This dissertation endeavours to explore the link between absent fatherhood and the effects that this may have on the criminality of children. This topic has been selected due to the scale of interest and concern being afforded to it compared to the disproportionate amount of conclusive research actually conducted into the area. The paper will take the form of a library based investigation; this is due to the complexity involved in gathering participants with a criminal background whose criminality can be attributed to the absence of their fathers; it is often very difficult and time consuming to negotiate access to such individuals and is thus unrealistic within such a limited time frame and without any funding to conduct a research based project. These limitations and further methodological reasons concerning this dissertation will be discussed in-depth in the methodology section.
Although the paper is not based on primary research this is not an indication that new conclusions and the solutions to previously unanswered questions cannot be attained, outstanding issues shall be addressed within the paper and recommendations shall be made as to how to proceed in order to further investigate this topic. Absent fatherhood is an issue which is often brought to the attention of the public particularly by politicians and religious leaders; this is largely due to the moral panic surrounding youth crime that exists within the UK. Youths have become stigmatized and criminal ised, particularly within the media, and have now come to be viewed as what Jock Young would refer to as "folk devils". Recent panics concerning gun and knife crime have also tended to focus on groups of criminal youths and have increased the public's fear of this supposed subculture of adolescents. However, throughout this debate little time is afforded to discussing the reasons why these youths may turn to crime and how their family lives and household dynamic may play a part in their demise. In light of this it is therefore vital to gain a broader perspective as to why and how some children become criminal.
Barrack Obama recently tackled the issue of absent black fathers when addressing a congregation in Chicago and voiced his concerns that "too many fathers are M.I. A; too many fathers are AWOL, missing from too many lives and too many homes" (The New York Times, 2008). The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams has also addressed the issue arguing that we are "at a time when many children and families are suffering because of the lack of attention and care from absent fathers" (Christian Today, 2007). Although fathering and marriage initiatives have been introduced there is very little information available with which to assess their impact. Evidently the effects of absent fathers on their children are of great concern and debate within the public sphere and worthy of further investigation as no plausible solutions are in place to tackle the issue. Single parent households have drastically increased over the decades. This is commonly thought to be a result of the changing family dynamic whereby the public sphere has become increasingly feminized and women are now being pushed to the forefront and accepted as equal to men within society.
It is now not uncommon for mothers to work and in some cases to be the main breadwinner for the family. As gender roles have shifted and society has evolved divorce rates too have risen dramatically, particularly over the past three decade, with approximately one in three marriages now ending in divorce within the United Kingdom (National Statistics Online, 2008). With this increase in divorce rates invariably comes the issue of absent fathers and the opportunity for debate to arise surrounding the effects that this may have on the criminality of children. In order to explore the relationship between absent fatherhood and criminality the ambiguous term of "absent father" will firstly be addressed in an attempt to differentiate between the differing forms of absence and how they may or may not have a negative impact on criminality. For example, a father may be absent from the family home and certain aspects of family life if a divorce has occurred or where the father works away from home but they may still maintain regular access and involvement in the child's life without any negative impact occurring.
Similarly if a stable and loving household is maintained once the father is absent this may serve to reduce the risk that a child may turn to criminality. However, in contrast a divorce may spell the end of a relationship between the father and their child. Absent fatherhood may also occur where the father is imprisoned, deceased or where there is simply a lack of involvement. It is essential to begin by de tangling this term in order to be able to critically analyse the impact of the father's absence in relation to how the absence actually occurred as this may have some bearing over whether the child turns to criminality or not.
A literature review will then be developed in order to outline the subject area relating to absence and criminality. The review will take the form of a broad sweep of relevant research in order to create the basis from which the rest of the paper will be developed. The review will cover issues such as absence due to imprisonment, death and divorce, studies will be analysed in order to gain perspective on the effects of fatherhood absence, and both supporting and conflicting evidence will be presented in order to produce a balanced analysis. A methodology section will follow which will outline the reasons why this dissertation has been written in the form of a library based project as opposed to an empirical piece of research. Arguments will also be presented in order to justify why a library based project is more appropriate in this instance and the advantages of this method of research. The main body of the paper will offer an in-depth analysis of the impact of absent fatherhood on criminality; the discussion will break the subject area down into three different theories: trauma theories, life course theories and selection theories.
