ADOLESCENT THIEVES: K. S. SHUKLA* FAMILY STRUCTURE** For the...
K. S. SHUKLA*
For the last few decades, the family and ferers-was selected through a pilot survey.
its environs have become areas of centralis-
The subjects were observed and inter-
ed interest to the social scientists. It has viewed in Gwalior and Indore in Central
been increasingly felt that the family plays India. The present paper is part of an
decisive and moulding roles in the pro-
extensive work on these offenders.1
cesses of socialisation and personality Physical structure
development, especially during the forma-
tive period. For this reason the crimino-
Our analysis indicates that 51 per cent
logists too, with all the empirical reasoning of the subjects were living in rented
at their command, have tried to confirm houses, whereas 49 per cent came from
it as the 'raison d'etre' of criminogenesis. families which had their own houses. (The
The families of delinquents, thus, have latter percentage also includes five sub-
been subjected to subtle analysis in regard jects who were without parents or near
to structural incongruities and dysfunc-
relatives. However, they had distant rela-
tives to claim their care and protection
In almost all the eclectic explanation — and the possession of the house but
the popular trend in criminological because of the social and emotional dis-
research — the home environment has tance between them, the subjects very
been given a place of major significance. frequently remained out of their own
Burt found that all his delinquents had houses).
about 9 to 10 subversive circumstances
The construction, the number of apart-
that developed susceptibilities in them. ments and the maintenance obviously
Carr had found the causes of delinquency reflected the economic background and
in "deviation pressures". Among the foci status of the parents. The construction
of deviation pressures the home was the pattern of the home/house varied from
prime factor. Gluecks in their study have Kachcha ones 44.5 per cent (with solid
emphasised the role of family in structuring walls or wooden walls with a muddy paste
criminogenic personality traits or serving over them) or a hutment; to pakka ones
as a catalyst in rendering neutral traits 27.5 per cent and mixed types 28.0 per
cent. Of these 55 per cent had one to two
The present paper is an endeavour to rooms, 36 per cent had three to five
scrutinise the structural aspects of family rooms, while 9 per cent had six or more
circumstances of the subjects with a view rooms. (The kitchen, bathroom latrine,
to estimating possible deviant pressures store room etc., if they were in the house
operating on them. The sample of two premises have been counted as rooms).
hundred adolescent property offenders — Dilapidated surroundings, incomplete
pocket pickers, house breakers and pil-
construction and congestion were generally
* Dr. K. S. Shukla is Reader in Sociology, Institute of Criminology and Forensic Science,
New Delhi-110 055.
** This paper is based on authors Ph.D. dissertation submitted to the university of Sau-
gar in the year 1970. The author is grateful to Dr. S. S. Srivastava, Reader (Crimino-
logy), Kashi Vidyapeeth, Varanasi, for his views and suggestions.
1 For further details please see another article of the author in the Journal, Police Re-
search and Development, Vol. V, No. 1, 1976, pp. 1 to 10.
K. S. SHUKLA
present. In most of the houses, there was somewhat more in cases of the delinquents.
no space for a kitchen or a bathroom. In
Lander (1954), however, could not
some cases, surprisingly, even the latrine conclude that bad housing and over-
was not in the premises, although there crowding were a casual nexus, although
were four to five rooms in the house.
the high delinquency areas had been shown
Most of the subjects, therefore, could be to have both these characteristics. A
called slum dwellers (especially those who similar view was put forward by Peterson
were living in huts or kachcha or mixed and Becker (1965: 67) who pointed out,
type of houses), living in two or even less "the homes of delinquents are often dis-
than two rooms with unwholesome eco-
orderly and cluttered; personal routines are
nomic background (Table-2). The over-
weakly fixed, physical space is at a pre-
crowding in such houses was, therefore, mium, and privacy can best be had by
leaving the home."
