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Matelina M. Aulava

Chaminade University

3140 Waialae Ave.

Honolulu HI 96816


Studies have been conducted on what factors lead to delinquency. Proposed factors of delinquency have been studied in three major fields, biological, psychological, and sociological. This study is guided by psychological and sociological theories. The question of whether or not relationships among attachment, aggression, and delinquency exist was investigated through survey research. Attachment, aggression, and delinquent behavior were measured for college students from three universities, one and business college, in Honolulu, Hawaii. Correlation analysis found that the variables are significantly correlated in the hypothesized direction, for the entire group. It was found that: 1) attachment is negatively correlated with aggression, 2) attachment is negatively correlated with delinquent behavior, and 3) aggression is positively correlated with delinquency. Controlling for gender, however, showed that, for females, only the negative correlation between attachment and aggression was significant. For males, all correlations were in the hypothesized direction and significant

American society is a youth-oriented society with a carefree and happy image of young people. Unfortunately, the deviance and delinquency of today’s youth conflicts with this image of society. According to national media coverage of crime, juvenile delinquency is increasing. For instance, a recent study done by the Center for Media and Public Affairs revealed that while the homicide rate fell 20% between 1993 and 1996, media coverage of murders increased. National research suggests that the media often over exaggerate crime-related news (Perrone & Chesney-Lind, 1998). As the juvenile population grows, media tend to publish false reports.

The juvenile population in the United States is growing and will reach 74 million by the year 2010. Juvenile Offenders and Victims: A National Report, published in Frank Schmalleger’s book Criminal Justice Today, found that if trends continue as they have the past ten years, the rate of growth for juveniles will double by the year 2010 (Schmalleger, 1997). The FBI estimated 2.8 million arrests of juvenile (persons under age 18) were made in 1997 for all offenses. One hundred twenty three thousand of these arrests were for murder, forcible rape, robbery, or aggravated assault. Juveniles were accounted for 30% of all robbery arrests, 12% for forcible rape arrests, 14% for aggravated assault arrests, and 14% for murder arrests. Since 1980 juvenile violent crime arrests increased. However, in 1997, the violent crime offenses declined (Synder, 1999). What could be the reason of this increase? The authorities believed it could be how each state implements the laws that were in effect during this period or rather it is due to police formality. Most juveniles (perhaps as many as 90%) have committed at least one delinquent act. This report is based on reported crimes only (Schmalleger, 1997). The above statistics reveal that juvenile delinquency is a significant social problem nationally.

In contrast to national statistics, the Department of the Attorney General of Hawai’i statistics show several patterens in the state juvenile delinquency. Between 1986 to 1996, the number of arrests increased only 19.7% compared to a national increase of 30.1% for the period 1986 to 1995 (Chesney-Lind, Mayeda, Marker, Paramore, & Okamoto, 1998). The increase in juvenile arrests in Hawaii was primarily due to runaways and curfew violation. Arrests for these offenses increased 93% in the last decade. More recent data show the number of arrests between 1994 (20,650) and 1997 (16,861) decreased 15%. In 1997, there were no arrests for murder. Males accounted for 70% of delinquency, while female accounted for 30%. Regardless of the high number of crimes committed by juveniles, the number of juvenile arrests for index crimes decreased 4.5% from 1996 to 1997 (Richmond & Perrone, 1998).

The purpose of this study is to determine if the psychological factor of attachment and the sociological factor of aggression are related to delinquent behavior. According to Schmalleger (1997), juvenile delinquency consists of actions or conduct that violates criminal law, juvenile status offenses, and other juvenile misbehavior. Actions or conduct that violates the law deals with offenses such as breaking and entering, disturbing the peace, and disorderly conduct. Juvenile status offenses refer to violation such as purchasing cigarettes, buying alcohol, and truancy. Juvenile misbehavior involves run away, violating curfew, and vagrancy (Schmalleger, 1997). Delinquency is a legal term that is most often used to identify children and adolescents who have engaged in illegal acts ( Baum,1989). What makes up delinquency, however, may vary from state to state (Cox &Conrad, 1991). For instance, in Guam, the legal age for alcohol consumption is eighteen, but in Hawaii, twenty-one is the legal age.

