Child Upbringings is To Blame for Increased Incarceration of Young Adults

Last year, the Prison Policy Initiative revealed that on any given day, 48,000 young adults are confined in facilities other than their home due to juvenile of criminal justices issues (Sawyer, 2019). The majority of these end up in correctional facilities, and Sawyer warns that the situation keeps deteriorating year after another. These statistics are alarming and necessitates immediate intervention. I strongly believe that the most straightforward intervention ought to address the underlying issues that gravitate young adults into criminal behavior. For instance, there is sufficient evidence that the parent-child relationship influences child behavior in adulthood. In that perspective, child upbringing is to blame for the increased incarceration of young adults, and a solution would be a parental-styles guided intervention.

Parental experience influences how children perceive environments and respond to social stimuli. In a study of 2,761 men and women, Hintsanen et al. (2019) found that parent-child relationship, especially emotional warmth, strongly correlated with a child’s disposition in their adulthood. They concluded that the quality of parenting had long-lasting consequences passed on through generations. Yan et al. (2019) contend with developmental theories that environment has a significant impact on a child in modeling their behavior. They suggested that interventions to mitigate children’s externalizing behaviors ought to focus on general parenting practices.


Another study confirms that emotional recognition develops at different times in child development, depending on the child-parent relationship’s quality (Berzenski & Yates, 2017). Further, the development of emotional recognition impacts the modeling of a child’s behavior, as explained by Yan et al. (2019). Other studies have associated deliquescence with the makeup of the parental institution, where involvement or absence of one or both parents impacts a child’s behavior throughout their later life (Coates et al., 2019; Temmen & Crockett, 2020). For instance, the absence of fathers has been associated with unsocial behaviors for young male adults in both studies (Coates et al., 2019; Temmen & Crockett, 2020). This evidence qualifies child upbrings as a significant determinant of the behavior of young adults.

From a developmental theorist’s perspective, this situation may be explained by social learning theory and parental involvement theory. Social learning theory explains that social behaviors are learned through observation and imitation. Studies have found that children often take after their parents, and as such, children whose parents associate with crime tend to join criminal groups in their lifetime (Acevedo-Polakovich et al., 2019; Yan et al., 2019). For instance, Acevedo-Polakovich et al. (2019) found that young male adults who had absent fathers due to incarceration or whose fathers were involved in gangs were potential criminal gangs. Temmen & Crockett (2020) supports Acevedo-Polakovich et al. (2019) that absent fathers’ devoid young men of good role models have increased delinquency among African Americans and Latino young male adults. These studies generalize that when children observe bad behaviors from their parents or fail to observe and imitate good behaviors from their parents, they adopt bad behaviors through social learning. Parental influence theory has similar implications. For instance, Coates et al. (2019) found a significant negative actor in single-parent families. Others like Berzenski & Yates (2017) and Hintsanen et al. (2019) insist that parental involvement is critical in shaping children’s behavioral outcomes. In addition to Temmen & Crockett (2020) and Acevedo-Polakovich et al. (2019), these studies reveal that parental involvement and the quality of parent-child relationships are significant determinants of the behaviors of young adults.

This may seem controversial because it places immediate blame on parents amid other issues that cause deliquescence. Some young adults indulge in crimes for social-economic reasons or due to gang influence, as found by a recent study (Acevedo-Polakovich et al., 2019). Besides, parents may argue that young adults can make rational decisions that would keep them out of criminal justice systems. Society might expect young adults to have sufficient emotional intelligence to appropriately guide their situational responses (Berzenski & Yates, 2017); and reduce the chances of facing the criminal justice system. Studies have also found that parents love their children (Coates et al., 2019). Therefore, placing the blame on them could demean their parental love.

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Nevertheless, the current evidence does not demean parents’ love for their children but reveals a valuable parenting gap that can be improved. I believe that this evidence is not ambiguous, as studies present are arguably highly generalizable. For instance, Coates et al. (2019) sampled 107 black’s families, Temmen & Crockett (2020) collected data from 52 white’s families, Berzenski & Yates (2017) reviewed the relationship of 250 caregiver-child dyads, Yan et al. (2019) sampled 5,263 families in 10 states of the USA, and Hintsanen et al. (2019) sampled 2,761 participants. All these studies contend that there is a significant correlation between the parent-child relationship and children’s behavioral characteristics in their later life. Regardless of parental love, the parent-child relationship is a significant determinant factor that models child behavior.

