Research Proposal: Social Welfare State and Juvenile

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¶ … Social Welfare State and Juvenile Crimes

Youth Offenders and Social Welfare: An Evaluation of the Relationship between the Social Welfare State and Juvenile Crimes

Despite some reductions in various types of juvenile crime during the late 1990s and early 2000s, the problem of youthful crime has once again resurfaced as a national priority. When something is made a priority, though, it is by definition supposed to get better, but this has not been the case with youth offenders and the lower socioeconomic background that characterizes the lives of the majority of them. According to Everett and Chadwell (2009), U.S. Department of Justice statistics indicate that juvenile crime remains a national social problem in the United States today. In fact, Everett and Chadwell report that, "In 2000 alone, over 2.3 million juveniles were arrested for criminal offenses; since 1980, juvenile arrest rates have increased 36% for aggravated assault and 64% for drug violations" (p. 39). Despite the urgency and nature of the problem, juvenile delinquency remains largely the provenance of government and academia at present. In fact, Mincey and Maldonado point out, "Community members are [only] gradually [becoming] more aware of this growing epidemic and its impact on communities and family lives" (2008, p. 8).

Complex problems, of course, require complex solutions and helping youthful offenders from impoverished backgrounds identify alternatives to crime when few or no other opportunities exist remains a challenge for government organizations at all levels, as well as the communities in which these young people live. In this regard, Mincey and Maldonado conclude that, "This issue requires the attention of both policy makers and citizens given the deleterious impact of juvenile recidivism on youth and their communities, notwithstanding their shared or mutually exclusive viewpoints" (2008, p. 9).

In response to continuing large increases in the numbers of youthful offenders across the country, the proposed study will provide a comprehensive review of the relevant peer-reviewed and scholarly secondary literature to determine the extent to which, if any, a relationship exists between the social welfare state (including characteristic programs such as food stamps; women, infants and children assistance; and poverty-related initiatives) and youthful crimes.

Purpose of the Study

The overarching purpose of the proposed study will be to determine whether youth who are subjected to a lifetime of welfare, including handouts from the government and free social programs, are more likely to commit crimes than their mainstream peers who do not receive such governmental assistance.

Hypothesis

The proposed study's hypothesis and null hypotheses are as follows:

H1:

There will be a direct correlation between the poverty level of a community and its juvenile crime rate.

N1:

There will be no direct correlation between the poverty level of a community and its juvenile crime rate.

Tentative Timeline

A tentative timeline for the completion of the proposed study is set forth in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Timeline of proposed research and study conclusion

ACTIVITIES/TASKS

TIME (MONTHS) (2013-2014)

Nov

Dec

Jan

Feb

Mar

Apr

1

Bibliographic Searches

X

X

2

Photocopy info from non-bibliographic sources

X

X

3

Reading

X

X

X

4

Submission of study proposal

X

5

Fine tune research question and methodology

X

X

8

Data collection

X

X

X

X

9

Data analysis

X

X

X

X

10

Writing up of study

X

X

11

Revision, editing and submission

X

12

Submission of study

X

X

Literature Review

The research concerning the relationship between youthful offenders and their socioeconomic background has a fairly lengthy history, beginning in the late 19th century and becoming more intensified thereafter. Much of this research has regarded the problem of juvenile delinquency as being multifaceted, of course, but there is a general consensus that a lack of social services resources and a dearth of meaningful educational employment opportunities have contributed to the problem which are the responsibilities of the government (Ellis, 2011). In reality, though, the focus on youths at risk of becoming involved with the law enforcement community is relatively recent in origin. For example, the publication of the National Commission on Excellence in Education's 1983 study, A Nation at Risk, caused educators and governmental policymakers to attempt to identify the country's at-risk youth populations for the first time in an effort to reverse the tide of declining test scores and growing dropout rates that were the major antecedents to success later in life (Fusick & Bordeau, 2009).