Society has always been concerned about juvenile delinquency. Criminologists have conducted many studies on the factors that led to these delinquent acts (Schmalleger, 1997). Theories used to explain delinquency are categorized into biological, psychological, and sociological theories. This study is guided by sociological and psychological theories.

Biological Theories

Biological theories of delinquency are based on the assumption that delinquency is hereditary (Goldstein, 1990). The earliest theories suggested that delinquents are innately inferior, while those who obey the law have inherited the ability to control their aggressive impulses and behave in a responsible way (Empey & Stafford, 1991). Delinquents are also characterized by physical stigmata such as low foreheads, long chin and long necks, narrow jaws, and small protruding ears. Theorists believe that delinquents have different physique from the non-delinquents.

Ttwentieth century criminologists tend to discredit biological theories. They believe that biological theories used inadequate research techniques (Cohen, 1966). Biologists also failed to acknowledge environmental factors that made the findings inadequate. In addition, biologists concluded that genes play an important role in determination of delinquents. But genes inherited from parents that determine a person’s potential behavior depends on the social environment before deviant behavior occurs ( Empey & Stafford, 1991).

Sociological Theories

Sociological theories explain delinquency as a product of society?s impact on the youth. Suggested causes of delinquency are social class and/or family differences, neighborhood and peer influence, and the effects of official labeling on the individual. Most of the sociological explanations share the notion that delinquent behavior is a product of social interaction rather than hereditary or personality disturbances (Cox & Conrad, 1991; Goldstein, 1990; Schmalleger, 1997). The major sociological theories are social learning theory, control theory, and cultural conflict theory.

Social learning theory posits that exposure to delinquent friends leads to delinquent behavior (Elliot & Menard, 1996). Edwin H. Sutherland originally explained social learning theory in 1939; however, Charles H. Cooley (1902) is the origin of a broader human behavior theory. He believed that people are not born with behavior disorder; rather, behavior disorder is the product of involvement and communications with others. It starts within family interaction, and then it develops in the playground, school, and other social settings (Empey & Stafford, 1991). The theory is similar to the psychological learning theory. Behavior is learned from the environment. Children will model their behavior on the reactions of their families, friends, and other social encounters.

Nonetheless, Thio (1998) asserts that it is not the association with peers and the environment that causes the deviant behavior, it is the idea of committing deviance. If a child is told that stealing is good because he/she is poor, then he/she is given the idea of committing a deviant behavior. In contrast, if children are taught that stealing is wrong, then the child will not have any anti-deviant ideas. If people are given more ideas of committing deviant behavior, consequently, they are likely to engage in deviance.

Control theory is widely accepted in sociology. It posits that all persons have frustrated wants and unfulfilled needs. Social controls that are supposed to regulate behavior will restrain natural impulses to delinquency. Social controls involve reward and punishment. How severe the punishment and how good the rewards determine one’s vulnerability for delinquency (Elliot, 1985). Family interaction plays a crucial role in a child?s upbringing (Patterson, DeBaryshe, Ramsey, 1989). If the caregiver (parents) rewards coercive behavior, then a child will see it that it as a positive reinforcement. This indicates that the family is training the child to perform coercive behaviors. In this case, it will become a problem. Family coercive behaviors will escalate to hitting and physical attacks (Patterson, 1982). These behaviors could lead to the child being aggressive (Patterson et al. , 1989).

The causes of delinquency support conflicting ends. Some theorists state that severe punishment will lower the rates of deviant behavior; other theorists suggest the opposite. Criminologists view social control of deviance as a prevention of delinquency; unfortunately, social control is possibly a cause. Data on punishment and reward are insufficient to determine if it is a factor of deviant behavior (Thio, 1998).