The following table gives an idea
As could be seen from the following
regarding the extent of overcrowding. A table the income level of the parents of
majority of the subjects along with their these subjects who were living in one or
family members had to live in single or two roomed apartments was low. In some
two roomed apartments. The inhabitants cases the earnings were not even being
in all the categories of houses were 6 to 9 pooled up.
members in a house.
TOTAL MONTHLY INCOME OF THE FAMILY AND
NUMBER OF ROOMS AND NUMBER OF MEMBERS
NUMBER OF ROOMS IN THE TENEMENTS
IN THE HOUSE
The repelling structural home-conditions
could be verified by many a study made
The preceding table shows the nature and
in the West. Burt (1952: 87) found that type of dwelling of the subjects. It also
21 per cent of his delinquents lived in such gives an idea regarding the type of essen-
over-crowded tenements, as against 16 per tial* and subsidiary** facilities that were
cent in the control group and 11 per cent available in the house. The available faci-
in whole of the county of London. Carr-
lities were largely conditioned by the socio-
Saunders, Mannheim and Rhodes (1944: economic conditions and cultural standards
77-83) found that over-crowding was of the parents.
* Essential: Latrine, bathroom, stores, box rooms etc.
** Places for keeping personal belongings, cosmetics, toys, furnishing, materials for read-
ing, sports and entertainment — radio etc., (clothes, hearth and utensils, which are
the minimum necessities of a house hold have been excluded).
ADOLESCENT T H I E V E S : FAMILY STRUCTURE
could not observe any relationship between
FACILITIES IN THE HOUSE
As the table shows a majority of our
subjects (60%) came from the physically
intact homes; 13 per cent lived with their
step-mothers and 5 per cent with step-
fathers. Among the broken families 19 per
cent were broken due to the death of
fathers, 13 per cent due to the demise of
In 30.5 per cent of cases the homes were mothers and in the case of 8 per cent, both
devoid of any facility except providing the parents were not alive. As regards the
shelter in a single room, some clothes, a time of parental separation, 10.5 per cent
few utensils and two meals per day. The
60.5 per cent subjects had a few facilities
while only a meagre percentage of subjects
(9%) belonged to houses having full essen-
tial and subsidiary facilities.
Every adolescent and adult member-male
or female — had to go far away for nature's
calls and ablutions. Public latrines mostly
remained unusable and full. The children
exploited this situation as an excuse for
their unwarranted absences from homes.
This process itself had led to all sorts of
surreptitious indulgences involving sex or
money. For want of these necessities the
subjects remained out for most of the
time and were exposed to unwholesome
influences throughout the day. These cir-
cumstances turned out to be conducive
factors in attenuating the family control.
Gluecks comment "that the homes that
lack proper space or are overcrowded,
provide little recreation to the children,
and whatever enjoyment a child may seek
is usually found outside."
The Home Structure
Differing views have been expressed re-
garding the significance of this factor in
delinquency causation. Some studies have
found a high correlation between the home
structure and delinquency, while others
* See Monahan (1957), Wootton (1959) for further reference on family status and
K. S. SHUKLA
of the subjects had lost either of the tions and insecurity increase. The study of
parents or both in childhood, 15.0 per cent Bagot (1941) has indicated that in 1934,
in early adolescence, 16.5 per cent had lost 54.9 per cent of his girls and 37.7 per cent
them in late adolescent period and 2.5 per of his boys came from broken homes;
cent of the subjects were living without the corresponding figures in 1936, were
both the parents since infancy. These 44 per cent and 36.2 per cent of his war-
subjects were being brought up by their time and 34 per cent of his pre-war cases.
near relatives. The table further describes He further comments that, 'it may be re-
the period of separation vis a vis the mode garded as a well-established fact that, on
of the offence.
