“Parents are to be blamed for delinquent children of youths.” Discuss.

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Delinquent children have constantly remained a thorn in the flesh of society, and with the rising trend of increased divorce rates and the change in the functions served by the family, delinquency rates have risen at an alarming rate over the years. This is in part due to improper guidance on the part of their parents, who do not inculcate their children with desirable moral values or socialise them with appropriate social values. Digging deeper, however, one recognises that parents may not neglect their duties to their children out of a sheer lack of responsibility, but instead may be forced to do so under extenuating societal circumstances.

Delinquency can be defined as the wilful committing of violent or non- violent crimes. As such, it follows that a delinquent child commits crimes in the full knowledge that he is perpetrating an act which cannot be morally sanctioned, thus demonstrating an inadequate grounding in moral principles. The onus lies on a child’s parents to ensure that he is socialised to adopt values cherished and widely accepted in the society in which he is born, because the parents, having made the decision to bring a life into the world, have a responsibility both to it and to its society to ensure that it is groomed to be a functional social unit which constructively rather than destructively affects its community. While genes and inborn characteristics do have a bearing on a child’s mental and emotional developments, environmental factors substantially shape the child as well. Therefore, parents are an immense influence on the child, who is brought up under their care and has a considerable amount of contact with them. Thus, when a delinquent child or youth disrupts societal order with his criminal acts, the direct blame lies on his parents for having failed their fundamental duty to raise a functional social unit.

Yet delinquency often stems from a child’s or youth’s own inadequacies, which can be as crucial a factor as their parents’ failure in delivering on their responsibilities. Emotional insecurities may derail a child from his normal course of development. So may pressures from his contemporaries, his appetites and his circumstances thrust his young mind into confusion and uncertainty and, given that he has not fully matured, put him in a position with which he is ill-equipped to cope. As a result, he may resort to crime to alleviate the pressures burdening him. Because the plethora of external influences a child is exposed to cannot possibility be comprehensively monitored by his parents, and because his innate insecurities and immaturity are part of the natural process of his emotional development that cannot be removed by any act on the part of his parent, these factors that can lead to delinquency are not caused by parental irresponsibility. Thus, the parents are not fully culpable for the development of a delinquent child.

At the same time, the root cause of the so-labelled “irresponsibility” of parents merits closer examination. Should this irresponsibility stem from a fundamental lack of sense of duty on the parents’ part, he should no doubt be held fully culpable for the subsequent wayward turn his child takes. However, parents are often forced into “irresponsibility” by characteristics of the society whose impact they cannot resist. For example, delinquency seen in a child could be blamed on parental negligence, but the root cause of his negligence could be time-consuming career commitments, which both parents have to place priority on order to ensure the financial stability of the family unit. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that more and more women are becoming viable economic units who partake equally in a family’s “breadwinning business”. The varied demands of the modern, globalised world compete with children for the attention, effort and time of their parents. Parents become forced into a situation in which, in order to fulfil another fundamental responsibility of theirs – to safeguard the financial security and hence overall stability of their families – they sacrifice time that could be spent on better grooming their children. In this manner, the opportunity cost of familial stability can be the sound moral tutelage of a couple’s children.

It is thus difficult to ascribe blame wholly to one party or another for delinquent children’s inappropriate behaviour. While the phenomenon is partially brought about due to irresponsibility on the part of their parents, external factors, coupled with their immaturity, are also partly the causes of this aberrant behaviour in children. Parental neglect may not entirely represent a failure on the parent’s part, but may be the product of a series of carefully weighed decisions made by parents to ensure the stability of his family, decisions he has been forced to make due to society’s demands of him. As the issues descend into shades of grey upon careful consideration, parents cannot be fully blamed for delinquent children or youth.

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