• 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.