an average almost one-third of all the
Further questioning indicated that the juvenile . delinquents in English towns
intact homes, despite their completeness, came from broken homes'. Among Rose's
were conspicuously marked by constraints 500 boys, information was available in 471
and unwholesome situations justifying their cases, and of these almost exactly half came
sub-cultural characteristics and criminoge-
from families which were broken by death,
nic propensities. These conditions appa-
desertion or separation (1954 : 55), the
rently were more grave in the case of Gluecks (1950 : 76) found that their
subjects who had to interact with step-
delinquents largely came from homes
mothers or step-fathers. Such conditions which were for one reason or another
were more predominant in the homes of broken or distorted, whereas the pro-
the house-breakers, thereby giving an idea bability that non-delinquents have so high
for inference as if house-breaking is a an incidence of inadequate homes is
symbol of breaking one's own home in remote. Healy (1915), Healy and Bronner
(1926) Slawson (1926) and Monahan (1957)
state that one large minority in the
A significant proportion of the subjects population consistently shows twice the
were pushed from the homes where either average rate of socially broken homes and
of the parents or both parents were not twice the average rate of delinquency.
alive, because, in the opinion of the sub-
Other groups with strong family cohesive-
jects, these families failed to exercise ade-
ness show below average rates of delin-
quate supervision and control over children. quency.
Although, in some cases, the guardians
had taken up the parental roles, yet they
lacked emotional effectiveness over the Family Size
children, more specifically on the sub-
jects. In addition, the subjects who had
The families* of the subjects, in general,
lost their parents at a later stage were were exceptionally large. This magnitude
found to be more prone to delinquency. is an indicator of the economic and living
It could be inferred that adolescence being space pressure immanent. Although very
an age of emotional craving, the role of little work is available in relation to family
parents or sincere guardians is vital in type-joint or single — and size in relation
stabilisation of personalities. In their ab-
to delinquency, yet earlier studies have
sence, possibilities of disharmony, frustra-
shown to have had a high co-relation with
* Single family: Only two generations (parents and children) are the incumbents of
Joint family: two or more generations with immediate relatives living in the same
household, sharing the meals and pooling up the income with the head of the family.
ADOLESCENT THIEVES : FAMILY STRUCTURE
the large families and mal-adjustment in Total Number of the Siblings
the house. Fisher and Hayes (1945),
Damrin (1949), Nye (1959) and Wootton
The largeness of the family testified to
concluded that more delinquents came the fact that the subjects had large number
from the larger families than non-delin-
of siblings to live and adjust with. Of the
quents. The deteriorating influence of the total population, 73 per cent of the subjects
largeness of the family, however, was were from families where the sibling num-
minimised in the case of families which ber was four or more. The problems of
could overcome this shortcoming by their the sibling mal-adjustment and jealousy
sound economic condition, and this might were obvious. Twentyseven per cent sub-
be the reason that only a few delinquents jects had up to three or four siblings, 42
turn difficult in still larger families per cent had to keep up companionate rela-
(families with membership of more than 10 tions with four or five siblings, 21 per cent
had to deal with six to seven siblings and
10 per cent had to interact with more than
The type of the families was found related seven siblings.
to the type of criminality of the subject.
While relating the criminality of the sub-
A majority of the pilferers and pocket-
jects with sibling number it was found
pickers came from joint families. On the that a larger group of the pocket-pickers,
other hand, the house-breakers were more house-breakers and of the pilferers came
the product of single families. The joint from the families with four or more
families produced more professionals, siblings. The families with below three
whereas the single families nurtured more sibling number (small families) produced
occasionals, and habituals. The pocket 27.9 per cent of the house-breakers, 25 per
pickers and the professionals were more cent of the pilferers and 20.3 per cent
from joint familes.
pocket-pickers. Among the remainder.
TYPES OF FAMILIES OF THE SUBJECTS
K. S. SHUKLA
40 per cent pilferers, 18.5 per cent house-
average normal family. These investigations
breakers and 14.5 per cent pocket pickers' however, could not find a significant
of their individual totals, were pushed difference in the number of children in
from homes where the sibling number the family of offenders and control groups.
was six to seven.
