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The Differential Influence of Absent and Harsh Fathers on Juvenile Delinquency

  • Author(s): Simmons, Cortney Britney Ann
  • Advisor(s): Cauffman, Elizabeth
  • et al.

Father absence has been identified as a key contributor to juvenile delinquency. As a result, many politicians and community leaders are making the effort to re-engage fathers. However, it is possible that merely the presence of fathers is not, in itself, a substantial protective factor and, in some cases, can even be more detrimental than father absence. The present study (a) examines differential effects of absent fathers and harsh fathers on delinquent behavior, and (b) determines whether these fathers have an effect on youth behavior after accounting for the mother-child relationship. This study employs a diverse (48.4% Black, 37.3% Latino, 12.6% White, and 1.7% other race) sample of first-time male juvenile offenders who identified their father as absent (N=291) or harsh (N=58). Results indicate that youth with harsh fathers reported committing a greater number of offenses and using a greater number of substances than youth with absent fathers. This difference exists even after controlling for the quality of the mother-child relationship. Implications of these findings for future research and delinquency prevention programs are discussed.

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