The conflict theory is one of the most debated theories among scholars. Theorists define conflict theory into two aspects, social conflict and cultural conflict (Cox & Conrad, 1991). Social conflict deals with interests, needs, and desires of diverse groups as business companies versus labor unions, conservatives versus liberal political groups, whites versus blacks, and so on. Cultural conflict defines the discrepant norms and values that derive from definitions of right and wrong. What is considered wrong in one culture is right in another (Thio, 1998).

Conflict theory generally proposes that a criminal comes from a specific kind of neighborhood. In 1930s and 1940s, criminologists were interested in explaining crimes using the ecological approach that focuses on the geographic distribution of delinquency (Cox & Conrad, 1991). Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay, credited with this approach, did research projects in the inner city of Chicago. They theorized that immigration, community norms and social bonds caused the increase in crimes. They concluded in their research projects that crime and delinquency rates were high at neighborhoods where there are lower working classes (Shoemaker, 1990).

Criminologists postulated that capitalism and inequality within a neighborhood are the factors of delinquency (Empey & Stafford, 1991). According to Thio (1998), the poor is viewed as the criminal class. They are labeled because of their social status. In fact, this could happen to any neighborhood, poor or rich, it does not make a difference. It would also depend on how the law is enforced (Schamellger, 1997).

Psychological Theories

Early psychological theories of delinquency and crime focused on lack of intelligence and/or personality disturbances as major causal factors (Cox & Conrad, 1991). According to Arnold Goldstein (1994), psychological theories of delinquency viewed offensive and deviant behavior as the products of dysfunctional personalities. Psychological theories identified the conscious and subconscious contents of the human psyche as major determinants of behavior (Goldstein, 1990). The major psychological theories are psychoanalytic theory, learning theory, risk factors theory and attachment theory.

According to Sigmund Freud, credited with the psychoanalytic theory, every individual criminal tendency has natural drives and urges. These tendencies are determined from early development of childhood experiences (Flowe, 1996). Freud believed that future behavior of any individual was not the result of personal choice, cultural differences, or changing social conditions. Rather, it was the product of parental training (discipline) imposed upon the antisocial instinct of the infant (Empey & Stafford, 1991). For instance, the child cries because he/she wants to watch television past his/her bedtime. The parent would give in because it hurts them to see their child cry. What does this show? It is right to stay up late to watch television regardless of the rules. However, if we do not let them have there way, then they will learn it is wrong (Baum, 1989).

According to Parker, discipline is more a threat to children. Children will start to fear their own parents. This fear will develop into anxiety disorder (Parker, 1997). Anxiety will cause children to commit delinquent act. This depends on how severe children are punished. The effect will show in the long term. It will determine their potential for committing delinquent acts (Baum, 1998).

Learning theory states that a person’s behavior is learned. If a child constantly witnesses abuse in his/her home, he/she will develop this inappropriate behavior. Parents are children’s role models. The children will assume it is the right thing to do. People learn new things everyday. It is a possibility that people learn new ways to act and respond to their environment (Flowe, 1996).

Psychologists and sociologists are convinced that behavior is learned. It develops in a pattern that would lead to great success or sometimes it determines one’s fate. Observing parents, siblings and peers performing deviant behavior is not sufficient determinant of inappropriate behavior in children. Children do observe and learn behavior. However, it does not mean they will perform it. Psychologists are still undergoing experimental research for more data to support this theory (Farrington, 1996; Schamellger, 1997; Thio, 1998).

Risk factors refer to events that happened earlier (during childhood) which would predict a later outcome (Loeber, 1985). Risk factors theory implies that exposure to risk factors such as delinquent acts by peers increases the possibility of negative outcomes such as delinquency. Risk factors theory has undergone proper experimental studies to validate reliability of the theory (Baum, 1989).

Scholars believe that risk factors tend to happen simultaneously and correspond with one another. For example, harsh discipline would lead to various aspects of conduct disorder that would lead to delinquent behaviors. A child’s exposure to violence is considered a risk factor; however, there is insufficient data to prove it is one (Farrington, 1996).