The study revealed that on an average
the delinquents came from homes with
Slightly more than half of the subjects
5.2 siblings in the house. The findings in (53.5 per cent) were the intermediate
this aspect matched with quite a few child, 21.5 per cent were the first born and
studies undertaken in Great Britain. 19 per cent were the last child. Only 6 per
These studies showed that the number of cent were the only children of their
children in the family of delinquents were parents. Typologically a larger number of
4 to 6 approximately while the control the pilferers were intermediate children.
group average was three. The studies of Amongst these about 3/5 were of the pro-
Bagot, Norwood East, Car-Saunders et al.,
fessionals and habituals. No significant
Gibbs, Mannheim. Mannheim and Wilkins, difference could be observed in respect of
Rose, Bagot (1944), and Ferguson res-
other categories, except that most of the
pectively, found that on an average all only children turned out to be house-
delinquent families had more than four breakers.
children, while in the control group the
sibling number ranged from 2 to 5.
The intermediate children, therefore,
were found relatively more susceptible to
Gluecks in their study (1934) found that demoralisation.
average number of children in the delin-
quents families was 4.94 which they
The findings get support of the findings
contrasted with a figure of 4.5 persons of Chinn, Muthayya and Bhaskaran, Shukla
per family derived from 1920 census and and Jatar, McCords et. al.
in their earlier study found 5.3 children per applying his concept of inferiority complex
family as compared to 1910 census figure maintained that second born children
4.6 children. In a parallel investigation of always found themselves in a position
reformatory women, made in Massa-
inferior to their first born sibs and had
chussets, the figures were 6.43 children in to fight for recognition becoming hostile
the offender's families and 4.4 persons in and aggressive in the process.
NUMBER OF THE SIBLING
ADOLESCENT T H I E V E S : FAMILY STRUCTURE
Literacy Level of the Parents
The Profession of the Parents or Guardians
The literacy level of the parents, in
The profession of the breadwinners in
general, was low; a majority of the female the present study could be broadly divided
parents were illiterate. The schooling level into four categories: cultivation, business,
of a large majority of the fathers, mothers service and the labour. Labour comprises
and about one-fourth guardians was below wage earners on the monthly, weekly or
the eighth standard. However, the male daily basis. The results indicated that a
parents had a little higher schooling than very meagre percentage of the bread-
their female counterparts. The 2.5 per cent winners were cultivators, about one-thrid
were matriculates and only 1.5 per cent were businessmen out of this 30 per
continued their education beyond matricula-
cent were small shopkeepers with stable
tion. The guardians of the subjects (uncles income — hawkers, cycle-repairers, barbers,
— paternal or maternal — elder sisters, or carpenters, basket-makers, weavers, vege-
other near relatives) not only were more table-sellers, fruit-sellers, milkmen, drink-
literate but also showed the typical rela-
sellers, petty stationers betel-sellers, etc.
tionship of age with literacy — the younger and 4.5 per cent had slightly larger business
the age, the higher the education. More establishments. About half the parents/
than half of the living fathers and mothers guardians* were serving in various organi-
of the pocket-pickers, and the pilferers sations as skilled workers, 12 per cent as
were educated below the fourth standard. factory mechanics, motor mechanics or
In general, the educational level of the drivers, masons, painters, printers, etc.
father, mother or guardians of the house-
and 33.5 per cent were unskilled em-
breakers was higher than that of other ployees (domestic servants, shop assis-
groups. It could, therefore, be inferred that tants, peons, gatekeepers, chowkidars, petty
in a greater probability the pocket-pickers clerks, etc.).
and the pilferers are drawn from the
Some of the breadwinners were making
houses where the educational attainments a living by working as labourers (tonga-
of parents/guardians are low.
drivers, rikshawpullers, vendors in cinema
* The profession of the parents here denotes the profession of the breadwinner, irrespec-
tive of the sex of the parent. Parents is used for either of the parent — mother or
father or both. >
ADOLESCENT THIEVES: FAMILY STRUCTURE
THE PROFESSION OF THE CHIEF OF THE FAMILY: (BREADWINNER)
houses, poster carriers, porters etc.). A or were serving as unskilled hands. In
large group of the professionals, occasion-
about 79 per cent of the cases the eco-
als and habituals belonged to families nomic inadequacy of the family was dis-
where the parents had either a small shop cernible. The subjects were living under
or were unskilled workers. Similarly a large
majority of the pilferers, pocket-pickers conditions of stress and beguilement to
and house-breakers came from families extra normative sources of income seemed
where parents were either petty traders to be the normal consequence.
