Parent–Child Relations and Delinquency Among African American and European American Juvenile Offenders: An Expanded Examination of Self-Control Theory

Rebecca Fix, Janice E. Clifford, Barry R. Burkhart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Gottfredson and Hirschi’s general theory of crime indicates that low levels of self-control leads to subsequent delinquency. Multiple studies suggest an indirect effect of parent and family factors on delinquency through self-control. Furthermore, evidence exists that race/ethnicity may affect the mediated relationship between parenting and delinquency. The present study collected information on demographics, parent–child attachment, self-control, and delinquency from 350 confined male adolescents. Models were run to test whether self-control mediated the relationship between total parent–child attachment and facets of parent–child attachment on delinquency. Results indicated self-control mediated the relationship between parent attachment and delinquent behavior. Follow-up models indicated uniquely influential pathways to delinquency depending on aspects of parent-child attachment and the race/ethnicity of the participant. Select aspects of parent–child attachment were more meaningfully predictive of self-control and delinquency among African American youth compared with European American youth. Furthermore, while models run with European American adolescents support previous theories and study outcomes on the link between self-control and delinquency, self-control levels did not predict delinquency within models rung with African American adolescents, identifying a possible limitation of self-control theory. Implications from the present study are discussed alongside future directions for continuing research on culturally informed models of self-control and delinquency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalRace and Justice
Publication statusAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018



  • adolescent
  • illegal behavior
  • race/ethnicity
  • self-control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law

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