Should Parents Be Blamed for Juvenile Crimes?

November 18, 2014
Should Parents Be Blamed for Juvenile Crimes?

An on-going debate when it comes to juvenile crime is the question of if a parent should be held responsible. And if the parent should be held responsible, then how extreme should liability be – fines, incarceration? Does it depend on the level of crime?

Parents Responsible for Juvenile Crime?

The answer is dependent on which state the incident happened in. For example, California made it a crime for parents to not “exercise reasonable care, supervision, protection, and control” over their kids in an effort to curb gang behavior. As a result, parents in California can serve prison time for not supervising their children. Other states have similar laws and hold parents at least partially responsible when their children break the law. Legislation such as this dates back 150 years.

Parent Punishment

Repercussions of disobedient children can range from fees in juvenile court to participation in counseling programs and community service. In the most extremes, parents can be incarcerated for their children’s actions. When it coms to kids and guns, there are specific Child Access Prevention (or CAP) laws that penalize adults with a prison sentence and/or fine.

Opposition to Parental Punishment Laws

Laws holding parents responsible don’t lack opposition. The main argument being that laws that hold parents responsible are unconstitutionally broad. In a 2005 study on parental punishment legislation, researchers found that 69% of study participants felt parents were at least partially responsible for the actions of their delinquent teens. The same group also were reluctant to agree that these parents should be incarcerated.


Source: LegalZoom, Laying Blame: Parental Responsibility for Children’s Misdeeds, August 2008

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