Attachment is the enduring bond that is established in the first years of life between a child and the caregiver. Attachment is not a product of what parents or society imposes upon a child but rather it is a reciprocal relationship created by the parents and a child. It has an effect on human emotions, relationships, and values (West, Rose, Spreng, Sheldon-Keller, & Adam, 1998).

Bowlby’s theory of attachment is a basic aspect of a general theory of behavior. Attachment theory tries to explain how and why people react the way they do and respond to situations depending on their childhood experience with their caregiver, also referred to as attachment figure (Bowlby, 1973). If an affectionate bond is present in a child and parent relationship, a child will feel secure from harm. They will think positive images of themselves, their family, and society in the future. Attachment develops in the first several years of childhood and throughout the adolescent years (Garelli, 1999).

Scholars have sufficient data to support the effectiveness of attachment in a child’s development. They believe that in the first few years of life, the child should have an attachment figure, someone who is available to give the child what he/she needs and desires. Being able to feel secure and loved will greatly assist in the child?s development from birth to age nine. A parent-child bond will have a great impact on a child’s life. The child will not seek parents’ attention and love by joining delinquent children or committing deviant behavior (Garelli, 1999).

The attachment process is known as a mutual regulatory system (child and the caregiver influence one another). Bowlby states that, if the caregiver shows a history of being attentive, available, and responsive, an affectionate bond develops. The child-parent bond will become a significant factor of personality determination in the future. For instance, the lack of attachment in a child’s life is related to negative behavior such as aggression towards people and animals, destruction of property, deceitfulness or theft, and serious violation of rules.

Aggression towards people and animals is shown in consistent behaviors such as threatening, bulling, or intimidating others, initiating physical fights, using weapons (bats, guns, etc.) to cause physical harm to others, and forcing someone into other aggressive behaviors to cause property destruction such as fire setting with intention of causing serious damage or deliberately destroying other property. Breaking into someone else?s home or car, lie to avoid obligations and stealing are characters of deceitfulness and theft. Serious violations of rules are identified by behavior such as running away, being truant from school, and staying out late at night regardless of parents? prohibitions (before age 13). Repetitive and persistent patterns of these behaviors indicate that a child is most likely to be diagnosed with conduct disorder (First,1994).

Conduct disorder is a ?persistent pattern of conduct in which the basic rights of others and major age-appropriate social norms or rules are violated? (Baum, 1989). Aggression is not usually observed until a child is two years old (Loeber, 1990). This behavior occurs at home, school, and in the community. Aggression is the primary factor of conduct disorder. It is also a significant predictor of delinquency and of adult criminal activity.

According to Patterson (1982), a child’s behavior leads to predictable reactions to their environment. The pattern of these reactions may indicate long term social maladjustment and criminal behavior (Patterson, Debarshe, & Ramsy., 1989). Studies concluded that negative behavior continues over a long period, not only between early aggression and later aggression but also in other patterns of conduct disorder; such as early aggression and later theft. While the pattern is not the same for all individuals (Loeber,1990), it is shown in studies done by Rutter (1978), and Newcomb, Maddahian, and Bentler (1986) that risk factors such as aggression, theft, and academic problems later indicate a child’s tendency of antisocial behavior. The effects will increase when two risk factors interact, for example, the combination of aggression and theft. An aggressive individual will force others to do what he/she wishes done. This behavior, being aggressive, will lead to stealing. This shows that risk factors occurring concurrently will increase the possibility of deviant behavior.

Aggression is one of the primary risk factors of delinquency. Aggression is among the strongest predictors of delinquency (Loeber, 1990). It is defined as an act that injures or irritates another person, not including self-hurt (so it would be measurable). This definition has proved effective in related studies with children (Eyberg, 1998). Studies done by Loeber and Stroutmer-Loeber (1987) concluded that 70% to 90% of violent offenders has been highly aggressive when they were young.

One interpretation drawn from this research is that poor bonding implies a failure to identify parental and societal values. The correlation shows that children, who do not develop a bond with the attachment figure, are most likely to become aggressive and tend to be involve in deviant behavior that would later lead to delinquent acts.

