Children of divorce: Crime statistics

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NOTE: Newer information on the same topics is available on The Divorce Statistics and Studies Blog. But a lot of important, pre-2008 information is collected only on this site, the Divorce Statistics Collection. So you should check both this site and the blog.

Kids twice as likely to be JDs, teen moms if father not in home

A survey of 108 rapists undertaken by Raymond A. Knight and Robert A. Prentky revealed the 60 percent came from female-headed homes,. 70 percent of those describable as 'violent' came from female-headed homes. 80 percent of those motivated by 'displaced anger' came from female-headed (single-parent) homes.
"No-Fault Divorce: Proposed Solutions to a National Tragedy," 1993 Journal of Legal Studies 2, 19, citing R. Knight and R. Prentky, The Developmental Antecedents and Adult Adaptations of Rapist Subtypes, 14 CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND BEHAVIOR 403-426 (1987).

Rapists, murderers, lifers, dropouts, abuse victims: mostly from broken homes

Effects of divorce on low-income boys (1994 Cornell U. study)

Of the juvenile criminals who are a threat to the public, three-fourths came from broken homes.
Ramsey Clark, Crime in America: Observations on Its Nature, Causes, Prevention and Control (New York: Pocket Books, 1970), p.39. Cited in Amneus, The Garbage Generation

A 1987 study found that divorce - regardless of the economic status of the disrupted family - posed the strongest correlation with robbery rates in American cities larger than 100,000 population.
Brian Willats, Breaking Up is Easy To Do, available from Michigan Family Forum, citing R.J. Sampson, "Crime in Cities: The Effects of Formal and Informal Social Control," Crime and Justice (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1987). Cited in "Divorce: A Hazard to Your Health?" p. 16.

Fatherless youth at higher risk for jail - study
Young men who grow up in homes without fathers are twice as likely to
end up in jail as those who come from traditional two-parent families,
according to a new study released Thursday. Cynthia Harper of the
University of Pennsylvania and Sara S. McLanahan of Princeton
University tracked a sample of 6,000 males aged 14-22 from 1979-93.
They found that those boys whose fathers were absent from the
household had double the odds of being incarcerated - even when other
factors such as race, income, parent education and urban residence
were held constant. See
[if link doesn't work, copy and paste URL]
(quoted here from Coalition for Marriage, Family and Couples Education, LLC's news listserv)

Studies have shown that there is a strong correlation with the number of single parent families and the crime rate in a cities with a population over 100,000 regardless of the socioeconomics or racial composition of the city.
"No-Fault Divorce: Proposed Solutions to a National Tragedy," 1993 Journal of Legal Studies 2, 19 citing R. Sampson, Crime in Cities: The Effects of Formal and Informal Social Control. In M. Tonry & Morris, Crime and Justice 271-301 (1987).

The rate of violent crime and burglary is related to the number of single parent households with children aged twelve to twenty.
"No-Fault Divorce: Proposed Solutions to a National Tragedy," 1993 Journal of Legal Studies 2, 19, citing Douglas A. Smith, G. and Roger Jarjoura, Social Structure and Criminal Victimiazation, 25 Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 27-52 (1988).

A study showed that over half (53 percent) of the inmates of state correctional facilities had grown up without the benefits of a two parent household.
"No-Fault Divorce: Proposed Solutions to a National Tragedy," 1993 Journal of Legal Studies 2, 19, citing B. Chapman, Fairness For Families: An Organing Theme for the Administration's Social Policies, 2 The Journal of Family and Culture 23 (1986).

Delinquency rates are 10 to 15 percent higher in broken homes than in intact ones.
Brian Willats, Breaking Up is Easy To Do, available from Michigan Family Forum, citing Edward L. Wells and Joseph H. Rankin, "Families and Delinquency: A Meta-Analysis of the Impact of Broken Homes," Social Problems, 38:1, p. 87.