In this context, young people are regarded as being at risk for social and academic failure as well as increased involvement with the criminal justice system when their potential for realizing their full academic and professional potential as responsible and productive adults is restricted by barriers such as poverty, illicit drug use and a lack of parental supervision (Fusick & Bordeau, 2009). Indeed, the research to date suggests that the most accurate predictor of involvement in youth crime is ineffective parenting. In this regard, Bogenschneider (2004) reports that, "Researchers have learned that 30% to 40% of the antisocial behavior of early offenders, who are those most likely to become violent and chronic offenders later, can be tied to harsh, inconsistent parenting during the preschool years" (p. 59).

Other authorities add a virtual laundry list of other factors that have been shown to contribute to increased involvement by youth people with the law enforcement community. For instance, Everett and Chadwell (2002) report that, "The term 'at-risk' has become controversial and somewhat of a cliche in recent years, as it has been applied to a wide range of youths, including juvenile offenders, school dropouts, drug abusers, teenage mothers, premature infants, and adolescents with personality disorders" (p. 39). The overarching issue that emerges from the secondary data, though, is that socioeconomic factors play an important role in shaping young people's behaviors, with virtually all of the youthful offending being tied to the same factors that are characteristic of a social welfare state. For instance, according to Hornel, Freiberg and Lamb (2009), a growing body of research since the publication of A Nation at Risk confirms that one of the most significant antecedents to youthful criminal behaviors is an impoverished background. In this regard, Hornel et al. report that, "Impulsivity, low school achievement, poor parental child-rearing practices, and poverty have all been identified as key predictors of involvement in juvenile crime" (2009, p. 2).

Although each of these key predictors of involvement with the law enforcement community is highly intractable to interventions, they must all be dealt with in order to achieve meaningful outcomes. For example, Bogenschneider and Gross (2004) emphasize that, "At first blush, risky adolescent behaviors like juvenile crime can seem intractable and impervious to policy responses. Policy makers are inundated with information whose sheer volume and complexity can be overwhelming" (p. 19). Moreover, juvenile crime is not the result of a single cause or even a multitude of causes that can be identified with precision (Bogenschneider & Gross, 2004).

In this regard, O'Connor and Trest (1999) point out that, "The problem of serious, chronic, and violent juvenile offenders arises at the nexus of numerous social welfare issues because these youths tend to grow up in environments in which both family structures and opportunity structures have deteriorated" (p. 1299). This point is also made by Weatherburn and Lind (2000) who suggest that addressing the problem of youth crime at the local, regional and national levels must first begin with its primary antecedents: poverty and unemployment. For example, Weatherburn and Lind note that, "The notion that we can reduce crime by programs designed to reduce poverty and unemployment hardly needs introduction or defense. The provision of income support undoubtedly reduces the level of economic stress [making] it an effective long-term crime prevention strategy" (p. 160).

In such deprived environments, it is not surprising that many young people resort to behaviors that inevitably involve them with law enforcement authorities. As O'Connor and Trest conclude, "Poverty, inadequate housing/education, racism, child abuse, teen pregnancy, drug addiction, alcoholism, and endless other social ills can push youths onto paths of violent and criminal behavior. Eradicating juvenile crime without addressing its relationship to these other issues is an impossibility" (p. 1300).

It would be disingenuous, of course, to suggest that poverty must first be solved before social priorities can move on to juvenile crime, but it is important to note that the problem's causes are multifaceted and dynamic, and differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, making the application of "one size fits all" solutions inappropriate, and indeed impossible. It would also be disingenuous to argue that social services programs should be withheld for fear of their doing more harm than good. Nevertheless, the relationship between socioeconomic factors and youth crime is well established but its exact solution remains elusive. The problem of identifying an effective solution is further complicated by prevailing social attitudes in the United States concerning these issues. For instance, Allen (2007) emphasizes that, "As a nation we tout our children as our hope for the future and our most cherished asset. We exhort the global village to share… [END OF PREVIEW]

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