The sociological and psychological theories give a thorough background support of the idea that attachment and aggression contributes to delinquency. The theories explain the great impacts of family and other social factor influence; effects

such as how children are discipline, family interactions (kind of relationship and how well they bond with one another), and behaviors that are seen in and outside of their home. The sociological and psychological theories explained that behavior is learned, and the products of childhood frustrations and unfulfilled needs.


A survey was conducted to measure subjects? degree of attachment to the parents (caregiver), aggression (conduct behavior), and delinquency.

Attachment is measured by nine questions. It consists of three scales of three statements each, with Likert-type responses from ? Strongly Disagree” to “Strongly Agree.? The three subscales are availability, anger distress, and goal-corrected partnership.

Attachment is the bond established between a child and the caregiver (parents, older siblings, etc.) in the first years of life. The caregiver should be responsible and be available at most times to the needs of a child (Bowlby, 1973; Evergreen Consultants, 1997). West, Rose, Spreng, Sheldon-Keller, and Adam, (1998) developed the Availability Scale to measure availability and how responsible the attachment figure?s (caregiver) to a child?s needs.

Anger is identified as reaction to frustrations of attachment desires and needs. Bowlby (1973) believes that distress increases bitterness. Consequently, West et al (1998) developed and included in the attachment measurement angry distress to measure negative responses to the attachment figure because of his/her unavailability.

During the attachment developmental stage, a child begins to respond to his/her own goals, whether a child responds to the attachment figures? rules or just ignores it (Maron, 1977 & Bowlby, 1982). Therefore, West et al (1989) develops the goal-corrected partnership to assess a child?s needs and feelings of the attachment figure. Goal-corrected partnership is when the child start to set his/her own goals are rather opposite of their parents.

Availability, anger distress and goal-corrected partnership measurements when summed will determine the subjects? degree of attachment. The higher the attachment score the higher the degree of the subjects’ attachment to his/her parents.

Aggression is measured by sixteen modified questions from the Child Behavior Checklist of a hundred and thirteen questions. The scoring indicates the level of aggressive behavior from passive to normal to a clinical level. The higher the score the more aggressive the behavior.

The delinquency section will contain five questions. These questions serve as indicators of delinquency. The four indicators are arrests, convictions, types of delinquent acts committed and frequency of committing delinquent acts. An arrest indicates if the person was taken into custody. As he/she booked and moved to the detention center or to jail? A conviction indicates if the person was found guilty for violating the law. Was he/she guilty of committing status offenses or criminal offenses? Types of delinquent acts committed vary from breaking and entering to theft, to robbery and so on. Frequency of committing delinquent acts indicates the number of times a person commits a particular delinquent act.

Correlation analysis was conducted to determine the relationships among the variables, attachment, aggression, and delinquency. There are second-hand factors of delinquency, such as gender and ethnicity. a correlation analysis was also done on these two factors.

One hundred and fifty surveys were distributed to students of these three universities. Seventy-five surveys were returned which represents a fifty percent of the returned rate.

The seventy-five survey returned are respondents from four different schools in Hawaii. Large number of subjects was from Chaminade University representing thirty-three percent of the subjects. Moreover, the least number of subjects were from Hawaii Business College representing sixteen percent of the cases (see figure 1). Of the seventy-five subjects, fifty-six percent were male and forty-four percent were female (see figure 2).

Figure 1: Percentage Distribution by Schools

Figure 2: Percentage Distribution by Gender

Figure 3: Percentage Distribution by Ethnicity

A breakdown on the subjects ethnic groups was also done Asian American is the largest ethnic group represented in the sample, followed by the pacific islanders with twenty-one point three percent representation. The least represented group was the Hispanics with twelfth percent (see figure 3).


Correlation analysis was conducted to determine the relationships among the variables. What I found is that the cvorrelation between attachment and agression is -.9173 and significant at .000. this indicate that the correlation or the relationship between attachment and aggression is fairly srong. and the correlation is significant. is negatively correlated with aggression, what it mean is that the higher the attachment score the less aggressive the child should be. The lower the attachment score the more aggressive the behavior would be. In addition, attachment is negatively correlated with delinquent behavior, and aggression is positively correlated with delinquency. From the data collected, it shows that there is a significant correlation between the all the variables, attachment, aggression and delinquency (see table 1).

