The structure of teens’ families influences their risk of delinquent behaviors such as shoplifting, graffiti or robbery, new research suggests.
For the study, the researchers analyzed survey data gathered between 2016 and 2019 from more than 3,800 14- and 15-year-olds in Sweden. They used a statistical measure called incident rate ratio, or IRR, to compare groups.
“This study shows that it is important to move on to the use of more detailed categorizations of family structure in relation to delinquency, and to increase our knowledge about the group of adolescents that moves between parents, and especially about the different constellations of asymmetrical and symmetrical living arrangements,” the authors concluded in the report published online April 13 in PLOS ONE.
Compared to teens who lived with a mother and father, delinquent behavior was more common among those who lived with a single father (IRR: 1.898); a single mother (IRR: 1.661); a father and stepmother (IRR: 1.606); or a mother and stepfather (IRR: 2.044).
An IRR of 2, for example, means the rate is twice as high, explained study authors Robert Svensson, a professor of criminology, and Björn Johnson, a professor of social work, at Malmö University in Sweden.
The risk of delinquent behavior was also higher among teens with only one parent who had a new partner, the investigators found.
But many of the associations between family structure and risk of delinquency decreased when researchers accounted for parental attachment and monitoring.
Previous studies have found that teens who don’t live with both parents are at higher risk for delinquent behaviors. But those studies tended to overly simplify family living arrangements, such as only comparing living with both parents versus not living with both parents, the study authors noted in a journal news release.
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SOURCE: PLOS ONE, news release, April 13, 2022