Why young people are attracted to crime

Why immature people are attracted to offense.

Table of Contentss

Introduction… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … .

The Historical Perspective on Youth Crime… … … … … … …

Anomie and Strain… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … .

Subcultures… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … .

Labeling Theory… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … ..

Moral Panics and the Media… … … … … … … … … … … …

Critical Criminology… … … … … … … … … … … … … … ..

Cultural Minorities… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … ..

Government Responses to Youth Crime… … … … … … … … .

Decision… … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … … ..


The manner in which immature people are represented and understood in relation to offense has changed quickly over the last century. Interest in young person justness has, nevertheless, been peculiarly strong in the last decennary or so. Young people have become capable to immense sums of new statute law and policy-making aimed at altering what is seen as a moving ridge of young person offense ( Fionda, 2005 ) . Young people have even come to be seen in such a manner in society that they have lost their childhood ( Fionda, 2005 ) . This essay foremost examines the historical position on young person offense and how this building of the immature has emerged. It so moves on to accounts of offense such as strain, anomy, subcultural theories, moral terrors and critical criminologies. Finally it looks at black and cultural minorities and what has been the authorities ‘s overall response to youth offense.

The Historical Perspective on Youth Crime

The history of young person and offense is traced by Muncie ( 2004 ) . Over the old ages, Muncie ( 2004 ) points out, the manner in which juvenile wrongdoers have been seen has changed. But, the manner in which offense has been described can non be efficaciously separated from the ways in which efforts have been made to command it. Within the societal constructionist attack to analyzing criminology, accent is placed on analyzing the discourses involved, be they legal, societal or political. From these discourses Muncie ( 2004 ) argues that young person offense is really in a changeless province of metabolism. This can be seen in the footings that have emerged to stand for immature people and their condemnable behavior. Historically, so, an early term was ‘juvenile delinquent ‘ which emerged in the early nineteenth century. Later, in the early twentieth century, the term ‘troublesome wrongdoer ‘ became common.

These constructs of immature people and offense have changed with the different ways that immature people have been constructed. Hendrick ( 1997 ) charts these alterations get downing with the romantic kid in the eighteenth century, going the evangelical kid, the mill kid, the delinquent kid and the schooled kid throughout the nineteenth century. In the twentieth century, by comparing, the kid has been constructed as the psycho-medical kid, the public assistance kid and now the psychological kid. Overall so, Muncie ( 2004 ) argues, these different definitions and historical developments leave a figure of troubles in specifying the nature of childhood. Muncie ( 2004 ) further argues that the historical manner in which kids and young persons have been represented has more to make with the frights of grownups than the existent behavior of kids.

The grounds that have been used to explicate young person offense are many and varied. Muncie ( 2004 ) describes the rationalist theories that have been used to explicate young person offense. These have included multi-factor attacks which place the causes of young person offense in low IQ, genetic sciences, personality and so on. One illustration of the research endorsing up this theory comes from Farrington, Barnes and Lambert ( 1996 ) who found that there was a much higher likeliness that wrongdoers would come from households with other wrongdoers in it. Claims have even been made for insulating the familial constituent of young person piquing. Mednick, Gabrielli and Hutchings ( 1987 ) , for illustration, reexamining 14,000 instances of acceptance, happen there is a familial constituent of criminalism – although this might good be a sensitivity instead than a direct cause. Other theories have focussed on personality as the cause of young person offense. Rutter and Smith ( 1995 ) , for illustration, reexamining the literature, find that there has been an addition in personality upsets possibly caused by household break-up.

Anomie and Strain

One of import early theory of offense in general is related to anomies and strain. Anomie developed from the work of Durkheim ( 1933 ) who argued that because of the comparative advantages and disadvantages of people in society, it was necessarily that offense would happen. ‘Anomie ‘ – a dislocation of societal values and norms – occurred peculiarly in organic societies such as ours in which people are extremely mutualist. Because of the trouble of commanding these interactions, it is possible for people ‘s desires to acquire out of control and for anomy to be created.