An evaluation of the theories will be presented in order to assess the supporting and conflicting research in an attempt to evaluate its effectiveness in explaining how and why absent fatherhood may lead to criminality. Research suggests that it may not be so simple as to explain away criminality in relation to just one theory but rather a culmination of approaches. There are also many other factors which may affect the successful application of a theory such as; the stability and affection maintained within a household by the mother once a father has become absent. There is a variety of underlying factors that may deter a child from criminality in the absence of a father and these will be explored in turn when assessing the potential of the three theories in offering an explanation for criminality. Once each of the theories has been evaluated a conclusion will be formed in order to discuss the findings of the paper.
Recommendations will be developed as to which theory or culmination of theories may offer the most plausible explanation for criminality due to fatherhood absence. Literature review Although the debate surrounding absent fatherhood and criminality has long been of concern and still remains an issue of great debate. Little conclusive research has actually been developed in this area. It is now commonplace within our society to be raised in a lone parent household which one would presume might encourage more research to be conducted in order to investigate the relationship between criminality and absent fatherhood. However there still remains limited literature. In an attempt to gage the number of single parent households in the UK, 2006 research statistics from the Home Office estimated that 27% of households were lone parent families.
The research concluded that the majority of these lone parents are mothers, with only one in ten households having a lone father as the primary caregiver. Therefore, these findings demonstrate that absent fatherhood is a very real and common occurrence. However, these statistics can only be relied on to a certain extent as they offer no information regarding the reason for absence of fathers. Although, they give an indication of how many households are without a father they do not inform us as to the circumstances surrounding the absence and the effects that this may have had on the children involved. However, one of the main issues which arise when researching absent fatherhood concerns how to define such an ambiguous term. This umbrella term offers us no explanation as to what constitutes an absent father and how they come to be deemed absent in the first place.
Before this paper moves on to investigate the link between absent fatherhood and criminality it is imperative that the term is clearly defined. Defining "absent fathers" The term absent father has been met with much criticism and opposition, particularly from groups campaigning for the rights of fathers. The Dictionary for Dads (2008) state that the term can incorrectly "infer that many hard working family men are neglectful to their children". The term may therefore be applied to men who are still a feature within the family home but who may work away for lengthy periods of time. Despite the positive connotation linked to the response to the term by such groups it is a definition that is commonly interpreted negatively. Bradshaw (1999: 9) argues that it was this negative view which to some extent paved the way for the 1991 Childhood Support Act in which Margaret Thatcher deemed that a father "walking away from marriage... neither maintains nor shows any interest in the child".
Bradshaw also argues that there is a very clear distinction drawn between the resident and non-resident father with the former being viewed as a hero and the latter a monster. Essentially, Bradshaw is inferring that an absent father is characterised by a divorce or a lack of "responsibility for the children they contribute in making" (1999: 10). When reviewing literature on the topic it is often difficult to be certain of how the father came to be absent in the first place which therefore offers no explanation as to how the researcher has interpreted the term "absent father". For example, Lang et al (1976: 477) report that of the female delinquents that they interviewed "most had experienced the absence of their father's whilst they were growing up"; Lang et al do not go onto explain the circumstances that resulted in the absence of the father which if they had may have given the reader more insight into how the different conditions surrounding absence may have varying effects on delinquency. However, the use of the terms broken home and disrupted families are frequently used within literature concerning the circumstances surrounding the father's absence; these terms are somewhat less trivial to define and are characterised by a family household which is set apart due to tensions and conflict, generally between the parents. However, as this research attempts to decipher the link between absent fathers and the criminality of their children it is most likely that the father is absent due to the instability of a broken home and other factors such as divorce, imprisonment or simply a lack of contact with the child.