"The greater the proportion of single-mother families in a neighborhood, the higher the delinquency rate."
Don Terry, "Killed by Her Friends, Sons of the Heartland," New York Times, 18 May 1994, A1. Cited on page48 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher

A study conducted by two sociologists, Robert J. Sampson and W. Byron Groves, who analyzed data from hundreds of British communities found that in neighborhoods with a high percentage of single-parent homes the amount of crime was significantly higher. ... In a study by "So powerful was the connection between disrupted families and crime that, once family status was controlled for, neither race nor income had any effect on the crime rate." Nor did dropout rates in a Latino neighborhood studied by Josefina Figueroa-McDonough, "Residence, Dropping Out, and Delinquency Rates, Deviant Behavior 14, (1993): 109ff. The Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher pp. 48-49

Among all possible contributing factors, "only divorce rates were consistently associated with suicide and with homicide rates."
David Lester, "Time-Series Versus Regional Correlates of Rates of Personal Violence," Death Studies (1993): 529-534. Cited on page36 ofThe Abolition of Marriage, by Maggie Gallagher

"[Eric Anderson, a Yakima, Wash., anthropologist] described the skinheads as ranging from 14 to 27, from largely middle-class neighborhoods and broken, unstable families."
Tamara Jones, Los Angeles Times, 19 December, 1988. Cited in Amneus, The Garbage Generation, Page 224

"A recent study of 25,000 incarcerated juveniles made by the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that 72 percent of them came from broken homes. Seventy-four percent of the nation's children live with two parents, 26 percent with one parent. A child growing up in a single-parent home (usually female-headed) is seven times as likely to be a delinquent.
Statistics from the Los Angeles Times, 19 September, 1988. Cited in Amneus, The Garbage Generation, page 179

"The loss of a father increases the risk that a child, and particularly boys, will become a delinquent by a factor of approximately two."
Margaret Wynn, Fatherless Families: A Study of Families Deprived of a father by Death, Divorce, Separation of Desertion Before or After Marriage (New York: London and Maxwell, 1964), p. 147. Cited in Amneus, The Garbage Generation, page 215

"A study of Stanford University's Center for the Study of Youth Development in 1985 indicated that children in single-parent families headed by a mother have higher arrest rates, more disciplinary problems in school, and a greater tendency to smoke and run away from home than do their peers who live with both natural parents - no matter what their income, race, or ethnicity."
Education Reporter, December, 1986 Cited in Amneus, The Garbage Generation, page 215

"Broken homes do relate to the frequency of delinquency. Further, if a home is broken, a child living with the mother is more likely to be a delinquent than one for whom other arrangements are made. In the case of girls, even living with neither parent is less related to higher delinquency than is living with the mother."
Starke Hathaway and Elio Monachesi, Adolescent Personality and Behavior (Minneapolis Press, 1963, p. 81. Cited in Amneus, The Garbage Generation, page 216

"In a new study of 72 adolescent murders and 35 adolescent thieves, researches for Michigan State University demonstrated that the overwhelming majority of t teenage criminals live with only one parent. Fully 75 percent of those charged with homicide had parents who were either divorced or had never been married at all; that number rises to 82 percent of those charged with nonviolent larceny offenses.
Dewey G. Cornell, et al., "Characteristics of Adolescents Charged With Homicide: Review of 72 Cases," Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 5, No. 1 [1987], 11-23; epitomized in The Family in America: New Research, March, 1988. Cited in Amneus, The Garbage Generation, page 216

"Criminologists have long used race and poverty as key variables for explaining crime rates. However, researchers at the Univ. of Maryland find that when differences in family structures are taken into account, crime rates run much the same in rich and poor neighborhoods and among black, white, and Hispanic populations."
Douglas A. Smith and G. Roger Jarjoura, "Social Structure and Criminal Victimization," Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 25 [Feb., 1988], 27-52; epitomizing in The Family in America: New Research, June 1988 Cited in Amneus, The Garbage Generation, page 220

