The Historical, Jurisprudential, and Empirical Wisdom of Parental Responsibility Laws


  • The first author thanks Charles Frazier for his helpful input on this article and in the first author's career and life in general. Portions of this research were supported by a University of Nebraska Research Council Faculty Seed Grant.

Eve Brank, Department of Psychology, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, P.O. Box 880308, Lincoln, NE 68588–0308. Tel: 402-472-3328 [e-mail:].


The parent-child relationship is woven deep within historical and contemporary culture, but strong retributive ideals have led to blaming parents because of their presumed vicarious role in juvenile crime. The current article will discuss the history, forms, legal challenges, and empirical research related to parental involvement laws in the United States. The parent-child relationship provides the historical framework behind the separate juvenile justice parens patriae system; however, with the juvenile justice system not as successful as originally imagined, blame has shifted to the parents. We examine the potential constitutional implications of enacting and enforcing parental involvement statutes and ordinances and also the potential efficacy of parental involvement laws in reducing juvenile delinquency. In addition, we propose empirical research to test the underlying assumptions about blame made by parental involvement laws.