The motivation for this chapter stems from our attempt to integrate three diverse areas of research. The first concerns families and delinquency. Over the past two decades, theorists, researchers, and policy makers have refocused attention on the role of the family in explaining delinquency (see, e.g., Farrington, 1987; Hirschi, 1969, 1983; Loeber & Stouthamer-Loeber, 1986; McCord, 1991; and Patterson, 1980). Our work contributes to this growing body of knowledge by examining the effect of punitive discipline by parents on juvenile delinquency.
The second area we explore relates to the effect of childhood and adolescent experiences on later adult outcomes. The idea that childhood experiences have important ramifications in later adult life is supported by a rich body of empirical research (e.g., Caspi, 1987; Franz, McClelland, & Weinberger, 1991; McCord, 1979; Robins, 1966). Surprisingly, this substantive area has been ignored by most criminologists, especially sociological criminologists. In our prior research (Sampson & Laub, 1990), we have demonstrated that antisocial behavior in childhood and early adolescence (e.g., juvenile delinquency, conduct disorder, persistent temper tantrums) is linked to later adult outcomes across a variety of life domains including behavior in the military, general deviance and criminality, economic dependency, educational attainment, employment history, and marital experiences. In this chapter, we explore the long-term effects of punitive discipline by parents on later crime.
The third area we explore is social control, especially punishment by the state.