Merton ( 1949 ) built on these thoughts, but instead than concentrating on human desires, he placed the accent on the manner in which people are trying to accomplish certain ends. They foremost attempt to make this by legitimate agencies, but if they ca n’t so they turn to condemnable methods. A job arises if there is excessively great a spread between cultural norms about the kinds of ends that are ‘normal ‘ and what is practically accomplishable. This spread is most likely to be widest at the lower terminal of the socio-economic spectrum where educational, economic and societal chances are often lowest. One of the chief differences between Merton ‘s thoughts and those of Durkheim was that the latter idea aspirations are set internally while Merton thought they are set by society and civilization.

Peoples are though to respond in one of five ways harmonizing to Merton ‘s ( 1949 ) theoretical account. These are foremost by accepting the ends society has set them, even if they are non accomplishable – this will non ensue in offense. The 2nd is made up of those rejecting the agencies society has set for them to accomplish the ends but accepting the ends themselves. In the 3rd group are those who reject the ends but accept the methods. The 4th are those who reject both the methods and the ends and do non contend back. The last class are the same but do experience able to contend back.


Merton ‘s ( 1949 ) theory was criticised by Cohen ( 1965 ) for being excessively individualistic. Specifically, it does non look to explicate the manner in which people really started transporting out condemnable or aberrant Acts of the Apostless. Cohen ‘s ( 1955 ) version of strain theory, so, looked at the subcultures and how these fostered aberrant Acts of the Apostless. One of the chief points Cohen wanted to assist explicate was why many of immature people ‘s delinquent Acts of the Apostless did n’t look to be that rational, as Merton ‘s theory suggested. Alternatively, Cohen ( 1955 ) argued, immature people were involved in transporting out minor offenses that did n’t look rational because the subcultures within which they were runing had different norms. These cultural differences were represented in a assortment of different ways: they had particular linguistic communication, different apparels and different behavior.

Cohen based his findings on his survey of packs in Chicago. He found that these subcultures took portion in aberrant Acts of the Apostless that had peculiar features: there was considerable group trueness, short-run hedonism, propertyless rank and engagement in Acts of the Apostless that were non-specialist. The combination of these Acts of the Apostless and the acceptance of different norms to the remainder of society were portion of the subculture ‘s manner of get bying with ‘status defeat ‘ – the fact that they had small or no position in in-between category society. Cohen ( 1955 ) thought the behavior of the subculture was, in psychodynamic nomenclature, a ‘reaction formation ‘ .

Cohen ‘s thoughts were farther built upon by Cloward and Ohlin ( 1961 ) who made a return to thoughts that were built more on Merton ‘s work in the sense that they thought packs acted on useful, or rational, evidences. Some pack members, they argued, were merely interested in taking portion in activities that seemed to offer small addition, but these were non representative of the many who were interested in roll uping money. The norms in the subculture are based, so, on lower category thoughts of a high-status place ( Muncie, 2001 ) . Three peculiar types of subcultures were suggested by Cloward and Ohlin ( 1961 ) , a retreatist subculture, a struggle subculture and a condemnable subculture. The first, a retreatist subculture, tends to merely affect drug usage and guns. The struggle subculture, nevertheless, arises where there is no manner to accomplish high position by either legal or illicit agencies. Finally, the condemnable subculture emerges when the manner is blocked for lawfully deriving position but condemnable role-models are available.

Muncie ( 2001 ) argues that the strength of these theories was they turned the accent off from psychological harm doing delinquent behavior. Alternatively, youth behavior could be seen to ensue from the combination of local civilization and inequalities and deficiency of chances for immature people in peculiar countries. Despite this, subculture theories of young person delinquency have come in for considerable unfavorable judgment. Matza ( 1964 ) , for illustration, analyzing the behavior of single members of packs found they tended to float in and out of aberrant activities. They did non look to portion nucleus values as might hold been expected by the theories described above. Downes ( 1966 ) , meanwhile, examined East London working-class male childs and found small grounds of position defeat. Alternatively Downes ( 1966 ) found the male childs tended to disassociate themselves from societal norms through amusement and other recreations.

