witness some form of physical fighting in their home are more than twice as likely as other children to exhibit physically aggressive behaviours or commit delinquent acts against property. Children who have witnessed domestic violence are more likely to experience heightened anxiety and depression, and they have a greater tendency to become more aggressive themselves. In more than half the cases of direct child abuse, negative developmental consequences for the child follow. These often include behavioural problems (39%), negative peer involvement (15%), depression or anxiety (15%), violence towards others (11%), and developmental delays (9%).7

Fortunately family supports, parental training and other early intervention programs can make a difference in preventing child abuse. Some studies estimate that these social development approaches can reduce child abuse by as much as 50%, and thereby reduce the life-long consequences of living with abuse.8

Other Social Interventions

  Addictions Treatment
  Countering Violence
  Early Childhood Education
  Employment
  Housing
  Income
  Neighbourhoods
  Recreation
  Rehabilitation
  Secondary Education
  Special Needs Programming

Notes:

1Waller, I. and Weiler, D. Crime Prevention Through Social Development. Ottawa: Canadian Council on Social Development, 1984.

2Ibid.

3Hanvey, Louise. The Progress of Canada's Children 2002. Ottawa: Canadian Council on Social Development, 2002. See www.ccsd.ca/pubs/2002/pcc02/index.htm

4Waller, I. Cutting Crime Significantly: Investing in Effective Prevention. Unpublished manuscript, 2003.

5 Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre. Adolescent Pregnancy Facts. Winnipeg: Centre.

6 Waller, I. and Weiler, D. Crime Prevention Through Social Development. Ottawa: Canadian Council on Social Development, 1984.

7Roberts, Paul. Canadian Children's Exposure to Violence: What it Means for Parents. Ottawa: Canadian Council on Social Development, 2004. See www.ccsd.ca/pubs/2003/violence/index.htm

8National Crime Prevention Council of Canada. Safety and Savings: Crime Prevention Through Social Development. Ottawa: NCPC, 1996. See www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hppb/familyviolence/html/fvcrimeprevention_e.html