["Some Effects of Paternal Absence on Male Children," Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 1962, 64, 361-369] found that the lower -class father-absent boys in their study committed more felonies that did the father-present groups, although the rates of gang delinquency were not different. Cited in Amneus, The Garbage Generation, page 222

"Who are the women in prison?......More than half are single mothers living on welfare."
Phyllis Chesler, Mother on Trial: Battle for Children and Custody (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1986), p. 291. Cited in Amneus, The Garbage Generation, page 224

"In a 1987 study at the University of Toronto, sociologists noted particularly high rates of delinquency among female teens in two kind of households: 1) single-parent households; 2)households in which the mother is employed in a career or management position.
Ibid., p.3. Cited in Amneus, The Garbage Generation, page 230

Joan R. Kahn and Kathryn A. London, "Premarital Sex and the Risk of Divorce," Journal of Marriage and the Family 53 (1991): 845-855.

Cf. Ingrid Waldron, Christopher C. Weiss, and Mary Elizabeth Hughes, "marital Status Effects on Health: Are There Differences Between Never-Married Women and Divorced and Separated Women?" Social Science & Medicine 45 (1997): 1387-1397

I.M.A. Joung et al., "Health Behaviors Explain Part of the Difference in Self-Reported Health Associated with Partner/Marital States in the Netherlands," Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 49 (1995): 482-488

Peggy A. Thoits, "Gender and Marital Status Difference in Control and Distress: Common Stress versus Unique Stress Explanations," Journal of Health and Social Behavior 28 (1987): 7-22

Janet Wilmoth and Gregor Koso, "does Marital History Matter? Marital Status and Wealth Outcomes Among Preretirement Adults," Journal of Marriage and Family 64 (2002): 254-268

Karen F. Parker and Tracy Johns, "Urban Disadvantage and Types of Race-Specific Homicide: Assessing the Diversity in Family Structures in the Urban Context," Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 39 (2002): 277-303.

iMAPP: New Research on Married Parents and Crime: Are children raised outside of intact marriages at increased risk for crime and delinquency?

September 21, 2005

iMAPP's policy brief, "Can Married Parents Prevent Crime? Recent Research on Family Structure and Delinquency 2000-2005" looks at empirical research from the United States published in peer-reviewed journals since 2000.

All but three of 23 recent studies found some family structure effect on
crime or delinquency. Seven of the eight studies that used nationally
representative data, for example, found that children in single-parent or
other non-intact family structures were at greater risk of committing criminal or
delinquent acts. For example: A study using Add-Health data found that even after controlling for
race, parents' education, and income, adolescents in single-parent families
were almost two times more likely to have pulled a knife or a gun on someone in
the past year. (Todd Michael Franke 2000)

Six of seven studies that looked at whether overall rates of single
parenthood affected average crime rates found that changes in family
structure were related to increases in crime. For example:
· A study that looked at the relation between divorce rates and out-of-wedlock birthrates and violent crime between 1973 and 1995 found that nearly 90% of the change in violent crime rates can be accounted for by the change in percentages of out-of-wedlock births. (Mackey and Coney 2000, p. 352)
· A study that looked at crime in rural counties in four states concluded,
"[A]n increase of 13% in female-headed households would produce a doubling
of the offense rate." (Osgood and Chambers 2000, p. 103)

Even after controlling for income, family structure is an important predictor of crime and delinquency. Maggie Gallagher, president of the Institute for Marriage and Public Policy
says, "Results like these are a reality check for people such as Peggy Drexler ("Raising Boys Without Men") who argue that it is only poverty, and not father absence, that hurts children. Boys are hardwired to grow into men. But they are not hardwired to grow into good family men. That's a job for mothers and fathers working together."
For a copy of the research brief, or to schedule an interview, contact
_Joshua@imapp.org_ ( . (202) 374-6333.

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