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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Impact of Income and Family Structure on Delinquency


Over in the meadow by the old Scotch pine Lives an old mother duck and her little ducklings nine. "Paddle!" said the mother. "We paddle!" said the nine. So they paddled all day by the old Scotch pine.1 [In nature there is] continual fear, and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.2 A society of Sperm Fathers is a society of 14-year-old girls with babies and 14-year-old boys with guns.3 Together, these three quotations suggest a critical hypothesis as to the effect of family structure on the behavior of boys and girls. The first quotation is a contemporary verse for children and frequently is applied to a large number of animal species. To the extent that it captures an essential truth about the animal kingdom, it is that family structures are largely composed of a mother and her children, while the biological father is nowhere to be seen. While there are surely exceptions to this rule, that characterization is a common one.

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