Supporting Young Offenders Through Restorative Justice: Parents as (In)Appropriate Adults

Published 17/12/2008
Type Article
Author(s) Carolyn Hoyle, Stephen Noguera
Corresponding Authors Carolyn Hoyle and Stephen Noguera, Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford

Set within the wider context of responsibilising youth justice policies, this article heeds academic calls for further research into parent/child dynamics within restorative justice processes (Prichard, 2002; Bradt et al., 2007), by critically analysing and evaluating the role of parents as supporters of young offenders. The aim is not to call into question the entitlement of parents to be present during restorative processes, but to critically examine their suitability to play the role of designated supporters. Drawing upon the literature as well as empirical work conducted by the first author (Hoyle et al., 2002), it will be argued that many of the moralising and responsibilising messages directed at the offender find currency with parents in a way which makes them feel ashamed, embarrassed and as if they themselves are on trial. Parents react to this discomfort by engaging in apologising, neutralising, dominating and punitive discourses. Their reactions not only cast doubt upon their ability to be composed and supportive of their children, but more importantly might adversely affect the dynamics of the process itself. Parental reactions might thereby deny the young person the opportunity to take responsibility for their actions and to contribute to the discussion on appropriate reparation, which could ultimately thwart the chance for reintegration.