There are other second-hand factors of delinquency such as gender and ethnicity. From the correlation analysis among the variables controlling for gender, it showed in the female bivariate correlation matrix, only the negative correlation between attachment and aggression was significant (see table 2). However for males, all correlation were in the hypothesized direction and significant. This support the point stated earlier in the literature that male commit more delinquent acts than female.

A correlation analysis among the variables controlling for each ethnic group was also done. Unfortunately, there were not enough cases to determine a significant correlation of each ethnic group in each matrix to provide valid results.


In conclusion, my hypothesis was supported by the data that was collected. That attachment and aggression are correlates of delinquency. This study is applied only to the seventy-five subjects that I surveyed. This study should not be used to generalize about students from this three universities and one business college. To better this study, the method of sampling should be changed. The convenience samples is difficult to determine if it is representative of the population. In addition, more subjects should be acquired and there should be an equal number of females and males, equal representation of all the ethnic groups so that a generalization can be made. In this case, this study will be useful in future research.

Please complete the following information.

1. Age ______years old.



1.African American4. Indian American

2.Asian American 5. Pacific Islander (Please specify)__________

3.Hispanic6. Other (Please specify) ______________

4. What ethnicity best describes you? ____________________

Please answer these questions as well as you can when you were between the ages of five and eighteen. Please Circle SA for Strongly Agree, A for Agree, D for Disagree, and SD for Strongly Disagree.

4. My parent only seems to motivate me when I am angry. SA A D SD

5. I often feel angry with my parent without knowing why. SA A D SD

6. I get annoyed at my parent because it seems I have to

demand his/her caring and support.SA A D SD

7. I’m confident that my parent will listen to me.SA A D SD

8. I’m confident that my parent will try to understand

my feelings.SA A D SD

9.I talk things over with my parents.SA A D SD

10. I enjoy helping my parent whenever I can.SA A D SD

11. I feel for my parent when he/she is upset.SA A D SD

12.It makes me feel good to be able to do things

for my parent.SA A D SD

Please answer these questions at the best of your knowledge when you were between the ages five and eighteen. Circle SA for Strongly Agree, SA/D for Sometimes Agree/Disagree and SD for Strongly Disagree.

13. Argues a lot.SA SA/D SD

14. Cruel to animals.SA SA/D SD

15. Cruelty, bullying, or mean to others. SA SA/D SD

16.Deliberately harms self to attempts suicide.SA SA/D SD

17.Destroys his/her own thingsSA SA/D SD

18.Destroy things belonging to his/her family or

other children.SA SA/D SD

19.Doesn’t seem to feel guilty after misbehaving.SA SA/D SD

20.Gets in many fights.SA SA/D SD

21.Impulsive or acts without thinking.SA SA/D SD

22.Physically attacks people.SA SA/D SD

23.Repeats certain acts over and over, compulsions (describe)__________________

24.Screams a lot.SA SA/D SD

25.Strange behavior.SA SA/D SD

26.Swears or use of obscene language.SA SA/D SD

27.Threatens people.SA SA/D SD

28.I want things my way.SA SA/D SD

Please answer these questions as well as you can.

29. Were you ever arrested for any delinquent behaviors? Yes____No____

30.If you were arrested, how many times were you convicted? ? (Please specify.)______________

31.What types of delinquent acts did you commit and how often did you do it? (Please specify.) 1.__________________4.__________________


3. __________________6. __________________

32.At what age did you start committing these delinquent acts? (Please specify.)______________

33.What reasons led you to commit deviant behaviors?





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Cooley, Charles H., (1902). Human nature and the social order. New York, NY: Charles


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    ... different standards of appropriate behavior and that, in “complex cultures”, each individual ... status are not so highly correlated with differences in conduct as ... partake of some of the subcultural ideas and may even speak ofdelinquent subcultures ...

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