Reason Why Shouldn't Or Should Parents Be Held Responsible for Their Children's Crimes

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Table of Contents

  • Introduction
  • Method
  • Ethical Considerations of the Research
  • Results
  • Discussion
  • Conclusion


Youth crime is on the rise, the National Youth Justice Statistics in the years 2017/18, the possession of weapon offences had increased by 10% and is now at 13%, the percentage of youth drug offences have risen by 5% to 11%, and violence against the person offences has also increased by 4% to 10%. However, in the year ending on March 2018 violence against the person offences has risen to account for 27% of all proven offences over the last ten years. This means more youth are committing more serious offences over the last few years. In the UK the age of criminal responsibility is from the age of 10, this means that children under the age of 10 cannot be arrested or charged. People would argue that the parents are to blame for their youth’s criminal activity, which leads me to my research question “are parents to blame for youth crime?”. This is because many people believe that once two people or one person becomes a parent to a child, they have the responsibility to play a part in what direction their future goes in, and the child is, therefore, their receptibility legally, morally, physically and emotionally. However, there is also the debate on whether it’s the lack of access to education or opportunities that drive a child to commit a crime. This report will talk about if parents are the reason that their children commit crimes and why?

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In order to find my literature sources, I used the DMU library website. Firstly, I put in my research question and then used the filters to reduce the number of results I was given. For refining search, I selected Full-text online, scholarly & peer-review and then peer-review. I then selected the content type; I chose journal article. When it came to discipline, I decided to pick Social Welfare & Social Work. At first, I did struggle with the publication date as I wanted more recent journal articles but not many had been published in the last 12 months onwards, so in order to find what I was looking for the publication date I chose was from 06/11/2017 to 06/03/2019. The last and final filter I used was subject terms, I added parents & parenting as that was part of my research question and then removed adolescents and child sexual abuse. my result gave me seven sources.

Many of my sources used similar methods to collect their data such as interviews. (Houle et al., 2018) used the concept mapping technique, this specifically designed to help identify components, dimensions and particularities of a given reality. However, this technique requires constant involvement of people concerned during the process, this is to ensure the outcomes and process are appropriate for the participants. (Saunders, 2018) collected their data from several sources that include caregivers, parents, and stakeholders which also included the government, non-profit services, and the children and young people. They used audiotaped interviews with the permission of participants, this was to gain an insight into perspectives and experiences of children and young people. This data analysis was assisted using NVIVO software that enables the recording, retrieval, and sorting of interview data. The participants were chosen with assistance from ACT prison and selected through a variety of diverse organisations such a youth-groups, the statutory child protection services, and the ACT’s family support service. (Sung et al., 2018) the study focuses on secondary students as they are prone to bullying behaviours. Teachers were used to finding participants, which was based on the standard of Solberg and Olwes (2003). They used semi-structured interviews, this is because they have the advantage of flexibility, the researcher is able to expand and deepen the content of interviews based on the responses. During the research Olwes, bully/victim questionnaires were used to identify the “bully-victims”. (Stevens, 2018) used an existing sample of 14 inner-London families that were recruited to previous studies, an uncontrolled evaluation of a one-to-one 20-week therapeutic parenting intervention, these interventions took place at home with the Helping Families Programme. Using this existing sample allowed a five-year follow-up of parents’ experiences of service use. The respondents were asked to nominate a practitioner, or two, from any service that they felt, was helpful, these practitioners were then interviewed, interviews were focused on topics that would explore all areas needed. (McCarthy and Adams, 2017) the method included semi-structured interviews that were conducted with caregivers related to convicted young-persons aged 15-21 that is serving time in prison. The interviewees were recruited from visitor centres of two of the largest young offenders’ prisons. Prison one was male inmates aged 18-21 serving four-year terms up to life, the second prison included younger prisoners aged 15-21 that were serving shorter sentences on average of two-years. Interview samples were collected after each participant completed a survey earlier on and declared an interest in taking part. Interview data consisted mostly of mothers, fathers, uncles/aunts/grandparents, and older siblings, all these people were involved in the core caregiving roles. (Morgan-Mullane, 2017) during this study used cognitive behavioural therapy which included three-phases Stabilisation, trauma narrative, and integration/consolidation. Two participants chosen had a mother that had been incarcerated. During the first phase, social-workers used psychoeducation to discuss trauma and domestic-violence which they endured and witnessed. During phase two the participants were asked to write a trauma narrative which will help them discuss feelings that they may have built-up. During phase three, the participants had co-joint parent-child sessions. Participants developed a safety plan to address their social and emotional behaviours. (Struik, 2017) collects data from a child that has drawn pictures showing the trauma they endured, while taking notes on the child behaviour before and after the healing therapy.

Ethical Considerations of the Research

The research I investigated involved children under the age of 18, due to this it is important that the researchers have permission from participants parents or guardians to use their data. This was done in the (Saunders, 2018) study by developing child-friendly information letters and consent forms, the participants were also offered follow-up support. The approval for the study was also provided by the University Human Research Ethics Committee, which ensures the rights and interests of participants during the research process as well as their confidentiality was upheld. (Sung et al., 2018) used an agreement of participation and sent out informed consent forms to each of the participants’ parents. The participants were informed that at any time they would be allowed to ask questions or read through the data to ensure it is all true and nothing is wrong. (Stevens, 2018) any ethical issues that were arising in connection with the interviews were discussed with the project’s ethical advisors. The participants were given the option to leave the study at any time they wish, this may be due to any number of reasons. (Houle et al., 2018) is done on a voluntary basis so they could also leave whenever they want to this could prevent any stress, anxiety or mental health issues the study may cause.


