Discipline is another interrelated part of family relationships that affects delinquency. Disturbed family relations play a very important role in the problem of delinquency. In an investigation of high-delinquency areas in New York City, Craig and Glick found three factors related to increased likelihood of delinquency: 1) careless or inadequate supervision by the mother or surrogate mother; 2) erratic or overly strict discipline; and 3) lack of cohesiveness of the family unit.
Sheldon and Glueck found that 4.1 percent of fathers were found to use sound discipline practices; 26.7 percent, fair; and 69.3 percent, unsound. The types of discipline practices were described as follows:8
Sound - Consistent and firm control but not so strict as to arouse fear and antagonism.
Control which is indefinite: sometimes strict, sometimes lax.
Unsound - Extremely lax or extremely rigid control by the parents, which, on the one hand, gives unrestrained freedom of action and, on the other hand, restricts to the point of rebellion.
Consistency and persistence in discipline are needed if controls are to be adequately internalized into a youth’s personality. Situations, and appropriate methods of discipline to deal with a child, must occur regularly enough to let the child develop concepts of conduct and be able to distinguish suitable and unsuitable responses. Travis Hirschi was quoted in Causes of Delinquency by Haskel & Yablonsky. He cited an example of what may occur if the parent of a delinquent child were to be of a lower class. He states that, even if the father is committing criminal acts, he may not publicize the fact to his children. The father operates to foster obedience to a system of norms to which he himself may not conform. It sounds like a firm control but it may not be strict enough to make a child want to conform to rules or norms. Travis Hirschi argues that parents may not necessarily transmit delinquent values. However, Sykes and Matza state that even though the family of the delinquent may agree with society that delinquency is wrong, the family may tolerate or even encourage the commission of certain offenses, though not others, for example, drug offensesa high crime, big money societal issue of the ‘90s. Or consider the example of a parent with an alcohol problem who is setting an example that many children would follow.
It is also important to understand that the intimacy with which parents communicate is strongly related to the commission of delinquent acts. The idea is whether the parent is psychologically present when temptation to commit a crime appears. If, in the situation of temptation, the child gives no thought to parental reaction, the child would tend to commit the act. Children who perceive that their parents are unaware of their whereabouts are likely to do what they want, all of which suggests that the focus of communication can affect the likelihood that the child can recall his parents when and if a situation of potential delinquent behavior arises, or he/she may ignore it if he/she chooses to.