There is a biblical proverb that goes: “train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”. The responsibility of grooming a child’s character and instilling obedience in him or her no doubt lies in the hands of the parents who brought the child into the world. Parents may argue that parental negligence is not the most significant factor, and may instead attribute it to other reasons such as peer pressure, stress and rebelliousness. This is because they feel that they have done all that they can for their children. Sadly, this ideal is not always reflected in reality. Parents today increasingly fail to inculcate morals and values in their children due to the changing priorities of both parties. Packed work schedules, the ability to work outside the office and even busier school days mean parents and children have little time for each other in today’s world. That being said, while parental negligence is not the only factor for juvenile delinquency, it certainly is the most significant factor.
Parental negligence is often labelled as a major problem, as it is the failure of parents to provide adequately for their child’s physical and emotional needs. Psychological neglect includes the lack of emotional support and love, chronic inattention to the child, while physical neglect refers to the deficit in meeting a child’s basic needs such as supervision, health care or housing. According to the Children and Youth Services Review, it was found that youth in out-of-home care had nearly doubled the rate of delinquency. Moreover, neglected youth are referred to the juvenile justice system more often than their non-neglected counterparts and are also significantly younger at the time of initial referral. This is especially relevant in today’s busy society, where about 64.2% of married-couple families with children have both parents employed. This shows that parents of the twenty-first century have significantly less time to spend with their children due to their work commitments and the constraints of office hours. As children are more impressionable at a young age, this lack of time and support shown by their parents, who are ideally their main source of support and provision, would definitely affect their development. As they grow older, these teenagers would hence have a higher tendency of rebelling, not just because of their age, but because of the sad fact that they did not have a good role model to follow after and seek guidance from in their growing up years. This is especially problematic given the rising number of outlets that teenagers can easily obtain crude information. The media often broadcasts inappropriate ideas such as how “cool” smoking is, underage sex or even drug-use. Without a parental figure to teach them the importance of discernment when watching or listening to such content, children may go down the path of no return, thinking that such delinquent behaviour is normalized or even cool. Therefore, this highlights the importance of a parent’s presence in the lives of their child in both their childhood and teenage years in providing guidance, discernment, as well as serving as a role model.
However, while parental negligence is the most significant factor, it cannot be claimed to be the only factor contributing to delinquency amongst teenagers. Teenagers can also end up as delinquents due to peer pressure, even if they come from loving, wholesome families. According to research by the National University of Singapore, peer influence may play a greater part in affecting teenage delinquency than family-related factors because the “emotional centre” of teenagers shifts away from their family as they get older and start expanding their social networks. Thus, delinquency can happen if a teenager comes in contact with negative external influences outside the home, such as friends that practice underage smoking or take drugs. In fact, according to Phillip Morris, author of “Peer Pressure and Smoking”, teenagers who had at least three friends who practiced underage smoking were ten times more likely to follow suit than those who did not. Moreover, data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicates that many more juvenile crimes are committed in groups as compared to adult crimes. This shows that juvenile delinquency can be attributed to the pressure teenagers face from their friends, as at that age, an individual’s thought pattern can be easily molded, and hence individuals are more easily involved in delinquent acts as a teenager. Teenagers may feel that he or she will be alone if they do not follow their peers, and this fear of isolation drives them to be part of a peer group, who might be indulging in negative activities. Therefore, other than child neglect, delinquency in juveniles could also happen due to the herd mentality and peer pressure faced.
Conversely, rather than negligence, parents can go the other extreme and spoil their children. As a result, even though they are involved in their children’s lives, they fail to act as disciplinarians and therefore cannot keep their children in line. For instance, Hollywood actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s children are notorious for bad behaviour, such as setting fire to leaves outdoors or being violent with fellow schoolchildren. This is often attributed by sources to the couple’s caring tendencies, particularly to the children they adopted. Moreover, with the vast amount of freedom granted, coupled with the abundance of material possessions and money these parents grant their children easily, children thus have more opportunities to mix with bad company and commit acts of felony. Therefore, although negligent parents can be the cause of juvenile delinquency, parents can also be over-caring and not have the heart to correct their children when necessary, leading to children lacking self-discipline.
Furthermore, while parental negligence is a significant factor contributing to juvenile delinquency, it comes hand-in-hand with how children react to the lack of attention from their parents. While there is evidence proving that parental negligence does lead to higher instances of juvenile delinquency, there are children who faced child neglect growing up, but have not gotten into trouble with the law growing up, and were even able to attain success in life. It is true that children learn discipline and independence through the lack of support received from their parents, as they are also being corrected by other influences such as guardians or teachers, and it ultimately comes down to the attitude and tenacity of the child. Many celebrities such as Jamie Foxx, Kelly Clarkson and Adele were neglected by their parents at a young age and even throughout their teenage years. However, due to their spirit of resilience and strength, they chose to pick themselves up and fight hard for their dreams, despite the absence of their parents. This therefore allowed them to achieve success, and even motivated them to stay away from trouble. Therefore, whether children fall into the trap of juvenile delinquency depends on the attitude and resilience that they possess.
Ultimately, delinquency can certainly be attributed to parental negligence due to a parent’s huge role in a child’s life as his or her sole provider and source of support, as well as the root reason of a child’s need for parental love. However, it must also be acknowledged that juvenile delinquency is caused by the interplay of factors ranging from peer pressure faced by youths, to the act of parents spoiling their children. Different cases of juvenile delinquency stem from different causes, but it is certain that a parent’s role in a child’s life cannot be replaced. Hence, I would agree that the most important factor for delinquency is the negligence of a child by his or her parents.