The effects of single parent households on criminality Much literature appears to concur that "children who grow up in single parent households are more likely to be delinquent than their peers whose parents stay together" (Matsuda and Heimer, 1987, cited in Seltzer, 1994). In support of this notion Sheline et al (1994) asserts that "violent children are 11 times more likely not to live with fathers" and Schiltz (1969) attributes this violence to single parent households being "non-nurturing families which lack masculine or effective role models". This therefore suggests that a two parent household is less likely to raise delinquent children, presumably as there is an increase in supervision and discipline from the masculine role model. McCord (1991: 410) disputes this view and concludes from her research that "it is the child rearing practices that are correlated with aggressive behaviours among non delinquents... analyses of the data also showed female-headed families are no more criminogenic than are two-parent families, provided the single mother is affectionate". Therefore, it is possible for children to be raised in single parent households without an increased risk of becoming criminal providing that their home life remains affectionate. With the absence of a father it is possible that other male role models may begin to play a part in the child's life, for example grandfathers and uncles.
There is some evidence to support this notion that "it is not the structure of the family itself that causes these delinquent behaviours, but the relationships within the structures (Brown et al 1989). It is therefore logical to go onto assess the effectiveness of single parent households which or may not have the advantage of a strong family structure. The effects of intact homes with conflict on criminality Although it is commonly believed that a two parent household is more effective than a single parent one we cannot always be sure of how successful a two parent household is in carrying out the role of raising non delinquent children. For example, much literature highlights the effects of a home with conflict where the father is still present as being more detrimental to the children than if the father was absent altogether.
Juby and Farrington (2001) found that in intact households where there were high levels of conflict between the parents this indicated that "high family conflict strongly predicted juvenile convictions and self-reported delinquency". Research previous to that of Juby and Farrington's Cambridge Study also suggests "that families disrupted by disharmony were more criminogenic than families disrupted by parental death" Juby and Farrington (2001: 30). However, Zelkowitz (1987) argues that family conflict may not be as detrimental as some research has suggested; he reports that "with increasing father support, children were less likely to exhibit aggressive behaviour... however, children whose fathers provided no maintenance support did not differ from those who had no contact with their fathers in terms of aggressive behaviour". In essence Zelkowitz is highlighting the importance of a constant father figure who offers support to his children; however, when no support is offered or there is no contact with the father then aggressive behaviour may occur. Therefore, family conflict may not always be detrimental in terms of delinquency as long as the father supports his children and is a constant feature.
The effects of parental divorce on criminality Although some parents may choose to maintain an intact household despite conflict many opt to divorce, as mentioned previously divorce rates have reached an all time high and Brown-Cheatham (1993, cited in Rodney and Mupier 1999) conclude that as a result of this approximately "50% of today's children will spend at least part of their childhood in a single-parent female-headed household". The effects that divorce can have on the children involved can be varied however, Juby and Farrington (2001) uncovered that much research has concluded that divorce is such a traumatic experience for a child that "parental death has fewer adverse effects than separation or divorce". This indicates that divorce may be particularly detrimental and often indicative of how a child may become criminal. Farrington and West (1973, cited in Juby and Farrington, 2001) support Juby and Farrington's conclusion and found that "separations caused by death or illness were not particularly criminogenic" although they reported that 20% of boys who were separated from a parent due to death or hospitalisation later became convicted juveniles; this is compared to 32% of boys separated for other reasons. They concluded that 20% was not a high enough percentage to indicate that there is any statistically significant increased risk of a child becoming criminal as a result of separations caused by death or illness. It is possible to argue that divorce may be one of the most indicative factors attributing to criminality especially if the divorce spells the end of a relationship between father and child.
