As with age, gender cannot be assessed as a risk factor in isolation from other circumstances that may contribute to delinquent behaviour. However, while males comprise approximately 49% of the Canadian population, they consistently account for a significant majority of both the adults and youths accused of property and violent crimes. When researchers and those responsible for criminal justice and crime prevention are talking about delinquency, or age and gender as risk factors, they are inevitably talking about the effects of being young and male.
Although the relationship between poverty and criminal behaviour is complex and unpredictable, history has shown that many of the conditions that arise from living in poverty can increase the risk of becoming involved in crime, especially for children. These conditions include, but are not limited to, nutrition and health, problems in school, abuse and neglect, family violence, inconsistent or poor parenting skills, and early childhood behavioural disorders. CPSD programs must target those most vulnerable to living in poverty and the multitude of problems that arise from it. Initiatives will have to be specifically designed for those experiencing the effects of poverty conditions, as well as challenging the stigma and blame society has traditionally placed on those living in poverty.
Family disruption is another risk factor associated with crime. Family disruption does not itself cause crime, but it can combine with other stresses to increase the risk of becoming involved in crime. While family disruption takes many forms, there appears to be three primary sources: violence, inadequate parenting and negative peer influence.
Violence against women within the family has a negative impact on both the woman and her children. For example, one Canadian study found that over 50% of violent young offenders witnessed spousal abuse in the home. A Standing Committee dealing with developing a crime prevention strategy for Canada acknowledge that violence against women poses significant risks to the community (Standing Committee, 1993, p. 11). Moreover, the Committee found that men who grew up witnessing violence in the home were 1000 times more likely to become abusers of women later in life than men who did not (ibid.).
Lack of parental supervision, parental rejection and lack of parent-child involvement are also consistent indicators of delinquent behaviour. Parenting that features inconsistent, overly punitive or too submissive methods of discipline also increase the risk of delinquency, but to a lesser degree. Although delinquency is by no means the only outcome of ineffective parenting, most of the existing research into the factors contributing to criminal behaviour carry a similar and important message: proper parenting is crucial. In other words, the way children are treated can have serious repercussions, not only for children, but for parents and the larger society (Goetting, 1992).
The importance of parenting indicates that a significant focus on long term preventive strategies must include providing support for families, especially for those family members primarily responsible for the care of children. At the community level, this support for family members can take in a wide range of programs and initiatives. Examples include, home visiting and drop-in centres to combat isolation and promote support systems, programs to assist parents in identifying and responding to children with special needs, family studies programs, and providing quality child care that is accessible and affordable (National Crime Prevention Council, 1996).