Bad Parental Behavior

Juvenile Criminal Law | Criminal Defense Attorney in Tampa

Image courtesy of Barnett, Howard & Williams, PLLC

Maryland resident, Cornella Rookard, drove her armed 14 y.o. son to confront another boy.  The teen fired several times at the intended victim from the backseat of his mother’s vehicle with a shotgun.  He was later charged with attempted murder.  His mother was charged with assault, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and reckless endangerment [1].

We assume parents will raise their children to become good citizens, and teach them right from wrong.  Unfortunately, that assumption is often mistaken.

Parental Impact

Parents have enormous impact on the behavior of their children.  Parental interest and encouragement can increase a child’s self-esteem, motivation, and interest in school [2].  The reverse is, also, however, true.

Children who are rejected by their parents, who are inadequately supervised or grow up amid conflict run the highest risk of delinquency [3A].  Where parents are, themselves, involved in criminal activity, that risk increases exponentially [3B].

Absent Fathers

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever” (1 Tim. 5: 8).

It may be painful to hear.  But the absence of a father from the home is considered the single most important cause of crime [4].  Boys who do not share a home with their fathers after the age of 10 y.o. – 14 y.o. are twice as likely to be jailed as those from intact homes.  Boys fatherless from birth are three times as likely to be jailed.

This is not intended to cast aspersions on single or divorced mothers.  It is simply to point out that fathers serve a purpose above and beyond procreation (a concept that seems lost on our society).

Parental Liability

“Parents may be held liable for their juvenile child’s crimes, depending on the state.  Some states maintain Parental Accountability or Parental Responsibility Laws which hold parents responsible for any crimes committed by their child.  The reasoning behind such laws is that parents have a legal duty to supervise and prevent their children from committing crimes and becoming delinquent citizens [5].”

In California, parents can be held liable for any “willful misconduct causing injury, death or property damage” by a minor under the age of 18 [6A].  In Louisiana, parents are liable for any damage caused by a child, without regard to their financial exposure [6B].  In New Jersey, parents may be liable for a child’s acts, though only for damage to school property, public utilities, or railroads [6C].  Financial responsibility is capped at $5,000.

“…[P]arental accountability… [can] take the form of ‘parenting classes, family therapy, community service, fines, suspension of driver’s licenses, eviction from public housing and even imprisonment’.  All of these interventions penalize parents for their teen’s actions for which the latter are legally considered responsible…

Emphasizing parental accountability may not create the desired effect on their teenagers’ case outcomes or realistically be achievable…[S]upporters of the deterrence approach view these accountability measures as fostering better parenting, which in turn discourages delinquency.  On the other hand…studies citing favorable outcomes for these programs do not include the high drop-out rate of families…

…[A]ccountability measures from fees to imprisonment…effectively ignore the social problems such as poverty or disadvantaged neighborhoods that affect parents’ ability to be accountable and further weaken families that are dysfunctional… [7].”

A Firm Foundation

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children…” (Deut. 6: 6-7).

Parents are intended to provide their children a firm moral and ethical foundation.  There may be legitimate reasons they cannot fully do this.  However, when that foundation is undermined by bad parental behavior, children suffer the consequences.  That is, in effect, another form of child abuse.

[1]  WBOC,  “Boy, 14, Arrested for Attempted Murder in Cambridge Shooting”, 12/3/20,

[2]  Public School Review, “Parental Involvement Is Key to Student’s Success” by Grace Chen, 10/10/20,

[3A and 3B]  Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinqency Prevention, “Family Life and Delinquency and Crime”,

[4]  Marripedia, “Effects of Parents on Crime Rates”,

[5]  LegalMatch, “Parental Responsibility for Juvenile Crime” by Travis Peeler, 6/25/20,

[6A, 6B, and 6D]  Nolo, “Parental Responsibility Laws and Personal Injury”,

[7]  Sage Journals, “Good parents, bad parents:  Rethinking family involvement in juvenile justice” by Leslie Paik,  6/7/16,