Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Delinquency and Father Figures

Interesting paper here about delinquency and the presence of father figures, based on a longitudinal study of more than 20,000 American kids.  For girls, there was a reduction in delinquency where a father figure was present, although it was not statistically significant.  For boys, it definitely was significant:
Adolescent boys who have a father figure in their lives are significantly less likely to engage in subsequent delinquent behavior than are their peers with no father in their lives.  For example, the incidence of any form of delinquent behavior is 7.6 percentage points lower among boys living with their biological fathers and is 8.5 percentage points lower among boys who live with stepfathers and have no relationship with their biological fathers.  Delinquent behavior is also somewhat less likely among boys with non-residential, biological fathers whether or not their mothers have remarried (4.0 and 5.0 percentage points, respectively), though the former effect is not significant. Fathers are associated with a particularly large reduction in the incidence of violent behavior and gang fighting among adolescent boys. These effects are quite sizeable given that we are also controlling for whether or not adolescents were engaged in delinquent behavior at the baseline.
It has been obvious for some time that the much higher rates of single mothers in the black community plays some part in the higher rates of violent crime and gang activity.  This is why Newt Gingrich made the observation when pushing for the welfare reforms of 1995 (I'm paraphrasing because I cannot remember his exact words) that a society cannot long continue where 13 year olds are smoking pot, 14 year olds are having children, and 15 year olds are engaging in drive-by shootings.

Interesting: while the effect of a father figure was not statistically significant for girls, it appears that living with the biological father does matter:

Results from our baseline model (see Table 3) indicate that the delinquent behavior of adolescent girls is generally unrelated to the presence or absence of father figures in their lives. The exception is that biological, residential fathers appear to have some modest protective effect in reducing delinquent behavior.
Not a surprise; biological fathers are generally less likely to sexually abuse children than stepfathers, boyfriend of the week, and so on.  I would not be at all surprised if abused girls are more likely to be delinquent in their behavior.


  1. Biological fathers might not have a huge effect on daughters subsequent delinquent behavior because there probably isn't a metric of casual sex with random guys in the delinquent behavior category.

  2. From Instapundit:

    UPDATE: Reader Ronald Fox writes: “For this they needed a study? I’ve been a Boy Scout leader for 20 years, and I figured this out in my first 4 Troop meetings.”

  3. @Scott, I agree. I saw an other blogger's comments on this study and the authors were pretty much looking only at what winds up on a police blotter as delinquent behavior. Given that girls are less likely to exhibit the kind of anti-social behavior that brings police attention, I think the statement that fathers are statistically insignificant to their daughter's behavior is inaccurate.