1.1 Background to the Study
The issue of juvenile delinquency in the Nigerian society has gained a lot of recognition that must be critically examined because of its consequences in our society. Anti-social behaviours of young people have been posing a lot of problems to the wellbeing of the people in Nigeria. Juvenile antisocial behaviours experiencing in Nigeria include: thuggery, hooliganism, drug abuse, cultism, examination malpractices, prostitution and robbery.
Shoemaker (2013) defined juvenile delinquency as “illegal acts, whether criminal or status offences, which are committed by youth under the age of 18”. The origin of juvenile delinquency in Nigeria dates back to the 1920s when youth crimes such as pick pocketing and prostitution became predominant issues in Nigerian newspapers in that period. This ugly development brought about the establishment of judicial administrative processes by the colonial masters to be able to tackle the issue of juvenile delinquents (Fourchard, 2006). It is a pity that this issue of juvenile delinquency is still rampaging the Nigerian society and causing all sorts of antisocial behaviours among adolescents and even youths to an extent.
Furthermore, the problem of juvenile delinquency is not peculiar to Nigeria. In 2007, the law enforcement agencies in the United States of America reported 2.18 million arrests of juveniles (Alfry, 2010). Alfry also gave a report that the United States of America Bureau of Justice Statistics found out that more than 70% of juveniles that are jailed came from broken families. Going by the World Youth Report cited in Sheryln (2008), it was revealed that the rate of criminal activity among juveniles in groups in the Russia is about three to four times higher than that of adults. Motivated by the increasing rate of juvenile delinquency in Britain Juby and Farrington (2001) examined juvenile delinquency and family disruption in a longitudinal survey of South London males from age 8 to 46. The researchers found out that 29% of the boys from disrupted families were convicted as juveniles compared with 18% of the boys from stable families. The researchers gave a conclusion that family instability was the main factor that contributes to the sudden increase of juvenile delinquency in Britain.
In view of the foregoing issues and trends globally and locally, many researchers agree that the foundation of juvenile delinquency is rooted in the kind of home the child is brought up (Okorodudu, 2010; Igbo, 2007). Muhammed et al (2009) have observed that family instability is on the increase in Nigeria and that the increasing crime trends among the youths may be attributed to this. Based on the foregoing, this study aims at assessing the relationship between family instability and juvenile delinquency in Nigeria by using Ifelodun Ajegunle Local Government Area, of Lagos State, Nigeria, as a case study.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Juvenile delinquency in Nigeria is a major social problem which affects the whole society and constitutes a serious impediment to development (Muhammed et al 2009). For instance, in Lagos municipality today, crime is common among the young people, many of who are caught in one criminal act or the other such as cultism, examination malpractice, armed robbery, assault, rape, house breaking, forgery, truancy (Nwankwo, Nwoke, Chukwuocha, Iwuagwu, Obanny, Okereke and Nwoga, 2010).
Muhammed et al (2010) have observed that young people in contemporary Nigeria are mostly involved in armed robbery, cultism, kidnapping, drug abuse and other criminal activities. In corroborating this fact, the Imo state commander of National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) lamented that the young people were the most involved in illicit drug usage and dealing (Nkwopara, 2011). The consequences of this malady and other juvenile crimes such as; examination malpractice, alcoholism, forgery, rape, and so on in Nigeria include; social violence among youths, armed robbery, mental disorders, lack of respect for elders and other numerous social ills.
Inadequate supervision arising from family instability seems to be associated with juvenile delinquency (Alfrey, 2010). Alfrey further explained that those children in single-parent families tend to receive lower levels of supervision. According to him, this inadequate parental supervision has a tendency to increase the likelihood of juvenile delinquency. Dogget (2004) has it that when there is one parent living in the home as opposed to two, it is more difficult to supervise children all the time. According to Dogget, every day activities like errands and work must be completed by the single parent, which leaves no parent in the home. Because of this, children in single-parent homes tend to receive lower levels of supervision (Sanni et al, 2010). Lack of parental monitoring contributes not only directly to children’s anti-social behaviours, but also indirectly as it contributes to exposing them to associate with deviant peers, which is predictive of higher levels of deviant acts (Okorodudu, 2010). From observation, it seems that parents and care givers are not doing much in the supervision of their children in Nigeria because of their numerous economic and social engagements. This scenario tends to be giving impetus to juvenile delinquency in Nigeria and Lagos State Municipality in particular.