Muncie ( 2004 ) , describing on much research carried out since the 1960s, discoveries there is by and large small grounds of packs and their attendant subcultures in the UK. Similar research is reviewed from the US. Katz ( 2000 ) finds that there are quickly lifting frights about the influence of packs, despite the fact at that place seems small grounds of their being. Katz ( 2000 ) argues that frights about packs tend to be associated with concern over in-migration and one appears to be correlated with the other.

It is merely a short measure from speaking of subcultures to the modern cultural analysis of subcultural manners. Muncie ( 2004 ) points out that critical criminology has crossed over into this country, and the analysis of these subcultural manners provides some penetration into the attractive force of young persons to offense, or at least the manner in which these subcultural manners have been constructed as oppositional. One subcultural manner which has received considerable analysis is the ‘teddy male childs ‘ . This was a subcultural manner adopted by working category male childs in the 1950s which was associated with the erosion of Edwardian apparels and listening to rock’n’roll. The teddy male childs ‘ subcultural manner was thought to stand for alienation with mainstream cultural norms. The mods, meanwhile, besides emerged in the 1950s and 1960s – their manner involved a tidy visual aspect with smart Italian suits. Finally, the bootboyss who emerged in the late sixtiess, besides from East London, wore short hair, heavy boots, half-mast pants and braces. It has been argued that skinhead civilization was an effort to confirm traditional working-class values.

Labeling Theory

While these subcultural manners have been associated with peculiar types of oppositional and, often, condemnable behavior, returning to Matza ‘s ( 1964 ) analysis it can be seen that delinquents frequently drift in and out of these kinds of manners and ways of behaving. Why so has at that place been a strong association with certain manners and packs with young person offense? The reply from critical criminologies has been theories of both labelling and moral terror. Labeling theory takes rather a different position from traditional mainstream criminological attacks to offense. It grew out of thoughts from Becker ( 1963 ) who thought that aberrance was created by the regulations imposed on behavior instead than the peculiar type of behavior itself. After all, it is possible to interrupt the jurisprudence and non be detected or to non interrupt the jurisprudence and still be labelled aberrant. This means that those interrupting the jurisprudence do non suit into a homogeneous classs, there is clearly considerable discrepancy. Becker ( 1963 ) thought this could be explained by believing about the effects of labelling. To farther do this point Becker argued that regulations changed from clip to clip, so that what was at one clip considered non a offense could subsequently go a offense. Similarly when corporations break the jurisprudence, this is dealt with by the civil jurisprudence and when persons break the jurisprudence this is dealt with by the condemnable jurisprudence. This provides farther weight to the thought that impressions of criminalism are imposed from the exterior instead than being built-in belongingss of persons.

An of import differentiation within labelling theory was made by Lemert ( 1951 ) who thought there were two different sorts of deviancy. Primary deviancy resulted, Lemert ( 1951 ) argued, from the psychological or sociocultural fortunes of the person. At this phase persons are frequently incognizant they are aberrant and accordingly do non see themselves in this manner. Secondary deviancy consequences, nevertheless, after they have been caught up in the condemnable justness system. This works to label the person as a ‘criminal ‘ with all the attendant attitudes that society so attaches to that individual. The person who has been labelled in this manner so frequently accepts the manner in which they are viewed by other people, such that, internally, they feel they have become a condemnable. This internal procedure ensuing from society ‘s labelling merely serves to reenforce the transporting out of aberrant behaviors. As Muncie ( 2004 ) points out when this theory is applied to youths it helps to explicate why, although many commit Acts of the Apostless that are considered pervert, merely some of these really attract the label of ‘delinquent ‘ .