Horn (1995, cited in Rodney and Mupier 1999) paints the bleak picture that "forty percent of all children of divorced parents have not seen their fathers in the past year"; this supports Zelkowitz's theory that without the sustained presence of a father figure aggressive behaviour may occur in children. However, divorce is not the only traumatic experience that may account for a child's criminality and their father's absence. The effects of parental imprisonment on criminality Murray and Farrington (2005) incorporated prospective longitudinal data from the Cambridge Study in order to investigate the effects of parental imprisonment on boys' anti-social behaviour and delinquency. The research concluded that "separation because of parental imprisonment predicted all antisocial-delinquent outcomes compared to the four control groups" (Murray and Farrington, 2005). It was also uncovered that "separation caused by parental imprisonment still predicated several antisocial-delinquent outcomes, even up to age 32" (Murray and Farrington, 2005). We can therefore presume that parental imprisonment may have a severely detrimental effect on the sons of the incarcerated parent; this delinquency may also be a long term feature in the boys' lives.
Although this research focuses on incarcerated mothers and fathers it is still possible to apply the findings when discussing only fathers as women only accounted for approximately 5.7% of the prison population in England and Wales as of June 2006 (HM Prison Service, 2009). Andry (1960, cited in Lang et al, 1976) supports this notion and states that "studies of delinquency have repeatedly indicated that fathers are more influential in the development of delinquent behaviour in both daughters and sons than are mothers". However, Flouri and Buchanan (2002) concluded from their investigation into the relationship between fatherhood involvement in childhood and trouble with the police in adolescence that although it was reported that it was the mother who was more attentive and involved with the child they "found no evidence that father involvement is a more important predictor of juvenile delinquency than mother involvement". Although Travis and Wall (2003, cited in Codd, 2008) recognised that "although we know that the children of incarcerated parents experience an array of negative outcomes, it is difficult to assess whether these consequences arise from the prison sentence, or are related to other factors such as family life in the household, or broader socio-legal circumstances". These other circumstances may consist of anything from a disrupted family life, to affection less parents or a lack of supervision and discipline.
Issues of masculinity and its effects on criminality The final piece of literature that will be discussed concerns issues of masculinity. It is important to include this theory as it offers an alternative perspective on how a child may become criminal. As well as taking into account the part that an absent father may play in the process it also offers an insight into how society, and specifically the state and also how mothers may be to blame for the abundance of absent fathers and single parent households that have emerged. This is a particularly new and sociological approach to the issue of absent fathers and criminality but unlike other theories it incorporates a number of factors that may attribute to the absence of a father that are unwanted and beyond his control. Essentially it pulls away from the argument that criminality is a result of a disruption within the family household and dynamic and instead asserts that it is in fact the fault of a changing society which no longer values males and their involvement in child rearing but instead may serve to indirectly encourage single parent households.
Murray (1993, cited in Collier, 1998) argues that absent fathers are prominent features among "the poorer, the unskilled, the unemployed", he asserts that these people have essentially created an underclass within society moving from being poor to illegitimate. Murray attributes the creation of this underclass as a result of "the linking of the criminality of male youth with lone motherhood, family breakdown and the economics of the welfare state". Murray blames the changing dynamic of men's roles within society for this whereby they were once viewed as brutish barbarians who were in need of taming through marriage, however the marriage pool has now shrunk and such men have become undesirable as a result of increases in unemployment, they are therefore viewed as being unable to provide for their families, on this basis Murray argues that males have lost their role within society. Young boys are therefore denied a father figure within their home life and "in communities without fathers the kids tend to run wild. The fewer the fathers, the greater the tendency", Murray (1990, cited in Collier, 1998). Murray also argues that the welfare system within the UK is also to blame for the increase in absent fathers as it makes it too easy for women to be dependent upon the state and offers them "the choice of dependency rather than being married to a man" Murray (1990, cited in Collier, 1998).
