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Family Risk Factors
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Family history of high-risk behavior (substance abuse, delinquency, teenage pregnancy, and school dropout). Children raised in a family with a history of addiction to alcohol or other drugs are at increased risk of having alcohol or other drug problems (Goodwin, 1985), and children born or raised in a family with a history of criminal activity are at increased risk of delinquency (Bohman, 1978).

Similarly, children born to a teenage mother are more likely to be teenage parents, and children of dropouts are more likely to drop out of school themselves (Slavin, 1990b).

Family management problems (substance abuse, delinquency, violence, teenage pregnancy, and school dropout). Poor family management practices are defined as not having clear expectations for behavior, failing to supervise and monitor children and excessively severe, harsh, or inconsistent punishment. Children exposed to these poor family management practices are at higher risk of developing all of the health and behavior problems listed above (Patterson and Dishion, 1985; Farrington, 1991; Kandel and Andrews, 1987; Peterson et al., 1994; Thornberry, 1994).

Family conflict (substance abuse, delinquency, violence, teen pregnancy, and school dropout). Although children whose parents are divorced have higher rates of delinquency and substance abuse, it appears that it is not the divorce itself that contributes to delinquency behavior. Rather, conflict between family members appears to be more important in predicting delinquency than family structure (Rutter and Giller, 1983). For example, domestic violence in a family increases the likelihood that young people will engage in violent behavior themselves (Loeber and Dishion, 1984). Children raised in a environment of conflict appear to be at risk for all of the problem behaviors that have been noted in this section.

Parental attitudes and involvement in problem behaviors (substance abuse, delinquency, and violence). Parental attitudes and behavior toward drugs and crime influence the attitudes and behavior of children (Brook et al., 1990; Kandel, Kessler, and Maguiles, 1978; Hansen, Graham, Shelton, Flay, and Johnson, 1987).

Children who are excused for breaking the law are more likely to develop problems with juvenile delinquency (Hawkins and Weis, 1985) and children whose parents engage in violent behavior inside or outside the home are at greater risk for exhibiting violent behavior.

In families in which parents are heavy illegal drug or alcohol users or are tolerant of their children's use, children are more likely to become drug and alcohol abusers in adolescence. The risk is further increased if parents involve children in their drug- or alcohol-using behavior - for example, asking a child to light a cigarette or to get a beer from the refrigerator (Ahmed, Bush, Davidson, Ianotti, 1984).


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