The results for (Stevens, 2018) study show that it is possible with intervention that there can be a lasting change in children’s behaviour when the parents accept that the child is not solely to blame for their behaviour, but they may be partly to blame for the way they behave because of the way they behave around the child in question. With intervention to the effect of abuse and amount of abuse against the child can be stopped and with the right intervention, the child will be able to work through the trauma that may be causing them to act out. It also shows that with the right practitioner they can recognise when times need to be taken to build trust with the child for them to change their behaviour and that mothers would like more support when it comes to dealing with their child’s behaviour.

Results show that 10% of black children that are under the age of 10 have at least one parent in prison. This has mediating effects on the child and can cause all sorts of trauma as well as stigma from the public, which could affect the way the child behaves. This also means that social workers need to acknowledge the socio-economic and the demographics in which mediating effects such as racism, poverty and low educational attainment can all influence trauma, making the child worse.

The results of this study show that stigma is in fact very prominent when it comes to children and young people of incarcerated parents. The study also showed that the participants had experienced any major change on the way they perceived and understood themselves, which made them think that if their parents had done something bad that they too could be a “bad person”. Many other participants also expressed to researchers that they felt that they too might end up in prison one day because they felt they may too become like their parents. Many of the younger participants also expressed how the felt worried that people may judge them for how their parents acted even though it wasn’t in their control.

The results found in this study showed that “Trauma Healing story” intervention can help children that are suffering chronical traumatisation from their parent’s incarceration. They showed that instead of locking the parent out the parent would become the key figure in which to help the child recover from their trauma.

The results from this study showed that when the participants worked in groups they generated 131 statements that answered the following “in your opinion, parents would enroll more in prevention programmes if…” by doing so they were able to order the statements in order of importance and then put them into twelve clusters that followed the statistical analysis based on individuals classifications. It also helped researchers to have an insight into those that have been recruited by programmes and those who have not and how that has affected them.

The results found in (McCarthy and Adams, 2017) showed that caregivers of incarcerated children and young adults are prone to a stigma that they are bad parents and are unable to parent correctly as a result of their child going to prison. However, some caregivers who took part in the study admitted to the responsibility of their child’s behaviour. It was found that before prison many of the families of offenders experienced mental-health issues and family violence. Mothers of participants were mainly the ones to self-blame for their child’s crimes and would often express guilt for the way their child has ended up. In some cases, single fathers expressed that although their son had caused so much grief and trouble that it had brought them closer and taught them the way of unconditional love they have for their child and that they will support them no matter what.

The results for (Sung et al., 2018) say that although bully-victims may be defined by their personal factors, they adopt internal strategies to help cope with their situation. In addition to this, some of the victims went to adults or friends for help with their situation, but due to their behaviour and impressionable characteristics, they showed the adults would often have negative impressions of them.


The key themes found in (Stevens, 2018) were that parents did not know where to turn when it came to their child’s behaviour and some of the services that they did chose weren’t very helpful, which led to the child’s behaviour not improving and the parents becoming increasingly frustrated which also had an effect on the child and their behaviour. The study showed that parents need to find the right services to meet the needs of their child and the parents can help toward preventing their child from participating in criminal behaviour by accepting some responsibility for the way their child behaves.

In (Morgan-Mullane, 2017) the key themes and objectives were to explore the trauma symptoms of children who have a parent that has been incarcerated. They also study whether CBT really works and will be able to be used on children that show signs of PTSD following a parent being incarcerated, which could lead to bad behaviour.

(Saunders, 2018) asses if children of prisoners are subject to stigma in everyday life, by their teachers, family, friends, and neighbourhood. It shows that many people today will have such an opinion on whether a child will end up like their parents and how the effect of this stigma can alter the way a child sees themselves in the present and in the future, which can be mentally and physically harming to a child at such a young age.

(Struik, 2017) is to engage traumatised children in trauma-focused treatment and assessing through pictures and interviews taken from the participants how they were felling at the time the trauma was happening and how they feel now it is not happening anymore. It also shows if the therapy worked or not and how the parent can help their own child through recovery.

(Houle et al., 2018) the aim of the study was to recruit parents in prevention programmes that would help to prevent their children from becoming criminals in the future by working with them to find out the source of their behaviour, this is also shown from the services point of view.

In the (McCarthy and Adams, 2017) study the main aims were to explore the parental responsibility that comes with incarcerated children and what it means for them when their child is sent to prison. The study also addresses how many caregiver experiences social-adversities as collateral consequences of their child offending. The main points that were covered were how parents were in some way to blame for their child’s behaviour and should also be held responsible and the effect it has on the caregivers of the offenders in their everyday lives.

In the study of (Sung et al., 2018) they explored the development process of bully-victims from the perspectives of bully-victims and school teachers. The main points within this research were also how bullying affected the victims and how the teachers would react to certain people asking for help.


Throughout the sources, most caregivers were blamed for their child’s behaviour and they should also be held responsible for their child’s actions, others would say that it isn’t the parent’s fault and the child is putting themselves in a position where they are committing offences. Moving on, it was also found that a child’s behaviour whether it be criminal or showing signs of anxiety, PTSD or depression has always been down to the parents’ actions that have caused their behaviour to change. However, many factors can influence a child to become criminally inclined, things such as peer-pressure from both family or friends, a bad home-life, lack of education, demographics or the presence of bullying. Social workers must dig deeper into the lives of the children under their care and see what is causing the problem, such as social factors of the child’s life, by doing so more children will have a better chance at getting the help they need in order to have a better life and therefore avoiding a life of crime. More support for mothers and fathers of children that have been incarcerated or are on the brink of incarceration needs to be provided, as the services that are available aren’t reaching out to people when they need them most although the families are reaching out to them. This is a problem and could cause families to lose faith in our services and lose hope for their child, this means that their child could become uncontrollable and lead a life of crime.

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