Despite the advantages of labelling theory, several unfavorable judgments have been made. First is that labelling theory on its ain discoveries it hard to explicate how peculiar people and offenses are labelled while others are non ( Muncie, 2001 ) . Without a socio-cultural position it is hard for this facet to emerge. Second, some have argued that non adequate attending has been paid to the operation of primary deviancy, in other words how people come to perpetrate offenses in the first topographic point. The strength of labelling theory, nevertheless, is that it makes the point that offense is an ordinary portion of mundane life. One construct that has helped to cover with the first job with labelling theory is that of moral terrors.

Moral Panics and the Media

Moral terrors are societal procedures that help to explicate how peculiar behavior or persons all of a sudden become labeled as pervert. Moral terrors are what occur when a peculiar type of individual becomes demonised. One of the most well-known illustrations is that of groups of ‘mods ‘ and ‘rockers ‘ in the seaside resort of Clacton. This was presented in the newspapers as though a all-out public violence had broken out with locals being terrorised and untold harm being down to the seaside town. It was besides presented as being a clear conflict between two chief packs. Research into the incident, nevertheless, by Cohen ( 2002 ) revealed there was small in the manner of organized packs and there had non been about every bit much force and upset as had been reported in the newspapers. The worst most people had done was engage in endangering behavior.

Despite this, because of the populace taking media studies at face value, a figure of responses were required ( Muncie, 2004 ) . The constabulary watched the two groups more carefully, which lead to a greater figure of apprehensions. Second, because the media studies had tended to underscore the difference between the two groups, the immature people involved themselves tended to be polarised in the same way towards one or other of the groups. The moral terror, hence, served non merely to foreground the job to the general populace but besides, in some sense, to make it, as the terror Federal back into the phenomenon itself. Cohen ( 2002 ) explains the easiness with which this moral terror happened by the peculiar societal state of affairs at the clip. Change was happening quickly, singing London was in the clasp of a new tolerance and the traditional working categories were weakening. For Cohen ( 2002 ) , these two groups became the ocular symbols of the jobs that society was enduring from.

One of the elements clearly of import in making moral terrors is the media. The consequence of the media in these types of procedures is examined by Garratt ( 2004 ) . It is argued that, in the 1950s peculiarly, the cult of ‘youth ‘ emerged – a bandwagon onto which the media jumped ( Garratt, 2004 ) . Many new goods and services were being promoted to immature people. The media tended to put up immature people as though they should be feared. This occurs by taking a few stray illustrations of bad behavior and so using it to the whole of a peculiar subculture.

What is emerging from this treatment of labelling and moral terrors in relation to immature people and offense is that the societal building of offense is critical. It is non merely down to the single nature of Acts of the Apostless committed by immature people, it is really of import how these Acts of the Apostless are constructed by society. It still remains to be explained, nevertheless, why peculiar immature people engage in offense in the first topographic point. To analyze this, it is utile to see the development of critical criminology.

Critical Criminology

Critical criminology grew out of a Marxist analysis that society is best seen through the operation of economic forces. From this position offense is seen to originate from clangs between groups in society. Chambliss ( 1975 ) was one of the first to develop these Marxist thoughts into a criminological theory. This produced a figure of new ways of seeing offense. Within this theory offense is seen as a effect of the operation of capitalist economy. The ways in which certain Acts of the Apostless are deemed to be improper, will be in the involvements of the opinion category. Fundamentally, though, within this theory offense is thought to flux from category struggles and inequality in society.

