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Self-reported delinquency in relation to attachment and parental control: an empirical study.


Patricia Walsh

Type: Report
Region: Republic of Ireland
Northern Ireland

This study was carried out to examine the relationship between attachment to parents, control by parents and self-reported delinquency, within the framework of social control theory (Hirschi, 1969). Factors associated with delinquency, substance abuse, school misbehaviour and police contacts were investigated in two time periods - 1982 and 1994. Two hundred and forty-nine boys aged twelve to fourteen years were surveyed in school in 1994. Forty-four were surveyed in 1982. Results revealed that the prevalence of self-reported delinquency in Galway is similar to that in other countries and cities. Boys who reported high levels of delinquency also reported having more delinquent friends, parents who had been picked up by the police, higher levels of substance abuse, more physical punishment by and weaker attachments to parents. Different factors predicted the different types of delinquency. The expected interactions between poor attachment, harsh discipline and high levels of self-reported delinquency were not found, except in respect of fathers in the 1982 sample. In the 1994 sample, those who claimed to be strongly attached reported lower levels of delinquency. Those who reported being strongly disciplined by their mothers and both parents also reported higher levels of delinquency. In the 1982 study, there was no significant correlation between attachment to parents and delinquency or between discipline by parents and delinquency. There were significant differences between the two samples in levels of punishment, attachment, supervision, family size and structure but no differences in terms of delinquency. The reliability of all the measures was high over a two-week period. It was concluded that self-reported delinquency, is a normal part of adolescence in Galway, with high and worrying levels of substance abuse and police contacts, especially among those who are poorly attached to parents



Rights: Public
Suggested citation:

Patricia Walsh. (1996) Self-reported delinquency in relation to attachment and parental control: an empirical study. [Online]. Available from: [Accessed: 22nd July 2018].


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