• The effect of child maltreatment on juvenile delinquency among a cohort of low-income urban males

      Lemmon, John Howe; Crymes, Joseph T. (1996)
      Over the last quarter century there has been a steady increase in child maltreatment and juvenile delinquency. The study explores this relationship by examining how dimensions of maltreatment (presence, type, frequency, and severity) affect dimensions of delinquency (initiation, frequency, chronicity, severity, and age at onset). The study also examines the effect of individual, family life, and agency intervention factors on the initiation of delinquency among maltreated children. Until recently, much of the research concerning the maltreatment-delinquency relationship was equivocal. However, recent studies employing prospective, comparison group designs have produced evidence suggesting that a causal relationship exists. The study improves the comparison group methodology by employing a non-concurrent, prospective, cohort design which identified subjects at risk to both maltreatment and delinquency, but who were not necessarily abused, neglected, or delinquent. Controls were placed on key variables including race, gender, socio-economic status, and geographic location which effectively isolated the maltreatment effect. The selection criteria facilitated a comparison group design that featured and applied these controls to the entire cohort. Six hundred and thirty-two (N = 632) males, born in 1975, living in one of Pennsylvania's ten largest cities, and residing in low-income families were selected from the Office of Income Maintenance and tracked through the state's children and youth and juvenile justice systems. The entire cohort was employed in tests of the initiation of delinquency while those subjects with one or more referrals (N = 352) were used in tests on the continuation of delinquency. Each dimension of maltreatment significantly affected the initiation and continuation of youth crime. Most tests produced observed significance levels at p<.0001 with explained variances as high as nineteen percent. Neglect was found to be a particularly strong indicator of delinquency. Similar patterns were found on all dimensions suggesting that maltreatment produces its strongest effect on the frequency and persistence of delinquency with less or an effect on severity. With the selection criteria designed to identify youths presenting high risk characteristics the significantly higher delinquency scores exhibited by maltreated youths provide compelling evidence of it's effect on delinquency. The findings also indicate that the relationship of race to maltreatment and delinquency is spurious. Among the maltreatment group (N = 267), five characteristics: the presence of an abused sibling, risk taking behaviors, pre-delinquency, school conduct problems, and academic retention, produced a probability of delinquency of over 98%. Children and youth placement slightly reduced the probability suggesting that if certain interventions are provided and high risk characteristics are eliminated, maltreated boys have a better chance of conforming to the law.;The results have disparate implications. On one hand, maltreatment affected the delinquency of low-income, inner city, predominantly minority, adolescent males. On the other hand, the absence of maltreatment affected conformity among the same group. One could reasonably conjecture that the connection between maltreatment and delinquency is caused by the lack of parent-child attachment. If this is so, then programs aimed at building family bonds would reduce delinquency. Neglected boys appear to be a particularly high risk group and should be targeted for delinquency prevention services. However, the state of theory development is crude. Now that a causal connection has been empirically established efforts should be made to test theories that explain the relationship.
    • The epidemiology of child maltreatment recurrences

      DePanfilis, Diane; Zuravin, Susan J., 1944- (1995)
      The primary aim of this dissertation was to elucidate the epidemiology of child maltreatment recurrences among families known to public child protective services (CPS). The specific objectives were: (1) To describe the pattern of recurrences over time; (2) To identify correlates of recurrence during and following CPS intervention; and (3) To describe the pattern of multiple recurrences. Subjects were a cohort of 1167 families who experienced a confirmed report of maltreatment and were followed for five years. Data on variables were collected from archival sources. To achieve objective 1, Life Tables were constructed at 30 day intervals to estimate the probability of recurrence during each interval. Survival functions of groups were then compared with the Wilcoxon (Gehan) statistic. To achieve objective 2, Kaplan Meier survival analyses were performed to compare the survival functions of potential variables and to test the Cox proportionality assumption of each variable. Models were then estimated with the Cox Proportional hazards model. To achieve objective 3, methods involved comparing the mean time until each recurrence between groups. Results suggest that risk of recurrence is greatest during the first thirty days following a report, that it is dependent on the type of maltreatment, and that it declines over time through the service period and remains relatively low for two years following the termination of services. Correlates of the time until first maltreatment recurrence while CPS was active were: child vulnerability, family stress, partner abuse, social support deficits and an interaction between family stress and social support deficits. Only one factor, age of the mother, predicted time until recurrence following services. Most recurrence families experienced only one recurrence. As the number of recurrences increased, the length of time between recurrences decreased. Future research should prospectively follow families over time to increase understanding about the specific treatment strategies and social supports most helpful to reducing risk of recurrence.
    • An evaluation of an intervention implemented to cause improved adjustment of prisoners