THE INCOME OF THE FAMILY AND PROFESSION OF THE BREADWINNERS
K. S. SHUKLA
In 10 per cent cases, where the father girls is far below that of general
was either dead or his income was in-
sufficient, the mother was supposed to
In respect of mothers' employment and
work outside and support the family — criminality among the offspring, the earlier
through legitimate or illegitimate means. researchers have been diverse and incon-
The nature of the mother's employment clusive (Wootton, 1959).
varied from menial service to regular em-
ployment (sweepers, petty labourers, maid-
servant, teacher, nurse, etc.)
on nominal The Total Monthly Income in the House
salary. Only one mother had a job with
some remunerative status in a private firm.
In the majority of cases (64.5%) the
Some of these mothers were even hawk-
total monthly income of the entire house-
ers. The earnings of the mother, therefore, hold was below Rs. 300/-. Ten per cent
were scanty and could not compensate of the cases could not earn more than
for the harm caused to the family by her Rs. 100/- a month, 25 per cent earned
absence from the basic duties of the something between Rs. 101 to Rs. 201 and
29.5 per cent could stretch their income
beyond Rs. 200/- to Rs. 300/-.
Delinquency in children or other mem-
bers of the family seemed to be conspicu-
In 35.5 per cent cases the income of
ously related with the state of occupa-
the parents was more than 300 rupees in
tional instability and uncertainty of in-
a month. In 22.5 per cent of the cases
come of the household. The findings fall the parents were earning three to five
in line with the work of the earlier re-
hundred rupees, while in 13 per cent they
searchers like Ferguson (1952), who found could manage to earn more than five
that in his "ordinary" boys, delinquency hundred rupees in a month.*
was relatively infrequent among the child-
ren of skilled workers and more frequent
The result, however, indicated that all
among the children of unskilled workers. income groups produced delinquents. Yet
Slawson (1926) published comments on the economic adversities were manifest. The
preponderance of unskilled workers among figures of the pocket-pickers had slightly
fathers of delinquent boys as compared to more apparent variation in regard to low
those un-selected population. Gluecks and high income groups.
(1940) found in their study of a re-
The economic pressure on the children
formatory men, that 16.6 per cent of the obviously was more conspicuous in the
fathers of the delinquent population were families where about 8 to 9 members
unskilled workers, 23.4 per cent were from were to live on an average monthly in-
the semi-skilled occupational group and come of 200 rupees or even less and where
40 per cent. were unskilled. From their the female members as well, worked to
parallel study of delinquent women (1934) supplement the family income. The follow-
(from whom particulars were obtained in all ing table gives an account of the amount
but 28 cases) they conclude that clearly the of income and number of persons de-
occupational status of the fathers of our pendent on it.
* The statement of income made here pertains only to the income gained through the
legitimate means. The subjects were either hesitant to divulge or were ignorant of
facts regarding other pecuniary sources the family had.
ADOLESCENT T H I E V E S : FAMILY STRUCTURE
TOTAL M O N T H L Y INCOME OF THE E N T I R E FAMILY
have comfortably catered to a variety of
needs of the children. To sum up, it may
M O N T H L Y INCOME AND NUMBE R OF
be concluded that 60.5 per cent subjects
M E M B E R S IN THE FAMILY
came from favourable income groups and
39.5 per cent from very poor homes.
