This fact sheet reports the findings of a study that examined the family experiences of 194 male children at age 10 to predict their later involvement in delinquent acts (police arrests) at age 17. Findings showed that being in a stepfamily, rather than residing with both biological parents, more than doubled the risk of juvenile delinquent behavior. Results also indicated that having good peer relations at age 10 was a protective factor against police arrest at age 17 for boys in all types of families (two-parent, biological; stepfamily; single-parent family). Unique to boys in stepfamilies was the protective effect of the family's ability to solve problems, which reduced the odds of arrest by about half. Findings also confirmed characteristics, including the structure of the family, exerted the greatest effect on the early onset of delinquency rather than affecting delinquency initiated after age 14. Implications for professionals working with stepfamilies are discussed.
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Does Living in a Stepfamily Increase the Risk of Delinquency in Children?