      Pugh, David N.; Varghese, Raju (1991)
      This dissertation is an evaluation of an intervention implemented to improve the adjustment of prisoners. The intervention, known as Decisions, is a structured educational model. It rests upon the assumption that criminals are poor problem-solvers and view themselves as victims of forces over which they have little or no control. Decisions attempts to cause enhanced prisoner adjustment by first causing improvement in problem-solving ability and a shift toward the internal dimension of personal control of prisoners. The literature review revealed three studies directly related to the underlying assumptions of Decisions. None of the studies lend any support to those assumptions. However, the literature does indicate that problem-solving ability and locus of control are related to prisoner adjustment. The literature reviewed also shows that the locus of control of prisoners is subject to at least short-term change via an intervention like Decisions. It was hypothesized that the experimental group would score significantly better on problem-solving scores and significantly more internal on locus of control scores at posttest and follow up. It was also hypothesized that the experimental group would score significantly better in adjustment at follow up. The analysis revealed a significant initial group difference on pretest locus of control scores, and on the scores of one adjustment scale. Attrition resulted in additional group differences on age and education. All analyses showed nonsignificant results. There were no significant differences between groups on posttest and follow up locus of control and problem-solving scores, nor on follow up prison adjustment scores. Only the variable age accounted for any significant variance of prison adjustment. Several interpretations of the results are offered. The first is that outcome is the cause of significant group differences both present at pretest and resulting from a high mortality rate. The second is that skewed distributions of two measures made it difficult for any change in the desired direction to be detected. A third and more plausible interpretation is that the intervention rests upon a weak theory. That is, neither the literature nor the data generated in this study support the assumption that prisoners are poor problem-solvers and externals. (Abstract shortened with permission of author.)
    • An examination of Washington, D.C.'s Juvenile Curfew Act of 1995: A single-system approach

      Cole, Ralph Daniels; Belcher, John R. (2002)
      There is a major concern among the American people that juvenile crime is escalating out of control. Juvenile curfew laws have been the fastest growing intervention to combat youth violence and juvenile crime. A single-system experimental replication design, ABAB, was used to examine whether the Juvenile Curfew Act of 1995 is effective in reducing juvenile crime in the District of Columbia. The sample for the study was the District of Columbia (N = 1). Archival data were obtained from the Information Technology Division of the Metropolitan Police Department for the time period of October 1, 1993 to September 30, 2001 of persons arrested under age 18. The data were analyzed using statistical software, SINGWIN, designed for single-system research. A five-step procedure was used to analyze each variable of the data: (1) visual analysis of the data, (2) calculation of descriptive statistics, (3) check for autocorrelation, (4) check for a significant trend, and (5) determination of whether a two-standard-deviation-band approach (Shewart chart) and/or t-test can be used to analyze the data. The findings from this research study showed the Juvenile Curfew Act of 1995 effective in reducing part 2 (non-violent) juvenile crime arrests in Washington, D.C. The possible reasons why juvenile curfew laws are not effective in reducing all types of juvenile crime (e.g., violent crimes) or appropriate as the only method of intervention are discussed. For example, curfew laws exclude the hours when juveniles are most likely to commit crimes, they do not include the entire juvenile population, there is inconsistent enforcement of the law by police, they do not fully incorporate the theories and research related to juvenile delinquency, and they do not address the major correlates of delinquency (e.g., individual, family, peers, and school factors). Future research on juvenile curfew laws needs to be completed to ascertain why these laws are ineffective in reducing certain types of crime (e.g., violent crime) and to determine whether they can be made more effective. Until such research is conducted, curfew laws may continue to be a popular but seemingly ineffective intervention when used alone in the fight against youth violence and juvenile crime.
    • An exploratory study of family structure and drug trafficking among 11-17 year old public housing residents

