The Role of the Family in Crime and Delinquency: Evidence from prior Quantitative Reviews
There has been a large amount of research bearing, in some way, on the relationship between family factors and criminal behavior. Not surprisingly, a large number of quantitative reviews―or meta-analyses―have tried to take this literature into account. Our goal was to ascertain the relative strength and consistency of family factors as a predictor and as a target for delinquency and crime prevention treatment. This paper describes the results of a systematic search for these meta-analyses to meet those goals. Using a variety of methods, we find 26 relevant meta-analyses published in English between 1984 and 2005. These meta-analyses fell into five general categories: (1) meta-analyses of longitudinal studies; (2) meta-analyses of offender recidivism prediction studies; (3) meta-analyses of specific family factors and crime; (4) meta-analyses of family-based interventions; and (5) broader reviews that included a breakdown for family-based strategies. These meta-analyses indicate a smaller but non-trivial role for family factors in the onset of delinquency and the continuation of offending as adults. Moreover, particular family-based treatment programs appear to reduce subsequent offending behavior.