Large family size

Many studies show that large families predict delinquency. For example, in the English National Survey of Health and Development, Wadsworth found that the percentage of boys who were officially delinquent increased from 9 per cent for families containing one child to 24 per cent for families containing four or more children. Newson et a/A6) in their Nottingham Study also concluded that large family size was one of the most important predictors of offending.

In the Cambridge Study, if a boy had four or more siblings by his tenth birthday, this doubled his risk of being convicted as a juvenile. Large family size predicted self-reported delinquency as well as convictions, and adult as well as juvenile convictions. Large family size was the most important independent predictor of convictions up to the age of 32 years in a logistic regression analysis; 58 per cent of boys from large families were convicted up to this age.

There are many possible reasons why a large number of siblings might increase the risk of delinquency. Generally, as the number of children in a family increases, the amount of parental attention that can be given to each child decreases. Also, as the number of children increases, the household will tend to become more overcrowded, possibly leading to increases in frustration, irritation, and conflict. In the Cambridge Study, large family size did not predict delinquency for boys living in the least crowded conditions, with two or more rooms than there were children. Another possible reason is that delinquent siblings are more likely to act as deviant models in large families, and indeed in the Cambridge Study a boy's delinquency was more closely related to having delinquent older siblings than delinquent younger ones.

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