The presence of a father is argued to "embody discipline, control and restraint. His presence is seen as balancing or diluting, the otherwise essential unruliness of male youth" Collier (1998,131). Collier and Murray are essentially arguing that the presence of a father is vital in the development of a non delinquent child, however, they fail to take into account that many families benefit from the father's absence for a variety of reasons such as those discussed previously. Now that an overview of research relating to the subject matter has been developed a discussion will be formed in order to assess how effective trauma theories, life course theories and selection theories may be in offering an explanation as to how absent fatherhood may contribute to criminality. The main hypotheses that will be explored are: o Specifically, which conditions and factors concerning the absence of a father are most influential in contributing to criminality o What conditions need to exist once a father has become absent in order to deter a child from criminality o Which of the three theories listed above offers the most convincing and effective argument of the extent to which absent fathers contribute to the criminality of their children Methodology This chapter will discuss the methodology used within this dissertation to gather information and evidence in an attempt to explore the link between absent fatherhood and criminality. The chosen methodology will be explained both in terms of its suitability to the research topic and its appropriateness.
An explanation will also be developed as to why this particular methodology was selected over any other. Finally an overview of how data was collected and analysed will be discussed. This dissertation takes the form of a library based research project whereby an extended literature review is developed by analysing existing data and research. In essence this method is best described as a content analysis whereby texts are analysed thematically in order to identify major themes and ideas and re analyse these to allow for a critique to be developed and for new and alternative conclusions to be drawn. This methodology is most appropriate to the dissertation as it avoids many of the problems that would be involved in conducting primary research. For instance, the sampling process would be particularly problematic when conducting primary research due to the sensitive data that would need to be obtained.
In order to compile data participants who were both criminal and had experienced the absence of a father would need to be interviewed. This would prove particularly difficult as participants would presumably be both juveniles and offenders and access to such individuals can be troublesome and often time consuming. There is also the possibility that if access was granted to such participants and a questionnaire type design was adopted with which to collect data difficulties may arise concerning the literacy and reading levels of participants. Poor levels of literacy among offenders are a common problem; Putnins (1999: 460) concluded from his research that "delinquency is associated with poor educational achievement, particularly poor literacy". Within such a limited time frame with which to gather participants and without any funding which may be needed to travel for example it was deemed unsuitable and unrealistic to carry out any form of primary research.
However, by conducting a library based piece of research this does not mean that new conclusions cannot be drawn from existing research, patterns between different pieces of research may be identified and alternative conclusions may be developed. Content analyses allow for a broad range of information, including both literature and data, to be studied rapidly within a limited amount of time. It is also a completely unobtrusive research method which is not subject to the same difficulties that would have arisen had this dissertation been a primary piece of research. For example, the sensitive nature of the research topic will pose no difficulties and nor will the gathering of an appropriate sample of participants. Krippendorff (2004: 8) describes content analyses as "potentially one of the most important research techniques in the social sciences".
He distinguishes it from other methods of research as it "views data as representations not of physical events but of texts, images, and expressions that are created to be seen, read, interpreted, and acted on for their meanings" (Krippendorff, 2004: 8). In essence, content analyses allow for texts to be analysed in the context of their uses in an attempt to develop a balanced argument which takes into account both the usefulness and the limitations of a text. In order to perform the content analysis used in this dissertation firstly a list of categories were devised with which to condense the type and amount of texts needed to produce a literature review. For example, as already discussed there are a variety of reasons as to why a father may be absent, therefore in order not to lose sight of the research question some of the main factors leading to the absence were selected and explored. The categories chosen were: intact homes with conflict, divorce and parental imprisonment. The documents selected to explore these categories were selected based on their suitability to analyse the specific conditions attributing to absence.
Similarly the discussion chapter of the dissertation will categorise data into the three separate areas: trauma theories, life course theories and selection theories. Data was collected mostly from journals and accessed largely via the internet and the library, some books and websites were also used although journals were found to be more easily accessible and consisted of primary research which offered more scope to be analysed and interpreted for the purposes of the dissertation. The documents selected were analysed in terms of their findings and the conclusions drawn from the research that was conducted. These findings and conclusions were used to shape the argument connected to each category to offer a balanced view as to how each one may attribute to absent fatherhood and the criminality of children. This same method of analysis and data gathering will be used throughout the rest of the dissertation in order to reach a conclusion as to the effects of absent fatherhood on criminality.
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