The findings here are more akin to the
findings of Gluecks (1934:34), Healy and
Bronner (1936: 28-31), Shaw and McKay
(1942), Bagot (1941: 44), Kvaraceus (1944:
51-54), Merrill (1947: 64-70), Cletus
Dirksen (1948: 29-41), Burgess (1932),
Miller (1958-59), and Myernoff and Myer-
noff (1964), who concluded that the sub-
standard economic condition of the family
Taking stock of the entire economic was a major factor. Bagot (1941: 43) con-
situation, it was seen that out of the cludes that no less than 85.7 per cent of
whole sample 10 per cent subjects came the delinquents' families would have been
from poor homes where it was difficult below standard as against 30 per cent of the
for the parents even to manage the neces-
Mersey side families. Healy and Bronner's
sities of life. In 29.5 per cent of the cases data indicate that 33 per cent families
the parents were managing their family were living on a comfortable income or
expenses with difficulty. Twenty-five per better, while 51 per cent existed on-margi-
cent of the parents came from economic nal income and 16 per cent were depen-
groups which had fairly tolerable income; dent on aid at the time that the child
and 22.5 per cent belong to nominally was seen. Others like Nye, Short and Oslon
well to do families which were economi-
(1959), Warner and Lunt (1941: 373-77),
cally sound. In thirteen per cent of the Barron (1956: 52), and Porterfield (1943:
cases the parents were earning more than 46) although could not find a high corre-
Rs. 500/- per month and, therefore, could lation between economic condition and
K. S. SHUKLA
delinquency, yet they could not deny its It is possible that availability and accessi-
influence altogether. For more details see bility of these facilities may keep the
Barbara Wootton (1959: 107-113).
parents in the homes and prevent them
from seeking these outside. Recreational
facilities were almost non-existent. The
limited space and large number of mem-
The subjects in general, had inadequate bers to share it resulted in congestion. A
housing facilities. A majority belonged to larger percentage of the subjects were
the segment having two room houses, a few drawn from homes where there were 6
came from houses having three rooms and to 9 members in the house. As has been
only very few lived in the houses having indicated earlier, the breadwinner had no
more than six rooms. Sixty per cent of the spare time left at his disposal to attend
subjects were pushed out of homes which to other obligations vital for family stabi-
had few essential and subsidiary facilities. lity.
The literacy level of the parents of the
The physically intact homes were
subjects, in general, was low. The lite-
more in number. Of these 13 per cent had
racy level of the male parent was higher step-mothers and 5 per cent had step-
than that of the female parent.
fathers. The subjects had large number
Above 40 per cent of the subjects were of siblings. The problems of adjustment
thrown out of the families where the and jealousies were obvious among them.
parents had unstable income, e.g., unskill-
Slightly more than half of the subjects
ed employees, petty traders, labourers etc. (55.5%) were intermediate children, 21.5
The majority of subjects (64.5%) came per cent were the first born and 19 per
from the economically inadequate families cent were last children. Only 6 per cent
where the total monthly income of the were the only children of their parents.
parents was below Rs. 300/- and where
The families, by and large, were large
the parents/guardians, either had no edu-
and, therefore, charged with impersonaliz-
cation or just a smattering of education. ing tendencies. Everyone was relatively
Because of poor education, the parents had indifferent to others and to the set up,
to take to professions of cheap prestige particularly the activists, including the
value and poor economic return. The eco-
subjects, were more conspicuous in this
nomy of these vocations was far from regard, as they were unmindful of their
being satisfactory. Only a few exceptions social relations. Frequent stealing at home
were found. The earner, therefore, had to and long absence were symptoms of
go for unskilled jobs, petty trading and impersonality. Sibling jealousies and inter-
casual labour. The nature of these occu-
personal conflicts' made home life
pations required the breadwinner to spend distressing.
the major hours of the day outside the
Traditional indifference towards educa-
tion was tantamount to proper cultural
Because of educational and monetary assimilation process. Moreover, the low
inadequacies the parents could not arrange prestige occupations of the parents and the
for wholesome housing and necessary subjects were prone towards insecurity. In
facilities — essential and subsidiary. Very this situation, the possibility of non-
few families could meet these necessities. conforming self-image increased.
ADOLESCENT T H I E V E S : FAMILY STRUCTURE
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