These conclusions are critical, especially for minority communities in the US. According to Sawyer, “less than 21% of white youth with delinquency cases are detained, compared to 32% of Hispanic youth, 30% of Black youth, 26% of American Indian youth, and 25% of Asian, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander youth” (2019, par. 21). These statistics correlate with the claim for this essay, as supported by Yan et al. (2019, p.667) that children of minority ethnic groups are at an increased risk of negative parental consequences. Coates et al. (2019) found more African Americans than any other ethnic group to be raised un single-mother-homes – (66%), followed by Latino (42%) and White (24%). While there are ongoing debates that associate increased incarceration with racial profiling in the US criminal justice, the involved ethnic populations need to regard the impacts that studies could have on their current situation. Besides, understanding theories such as social learning theory and parental involvement theory might be a critical intervention.

Understanding the impacts of child upbringing on their behavior is essential for society in general. Better parenting results to better civil and moral offspring, who would make a generally better society. In contrast, poor parenting will continue delivering crooks and criminals in the society (as per the theories discussed above), thus escalating critical social issues. For instance, the mass incarceration of African Americans and Latinos in the US has ever been termed racial profiling. This has escalated the racial schism between minority populations and whites, causing a critical cultural dilemma for American society. Without ignoring the possibilities of racial profiling, as explained by Alexander (2020), sociologists ought to reveal the significance of other underlying social issues such as parenting, which has led to increased incarceration for young adults.

Understanding this situation will foster a parental-styles guided intervention to reduce the rate of incarceration among young adults. This entails adopting evidence-based parental approaches that will foster rising civil and moral children. For instance, Acevedo-Polakovich et al. (2019) suggest that Latinos may redesign fathers’ role in parenting to foster involvement and minimize emphasis on male aggression. Hintsanen et al. (2019) contend that children’s better behavioral outcomes may come from parents valuing warmth in their parent-child relationship. Yan et al. (2019) suggests that parents should be cautious when intruding adolescents and supports Berzenski & Yates (2017) that emotional recognition is paramount in modeling a child’s behavior. Coates et al. (2019) and Temmen & Crockett (2020) suggest that involvement of both parents would foster a quality child-parent relationship and avail good role models for adolescents and young adults.

To sum up, increased incarceration of young adults in the US is associated with poor upbringing, which society can combat through parental-styles guided intervention. Studies have revealed that parent-child experiences significantly influence how a child perceives and responds to the environment. This has been explained in both social learning theory and parental involvement theory. While it might seem unfair to parents, this argument does not condemn parents of convicted children but reveals the potential solution, a parental-styles guided intervention. This will be significant, especially for minority races, which are facing increased incarceration rates. Hopefully, through the parental-styles guided intervention, future generations will comprise more civil and moral individuals to end the current social crisis, such as the racial divide.


Acevedo-Polakovich, I., Kassab, V., Boress, K., Barnett, M., Grzybowski, M., & Stout, S. et al. (2019). Fatherhood among gang-involved U.S. Latino youth: Qualitative inquiry into key stakeholders’ perspectives. Journal Of Latinx Psychology, 7(2), 137-153.

Alexander, M. (2020). The New Jim Crow. The New Press.

Berzenski, S., & Yates, T. (2017). The differential influences of parenting and child narrative coherence on the development of emotion recognition. Developmental Psychology, 53(10), 1912-1923.

Coates, E., Tran, Q., Le, Y., & Phares, V. (2019). Parenting, coparenting, and adolescent adjustment in African American single-mother families: An actor-partner interdependence mediation model. Journal Of Family Psychology, 33(6), 649-660.

Hintsanen, M., Gluschkoff, K., Dobewall, H., Cloninger, C., Keltner, D., & Saarinen, A. et al. (2019). Parent–child-relationship quality predicts offspring dispositional compassion in adulthood: A prospective follow-up study over three decades. Developmental Psychology, 55(1), 216-225.

Sawyer, W. (2019). Youth Confinement: The Whole Pie 2019. Prison Policy Initiative. Retrieved from

Temmen, C., & Crockett, L. (2020). The importance of father involvement for adolescent internalizing and externalizing symptoms. Psychology Of Men & Masculinities.

Yan, N., Ansari, A., & Wang, Y. (2019). Intrusive parenting and child externalizing behaviors across childhood: The antecedents and consequences of child-driven effects. Journal Of Family Psychology, 33(6), 661-670.