Family Dynamics and Adolescent Conduct Disorders Among Nigerian Secondary School Students

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INTRODUCTION
Interest in children who have conduct disorders has heightened in recent years because of the significant increase in the prevalence of deviant behaviour among students. Conduct disorder is a repetitive and persistent pattern of behaviour in which the basic rights of others or major age-appropriate societal norms or rules are violated (American Psychological Association, 2000). In Nigeria, students with conduct disorders engage in deviant behaviours such as aggression, peer cruelty, fighting, bullying or threatening others, pilfering, rioting, stealing, truancy, substance abuse, raping, smoking, lateness, falsification of results, violation of rules and regulations, assault of both students and teachers, vandalisation of school property, sexual offences and even murder (Okonkwo, 2001; Iheanacho, 2001; Udochukwu, 2001; Kemjika & Woruka 1998; & Ogoke, 1990). According to Anokam (2002), the prevalence of conduct disorder among Nigerian adolescents has increased in the last three years in terms of frequency of recorded delinquent crimes and number of adolescents involved. Okonkwo, Ezeani and Nwagbo (1999) also reported that 60% of persons arrested in Nigeria for crimes of violence, armed robbery, substance abuse, and arson were juveniles. Cult activities remain near their highest rate with the well-publicised occurrences of multiple killings, robbery, maiming, raping and destruction of properties in many institutions of higher learning. These reports make one to wonder about the causative factors. A synthesis of theories of family influences indicates that families exert a major influence on children’s personal development (Grolnick, Kourowski, & Gurland, 1999). This is not surprising given the number of hours young children spend with their families each day. Given that the family lays the foundation for socialisation and stabilisation of adult personality (Ekwonwa, 2001), and parents have the primary responsibility of raising and teaching their children appropriate behaviours and social skills, a closer look at the importance of family dynamics such as relationship between parents, family structure, and parenting style, and birth order in conduct disorder is imperative. Again, a review of recent literature on conduct disorders among students (Anokam, 2002; Kalgo, 2001; Fiberesima, 2001; Agulanna, 1998; Astor, 1994; Sigel, & Senna, 1995) tends to suggest that family dynamics [the different forces that students interact with in their families] influence students’ conduct. For instance children who have been exposed to marital conflicts between parents are likely to manifest problems, such as higher levels of physical aggression, depression, as well as long term difficulties in trusting others and maintaining intimate relationships. Forehand, Biggar & Kotchick, (1998); Hetherington, (1999); and Astor, (1994) in studies of aggressive and non-aggressive children, opine that violent children may have been the recipients of considerable physical and psychological aggression in their own lives which eventually led to deviant behaviours later in life. Linked also with students’ conduct disorders is inadequate parenting. Negative relationships with parents are associated with adolescent’s association with deviant peers (Ary, Duncan, Duncan, & Hops, 1999), lower self esteem, less sophisticated social skills, and an inability to establish and maintain peer relationships later in life (Kim, Conger, Lorenz, & Elder, 2001). Straus, & Yodanis, (1996) and Collins, Laursen, Mortensen, Luebker, & Ferreira, (1997), have also associated violence and aggression towards others with faulty parenting styles. Baumrind (1967) had classified parents as exhibiting one of three parenting styles: authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. Authoritarian and permissive parenting styles are said to produce children who are overly aggressive with others (Conger, Conger, & Scaramella, 1997); and engage in delinquent acts as adolescents...
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