      Okundaye, Joshua Nosakhare; Crymes, Joseph T. (1996)
      This exploratory study generated hypotheses about why some urban African American adolescents (ages 11-17) become involved trafficking (selling, holding, delivering) drugs when most of their peers do not. In their communities, drug trafficking rather than illicit drug use appears to be the first exposure of many youths to the "drug scene". This study describes neighborhood drug trafficking activities and uses Structural Family Theory concepts to explore the nature of the relationships and communication patterns within their families. Using qualitative research methods and an interview guide, the study interviewed twenty youths and it is upon their words that twenty-two hypotheses were derived. Research regarding adolescent involvement in drug trafficking has been limited and is in a very early stage of development. Importantly, while many of the available studies report the early involvement of these youths in drug trafficking, many also indicate that most of the youths are not directly involved. The scientific literature and popular media also suggest that variations in family structure (specifically households headed by single females) influence risk behaviors among these youths. However, the role that many of these female heads of households and other family factors play with regards to why many youths do not become involved in drug trafficking has not been adequately explored. The findings suggest that structural factors and family processes are not the only or even the predominant cause of drug trafficking among these youths. The review of family structure and delinquency literature, and responses from the youths suggest that family structural factors are likely to provide some of the explanation. However, it appears that the way the single parent home has been conceptualized and organized as a sociological variable will lead to limited definitive conclusions if subjected to rigorous and sophisticated research. The findings also suggest that although family factors are extremely important, the etiology of this problem appears to be extremely complex and multifaceted. As some of the studies reviewed indicate, this study proposes that no single causative factor can provide an explanation for drug trafficking among youths. Implications of these ideas for social work are considered and discussed.
    • Love without Violence: A new treatment for spouse abusers

      Stosny, Steven; Varghese, Raju (1993)
      The current work develops a new treatment for family violence offenders, adapted for, and tested on, 100 spouse abusers in a field experiment involving five different community mental health centers in Maryland and Virginia. With standard agency treatment serving as comparison, results revealed large, statistically significant differences between groups. As hypothesized, the experimental treatment greatly reduced recidivism of violence and verbal aggression, while increasing compassion for spouse, well-being, viable strategies to resolve potentially violent situations, and acceptance of personal responsibility for abusive behavior. The treatment is drawn from a reformulation of the problem of spouse violence in a more illuminating context of what can accurately be called, attachment abuse. The theoretical foundation of this view is phenomenological constructivism, which includes attachment theory as a key developmental and integrative explanation for the way individuals construct the meaning of themselves and their environments. Attachment abusers are described as persons afflicted with painful constructions of self, with deficits of affect-regulation and attachment skills. The former makes them feel out of control and powerless, a condition they futilely try to correct by abusively exerting power and control over attachment figures. Because attachment figures serve as illusory reflections of the inner self--a mirror image of the loving and lovable self--attachment abusers succumb to the deeper illusion that they can control painful constructions of self by manipulating the mirror.
    • Male client self-reports of domestic violence reduction following employee assistance program intervention for alcohol abuse

      Maiden, R. Paul; Mitchell, Gust (1994)
      This study examined self reports of domestic violence by male employee assistance program (EAP) clients who had received intervention for alcohol abuse. The literature suggests an association between domestic violence and alcohol abuse. The intent of the study was threefold: (1) to determine whether EAP clients who had received professional intervention for alcohol abuse were engaged in domestic violence before alcohol abuse intervention, (2) to determine the extent clients report a curtailment of domestic violence following alcohol abuse intervention, (3) to determine if selected factors during intervention contributed to reducing domestic violence. The sample consisted of 80 married, cohabitating, or divorced male clients from Chicago area employee assistance programs who had received diagnoses of alcoholism from EAP counselors and who were referred for either inpatient or outpatient treatment for alcohol abuse. Data for the study were collected by telephone interviews with former clients. Twenty-four variables were used-to generate a profile of the participants' intervention experiences as well as their marital and employment stability profiles. The 18-item Conflict Tactics Scale (Straus, 1979) was used to measure incidence of domestic violence before and after intervention. Ninety-four percent of the respondents reported they had engaged in some form of verbal or physical assault of their partner including profanity, intimidation, hitting, beating up or threatening with a knife or gun prior to intervention for alcohol abuse. Over-all, the incidence of domestic violence was substantially reduced after intervention. Participants who reported engaging in severe physical violence before intervention reported the use of occasional, moderate domestic violence and verbally abusive behavior after intervention. Regular attendance at Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and frequent contact with an AA sponsor were found to be statistically significant in the reduction of domestic violence with variables appearing to serve as paths to the reduction of domestic violence. However, reports of post-intervention domestic violence show a continued pattern of violence though with less frequency and lowered severity. The findings support the need to intervene in alcohol abuse as a means of reducing domestic violence. It is evident, however, that more extensive understanding and specialized interventions are needed to fully understand and address the full range of underlying causes of domestic violence.
    • Perspectives of battered women regarding the criminal justice system

