“Delinquents, disproportionately attend high delinquency rate schools, which have high levels of distrust between teachers and students, and unclear and inconsistently enforced rules” (Graham, 1988. cited in Farrington, 2003). It is unclear as to the effect a school will have on delinquent behaviour. If a school has a high delinquency rate, then the chances of one interacting with delinquents is increased, but as mentioned previously although peers do play a part in delinquent and antisocial behaviour it is by no means a singular and most powerful predictor. 11
What may be more of a factor than school is the community in which the school serves and the social factors as well as economic factors that affect the ethos and general practices of the schools, staff and pupils. Schools may play a part in fostering a delinquent environment by not being strict enough or being inconsistent and not caring much about the welfare of the children in and out of school. Children who do not bond to school or have low academic aspirations, and where schools are poorly organized and run, children do not develop ties to the school and are more likely to be influenced by peers than by the school.
But the social setting of the school seems to play a more important role, the schools in the working class neighbourhoods, where unemployment and low SES factors are prevalent are the schools with the highest delinquency rates. Offenders disproportionately live in inner-city areas characterized by physical deterioration, neighbourhood disorganization, and high residential mobility (Shaw and McKay, 1969, cited in Farrington, 2003).
Communities where amenities are not readily available, like social care, health care, youth centers and after school care create a stressful environment for the parent, children are not adequately cared for and generally spend more time outside on the streets in boredom than at home. There `are weak social control networks that allow criminal activity to go unmonitored. Here they are exposed at young ages to various forms of delinquency by older boys and may become part of gangs.
Perhaps the most appealing component of Farrington’s theory is that it does not study each predictor of delinquency separately, he acknowledges that these factors do not exist in a vacuum and all these factors impact on each other and are interrelated with each other in an ecosystemic way. One cannot view the impact the family has on antisocial and delinquent individuals without looking at the biological factors as well as the society in which the family functions. If there is a neurological disorder present at birth, it may influence the chances of delinquent behaviour more if the child is bought up in a low SES community, in a family that lacks cohesion and stability. The child will then not learn to socialize at home and when he goes to school will fall into the wrong crowd, exasperating the likelihood of delinquency occurring.
Farrington’s Theory of Delinquent Development is highly applicable to criminology today. As theories within the social sciences become more and more advanced they become circular and the understanding now is that things are not always linear, cause and effect and singular. It is not one single factor that will determine a person’s likelihood of developing a criminal career but rather multiple factors that play a part from birth through the fundamental teenage years and beyond.
Farrington’s theory enables criminologists to view the criminal as a whole with a present, past and future, not just by the crime they committed. This is of great importance when trying to reform a criminal, help them understand their behaviour and to help them change their behaviour and their actions. Farrington’s theory also allows for preventative measures to take place before the development of delinquency in certain ‘high risk’ individuals. These protective factors can be used as interventions in schools, communities and homes where the risk factors are prevalent. Since he has defined these risk factors it is easier to stage interventions as they arise and hopefully change the possible path of a career criminal.
Benson, M.L. 2001 Crime and the Life-Course. University of Cincinatti:USA Blumstein, A., Cohen, J ; Farrington, D.P. 1986. Criminal Career Research. It’s Value for Criminology. Criminology 26:1-35