Parental accountability has been a continuous theme interlaced within government policy since the late 19th century. The year of 1854 saw the introduction of the Youthful Offenders Act and implementation of reformatory schools for which parents were responsible for fees, such financial liability was to act as motivation for parents to take responsibility for the deviant behaviour of their children. The trend of legislation since this period has continually assumed the association between careless parenting and juvenile delinquency, at the present time further legislation a Young Offenders (Parental Responsibility) Bill 2013-2014 (Parliament,2013) is currently awaiting its second reading at the House of Commons. Although there is an undeniable link between inadequate parenting and youth offending too much emphasis has been placed upon this relationship. There have been failings by the government and the Youth Justice System, perhaps more fundamental, factors involved. Legislation since the 1854 Act has incessantly criminalised perceived negligent parenting rather than support parents in pursuit of a solution.
The concept of parental accountability has arisen from a general consensus that problem parenting equates to juvenile offending other factors remaining insignificant. The deviant behaviour of children is as a result of a ‘parenting deficit’ (Goldson and Jamieson 2008; 82) and the current political stance supports this view and their negligent parenting is therefore punishable by law.
Parents have a responsibility towards their children to provide a stable upbringing in which they learn right from wrong, resultant deviant children could be said to epitomise their failings as parents and it is only right that accountability should ensue. Bandura’s social learning theory reinforces the need for accountability as it recognises crime is a learnt behaviour and it is for parents to teach their children a correct manner in which to live in. Although it may not be the parents themselves who act in a criminal manner, parents have a responsibility to protect their children from sources who may influence them negatively. It is however irresponsible to view parenting as the sole cause of juvenile offending without taking into account other factors which also impact such behaviour.
The Cambridge Study (Farrington 1990) takes into account the role of parenting within juvenile offending however delves further and recognises