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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 135543 Find in a Library
Title: Single Mothers, Delinquent Daughters, and the Juvenile Court in Early 20th Century Los Angeles
Journal: Journal of Social History  Volume:25  Issue:1  Dated:(Fall 1991)  Pages:27-43
Author(s): M Odem
Date Published: 1991
Page Count: 17
Type: Survey
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: Single mothers formed a disproportionately large share of the parents who initiated court intervention to settle conflicts with their adolescent daughters in Los Angeles during the early 1900's.
Abstract: One-third of all family referrals to the juvenile court came from single mothers, whereas female-headed families constituted only one-fifth of the families living in Los Angeles. These mothers came from varied ethnic and racial backgrounds that reflected the unique population mix of Los Angeles during the period. Although relatives could rarely take both mother and children into their homes, they sometimes assisted in more limited ways by helping to raise dependent children and by providing occasional financial support. Single mothers received little in the way of assistance from public or private charitable sources. Therefore, most had to work outside the home, but typical wages fell far short of what was needed to support a family. Family survival in female-headed homes required that adolescent children leave school to enter the paid labor force as soon as legally possible. In response to family crisis, many mothers turned to the juvenile justice system to reinforce their authority over delinquent daughters who began to challenge traditional family roles and expectations. Mothers complained about their daughters' neglect of family obligations, while courts focused primarily on the sexual misconduct of these girls. Some mothers objected to the institutionalization of their daughters, but their status as single mothers made them vulnerable to court control. In general, major economic and social changes occurring in Los Angeles exacerbated the economic vulnerability of single mothers and heightened generational tensions between working parents and their daughters. Urbanization, an intense immigration rate, and an expanding wage-labor economy disrupted earlier survival strategies of single mothers and made them even more dependent on the domestic and wage labor contributions of their adolescent children. At the same time, these developments expanded opportunities for working class daughters and gave them unprecedented freedom from family and community restrictions. 48 endnotes
Main Term(s): Female juvenile delinquents
Index Term(s): California; Juvenile courts; Juvenile delinquency factors; Parent-Child Relations; Urban area studies
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