Contextual Analysis In Childhood Development



Patterson and Bronfenbrenner came up with a comprehensive explanation of the role that a child’s context plays in their developmental process. These two sociologists assert that children’s culture, parenting style, social network among other factors tremendously affect their overall outcome as adults. The essay shall examine the latter author’s theories with regard to delinquency.

Role of contextual analysis in determining delinquent patterns

The country is under tremendous pressure owing to the high rates of delinquency. It would therefore be very useful to place this pattern of behavior under context. Kennedy and Swenson (1995) explained that the country needed a total of one billion dollars to deal with the juvenile system which is usually brought on by delinquency factors. Some of the assertions made by these experts include the fact that juvenile delinquents are more likely than other individuals to depend on welfare as adults or to be unemployed in the future. It is therefore imperative to detect some of the possible causes of these behaviors and nip them in the bud.

DeBaryshe, Patterson and Ramsey (1989) explain that the interactions which children have with their families have a major role to play in terms of the way children turn out in the future. It should be noted that those children with minimal guidance from their respective families have higher chances of exhibiting delinquent behavior. Additionally, these negative effects experienced by such children are likely to trickle down to their overall behavior within the school environment. More often than not, such children feel rejected by their parents are thus unable to give their all within the school environment. The overall result of this is failure.

On top of the latter, it is possible to find that most children who are exposed to negative family influences or those who have been rejected by their families, tend to join socially deviant groups. The main explanation for this is that those children are looking for some sort of acceptance. While the socially deviant groups may not be acceptable by other members of the community, most of them make neglected children feel at home. When a rejected child joins such a socially deviant group, they are likely to ape the behaviors of their peers and engage in delinquent behavior.

Patterson (1996) explains that in order to understand or even determine whether a child will exhibit delinquent behavior, one ought to examine whether that respective child is exposed to good family management. Additionally, it was also necessary to look at some of the issues revolving around their parents. This factors include; availability of parents, nature of parental interactions and whether those respective individuals can understand the nature of the child’s respective challenges.

The latter mentioned authors also asserted that it was necessary to asses whether a child’s school environment was a positive influence upon their lives. This means that more often than not, children who perform poorly in school or those who feel out of place in school are more likely to exhibit delinquent behavior than their counterparts in other types of schools. Consequently, it is necessary fro such children’s parent to take part in monitoring their children’s behavior.

It should be noted that the latter authors were trying to move away from the traditional explanations of delinquency. In other words, they believed that delinquency is more a result of family interactions rather than family structures. Traditionally, it was thought that children brought up in single parent homes were more susceptible to delinquent behavior than those children who have been raised by both parents. However, contextual development adherents believe that a child can be brought up in a single parent home and fail to become a juvenile delinquent if the nature of their family relationships is strong enough. Additionally, Patterson asserts that when parents continually monitor their children, then chances of delinquency are drastically reduced. This is something that Patterson (1996) believes can occur even at slightly younger ages. The latter assertion indicates just how closely related this theory is to Piaget’s child development theory.

According to the latter author, children learn through the processes of accommodation and assimilation. Assimilation is the process by which a child takes up certain habits or issues from their respective environments through changes in their own perceptions. On the other hand, accommodation is the process by which certain elements in a child’s minds change as a result of the assimilative processes. It should be noted that there is one major factor that is common between these respective components. It is the fact that most of the information that changes a child’s perceptions of their environment is obtained from their respective contexts. This means that context has a large role to play according to Piaget. If a child’s family, social circles or school does not stimulate certain assimilation or accommodation processes, then that child will miss out on a crucial part of their development. This therefore implies that such children have higher chances of exhibiting delinquent behavior.

Some other authors also concur with Patterson and Bronfenbrenner in terms of the causes of delinquency. Examples of such authors include Megens and Weerman (2007). They assert that the nature of a child’s social interactions have an inherent effect on their likelihood to exhibit delinquency. The latter authors believe that when children interact with peers who are likely to affect them negatively, then chances are those children will take up negative influences and hence become more deviant.

DeBaryshe, Patterson and Ramsey (1989) explain that children who become delinquents are those ones that get negative influence from their respective schools. They believe that when certain children achieve academically, then they are more likely to be positive in their present and future lives. This means that some of the assertions made with regard to Patterson concur with these explanations. The authors believe that academic achievement acts as a go between for a respective child in terms of the nature of their parent’s role and also in terms of delinquency. Their studies showed that when children performed well in school, they were less likely to become delinquents even when their parents did not monitor them effectively. Their findings also showed that when children did not perform well in school but received discipline from their parents, then they were less likely to show delinquent behavior just like the latter mentioned category of children.

In terms of explaining the nature of social networks amongst children, Dishion and Loeber (1983) explain that belonging to deviant groups can make children more vulnerable to delinquency because it teaches children how to become delinquents. The latter authors elaborate this further by explaining that children with higher cases of conflicts between themselves are also more likely to receive less support from their corresponding peers. The overall result of this exposure is exhibition of delinquent behavior. These social groups usually engage in substance abuse and may show negative tendencies towards one another. The overall result of this is that children then become delinquents.

During discussion of delinquency, one cannot ignore the effect of SES as many individuals have suggested this as a causative factor. However, research in the area has indicated that most individuals can counter the effect of SES status through parental involvement in a child’s life. These studies as indicated by Patterson et al (1989) show that most individuals may exhibit patterns of juvenile behavior if they do not have any sort of parental reinforcement regardless of their SES status. Despite the fact that most juvenile cases happen to be individuals with lower SES status, the latter authors explain that this is as a result of poor parental or family management. Had those children been exposed to greater parental discipline, their SES status would not have mattered.

Some authors explain that juvenile casers are also caused by biological factors. There are certain instances in which exhibition of violent or criminal behavior may be brought on by ones’ respective biological make-up. For instance, it has been shown that most cases of juvenile behavior occur amongst boys than it does among girls. Also, it has been found that juvenile delinquency increases as a child gets older. While one may not be able to link these biological factors to a child’s context, it is imperative to realize that certain social factors are linked to biological factors. For instance, society requires that girls should be well behaved and engage in socially acceptable behavior. This is a concept which they learn at an early age and they learn to live with it for their entire childhood. Consequently, social context has a role in determining why males exhibit greater cases of delinquency than females because boys are taught about these roles through their interactions with family, friends, school mates etc.

Additionally, it can also be asserted that the issue of age as a biological prerequisite to delinquency can also be examined in a contextual environment. Most children learn about their world as they grow older. Consequently, the more older they get, the more likely those respective individuals are to be affected by their respective environments and also the higher their chances of engaging in delinquent behavior.

Children or adolescents who spend more time with other individuals who are non-family members may exhibit delinquency. Research shows that taking children away to religious or learning institutions for long periods of time deprives them, off the much needed parental guidance and eventually causes deviant behavior which may be manifested as delinquency.

Others theories also bring out the fact that children who experience excessive discipline measures usually record greater instances of delinquent behavior than those who are exposed to moderate levels of discipline. The reason for this is that children have greater tendencies to rebel against their parents or caretakers in cases where they receive heavy punishments because such children may feel that their penalties do not befit their wrongs and may therefore feel unfairly treated. Therefore, such children may have pent up anger and may therefore vent it out through delinquent behavior.


It has been shown that when parents exercise greater control of their child’s whereabouts, then they are more likely to prevent delinquent behavior. This same pattern may also be observed when parents exercise consistent discipline and also when they have supportive relationships. Biological factors have little influence on their own but they matter when analyzed contextually. Also, the issue of SES status can be minimized through effective family management.


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