Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 121–145

It’s a Two-Way Street: The Bidirectional Relationship Between Parenting and Delinquency

Empirical Research


As the primary socializing institution of youth, the family has long been recognized as important for predicting delinquency. Social control theory focuses on the effects of parental behavior on adolescent delinquency but fails to take into account the effect of adolescent delinquency on parental behaviors. This study addresses this problem by estimating eighteen models examining bidirectional relationships between general, property, and violent delinquency and parental attachment, monitoring, and involvement. The magnitude of both parent and child effects were examined using data from 12,505 youth ages twelve to seventeen who participated in the Add Health study. These youth were an average age of 14 and were predominantly white (65%); just over half (50.42%) were female. Cross-lag regressions showed that while parental attachment has an effect on delinquency, an adolescent’s delinquency also impacts parental attachment, regardless of the type of delinquency. Findings also revealed no significant parental effects of monitoring or involvement on any type of delinquency, and the only child effects revealed for monitoring or involvement were for involvement, which decreases when overall or property delinquency increases. The findings regarding parental attachment provide strong evidence for the existence of a reciprocal relationship between parenting and delinquency, consistent with the transactional and interactional models of reciprocal parent–child relationships.


Social bonds Delinquency Parenting Attachment 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyBaylor UniversityWacoUSA

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