Children growing up in unstable families are at a greater risk of experiencing a variety of behavioural and educational problems, including; smoking, drug abuse, vandalism, violence and criminal acts than children from stable families (Sheryln, 2008). According to Sheryln, changes in the family can affect the levels of self-control in children. The transitions in the family structure also lead to changes in the organization, monitoring and disciplining of the children. If the changes are widespread, the resulting changes in the adolescents‟ levels of self-control will likely lead to anti-social behaviours (Mullens, 2004). Single-parent families are often financially vulnerable as compared to two-parent families. This unfortunate economic circumstance can draw these families to disorganized neighbourhoods where crime and delinquency are rampant (Alfrey, 2010). The implication according to Alfrey is that the children may be exposed to learning delinquent behaviours and they may also be enticed into joining delinquent gangs. It is the opinion of the researcher that financial vulnerability may also be a source of strain to children in single-parent families. Hence, they may not have some of their needs met by their single parent. The effect is that children in such a situation may be pushed to engage in theft, extortion and other delinquent actions to make ends meet.
1.3 Research Questions
This research will be carried out to answer the following research questions:
i) What is the extent of an intact home family structure likely to influence child delinquency in Ifelodun Ajegunle Local Government Area, of Lagos State?
ii) Does a single parenthood (father only/mother only) structure contribute to children delinquency in Ifelodun Ajegunle Local Government Area, of Lagos State?
iii) Is a child who has lived in a children’s home structure influenced to engage in child delinquency in Ifelodun Ajegunle Local Government Area, of Lagos State?
1.4 Objectives of the Study
The aim of this research is to assess the relationship between family instability and juvenile delinquency in Nigeria by using Ifelodun Ajegunle Local Government Area, of Lagos State, Nigeria as a case study. However, the specific objectives of the study are:
i) To establish the extent of an intact home family structure likely to influence child delinquency in Ifelodun Ajegunle Local Government Area, of Lagos State
ii) To understand if a single parenthood (father only/mother only) structure contribute to children delinquency in Ifelodun Ajegunle Local Government Area, of Lagos State
iii) To investigate if a child who has lived in a children’s home structure influenced to engage in child delinquency in Ifelodun Ajegunle Local Government Area, of Lagos State
1.5 Significance of the Study
The study will enhance the understanding of juvenile crimes in the Nigerian society. It is hoped that Family Counsellors will find the study on the dynamics and how families contribute to juvenile delinquency and show the need for Government to come up with polices that strengthen the family unit as its stability may lead to reduced cases of juvenile delinquency hence a more community preventive policies in planning of the Nigeria’s Juvenile justice system and its handling of issues of juvenile delinquency. A lot of studies also focus on the influence of biological parents.
1.6 Scope of the Study
This study investigates the relationship between family instability and juvenile delinquency in Nigeria by using Ifelodun Ajegunle Local Government Area, of Lagos State, Nigeria as a case study. The respondents will be selected from Ifelodun Ajegunle Local Government Area, of Lagos State.
1.7 Limitations of the study
The research instrument used was expected to generate varying data depending on the truthfulness of the children under study. This was, however, mitigated by design of a reliable and a valid research instrument. Finally, analysis of Secondary data was a challenge as some of the records were found to be inconsistent for meaningful analysis.
1.8 Definitions of Terms
The following terms were used in the course of this study:
Juvenile delinquency: a legal term for behaviour of children and adolescents that in adults would be judged criminal under law.
Family unit structure: Family Structure analysis examines one of these relationships, that between women and men or father and mother in a household. It can be defined as the varied roles played by women (mothers) and men (fathers) and its influence to the girls and boys born or brought up in the household.