      Noone, Diana Colombo; Belcher, John R. (2000)
      New laws and policies in the domestic violence arena have been implemented without any input from the women who survived domestic violence. The perspectives of the survivors are not well documented or understood by policymakers and criminal justice personnel. Therefore, a qualitative approach was used to explore the perspectives of the women who survived domestic violence and what initiatives can make the criminal justice system more amenable to their needs. Extensive data were collected through a total of thirty interviews with a total of ten informants over a 9-month period of time. The constant comparative method of data collection and analysis was utilized. Concepts and themes related to the survivors' perspectives of the criminal justice system and what helped them through the ordeal were identified, linked and developed into grounded theory. The use of triangulated data collection methods, interview audits and peer debriefing insured the trustworthiness of the study. The results indicate that participants became involved in the criminal justice system to protect their children from the emotional and physical effects of the abuse. The survivors also indicated they received the necessary support to survive the ordeal from family and/or friends, the courthouse domestic violence advocate, and judges who mandated counseling. However, they did not believe the police provided adequate information and support during the initial arrest. Therefore, they suggested a female advocate would be beneficial on the scene at the time of arrest. Implications of these findings include recommendations for practice, research and policy within the criminal justice community and the social work community. Recommendations for the setting in which the research was conducted include to further explore the findings of the study especially the reported frustration at the lack of support from the police. Also, social work research is suggested to build knowledge and address the problems from the survivors' perspectives.
    • The socialization of the urban, black, male delinquent in a low-income, single parent, female-headed household

      Neverdon-Merritt, Michal; Belcher, John R. (1996)
      Juvenile delinquency has been declared a widespread social problem. Statistics show that low-income, black male juveniles have higher rates of involvement in delinquent activities than white male, white female and black female juveniles. Family structure (i.e., one parent vs two parent families) has been related to juvenile delinquency. Some researchers have argued that juveniles from single parent families (specifically families headed by females) are more vulnerable to delinquent activities than those of two parent families. There are limited entries, past and current, that directly relate to single parenting and its influence on juvenile recidivism. The purpose of this qualitative "grounded" theory field study was to explore and describe the effects of mother son interaction patterns on the black male delinquent (ages 10-17). Open ended interviews were conducted with each mother son dyad (N = 11) in three rounds of data collection. Interviews were conducted in the homes of the families. The constant comparative method of data collection and analysis was used, concepts and themes were identified, systematically linked, negotiated and refined into working hypotheses. The working hypotheses were negotiated to develop "grounded" theory. The results indicate that black male juveniles who are continuously encouraged by their single mothers to be "independent" tend to exhibit aggressive behavior and have a pessimistic outlook on life. The mothers' expectations of independence for their sons are based on the following factors: (a) mothers' own childhood experiences and socialization process; (b) mothers' interactions with male partners; (c) mothers' perceptions of sons; and (d) mothers' emotional well-being and religious/philosophical outlook on life. The sons' aggressive behaviors and pessimistic outlook on life are related to: (a) their perceptions of their parents and interactions with mothers; and (b) their support from their extended family and community. Implications of these findings include recommendations for policy, research and direct practice within the social work profession and various helping professions in the community. Significant findings indicated that "juvenile delinquency is a community problem." The educational system, the juvenile justice system, mental health centers and others need to coordinate their services for youth. All agencies would benefit from having social workers develop and implement programs.