These thoughts were built upon by Greenberg ( 1977 ) who pointed to causes of young person offense considered structural. Amongst the most of import of these was an inability to acquire work or a good schooling along with being denied entree to money through legitimate agencies. Muncie ( 2004 ) points out that these developments in Marxist theory lead into the production of a new type of criminology conveying together thoughts from both labelling and the sociological theories of interactionism. In peculiar, the societal building of offense was of import in the development of critical criminology. Scraton and Chadwick ( 2001 ) explain that critical criminology was interested in the relationship between construction and bureau. Structure is the manner that the different establishments of society interact with one another in order to make the chances and bounds on people ‘s lives. Agency refers to the societal dealingss between people and how they interact. Rather than merely analyzing the causes of offense, a critical criminology examines the context and structural state of affairs in which offense occurs.

What grounds, though, is at that place for these thoughts and how do they associate to youth offense? Parker ( 1974 ) carried out an ethnographic survey into young persons taking portion in minor offenses in Liverpool. This research was peculiarly interested in the facets of critical criminology pointed out by Scraton and Chadwick ( 2001 ) in looking for the interaction between construction and bureau. What was found in this survey was that the male childs had few educational chances or few chances for employment. The solution they found to this job of low instruction and no occupations was to steal auto wirelesss. For Parker ( 1974 ) this represented a rational solution to a structural job created by no legal agencies to obtain money. Similarly, Hall et Al. ( 1984 ) examined the rise of muggings and the crisis in patroling in the seventiess. They showed how offenses could efficaciously be created by the authorities and the media. Muggings were constructed as anarchy on the portion of immature people instead than as the consequence of structural jobs like a deficiency of occupations.

Cultural Minorities

The analysis of structural causes of offense leads onto the treatment of cultural minorities who appear to endure disproportionately from structural jobs. Analyzing the Numberss of immature people who report taking portion in offense, Smith ( 2003 ) reports that there are no greater Numberss amongst Afro-Caribbean than white respondents. Phillips and Bowling ( 1997 ) besides report that there is considerable trouble in detecting the rate of piquing in different cultural groups. Ratess of existent offending will by and large be capable to the restriction imposed by the fact that information is gathered by self-report agencies and this is ever unfastened to prejudices in reacting.

Despite this, there is surely an over-representation of Black people within the justness system ( Smith, 2003 ) . If no more immature Black people are describing taking portion in offense than immature white people but there are more immature Black people in the condemnable justness system so there must be another account. One factor is likely the much higher likeliness of Black and cultural minority people being stopped and searched by the constabulary. Smith ( 2003 ) argues, hence, that the system itself is unjust towards immature people from Black and cultural minority backgrounds. Muncie ( 2004 ) points out that it has been hard to demo that the system itself is institutionally racist. It has been suggested that immature people from cultural minorities tend to be over-represented because of the alleged multiplier consequence. This refers to the thought that immature people from cultural minorities are more likely to be at the peak age for piquing, to be unemployed and to be homeless. Some of these are, once more, the consequence of structural jobs ensuing from inequalities in society.

Government Responses to Youth Crime

The manner in which the New Labour authorities has responded to youth offense has been marked by a existent plurality of attacks ( Muncie, 2004 ) . Two general attacks which are contrasted by Muncie ( 2004 ) are the ‘need ‘ based attack and the ‘justice ‘ based attack. The former involves concentrating on working on the hazard factors for piquing and seeking to relieve some of the structural factors that have already been discussed. The latter involves believing more specifically about the offense itself and how it can be stopped, instead than the fortunes of that offense. Muncie ( 2004 ) argues that a mix of these types of policies have been used by New Labour.

Historically one of import subject has been the rise of diversionary tactics against immature wrongdoers. Get downing in the 1960s, this largely involved an addition in community interventions and admonishing as options to confining persons. These types of progressive solutions, despite looking to be effectual fell foul of new popular punitiveness in the 1990s. Muncie ( 2004 ) explains that the thought arose that prison was an effectual redress for young person offense. This has led to a steady addition in the figure of immature people in prison. Muncie ( 2004 ) argues that this rise in the figure of immature people in detention can non easy be attributed to rises in the young person offense, but instead to alterations in the manner that young person offense has been constructed. These are precisely the types of alterations that have been examined in this essay, such as moral terrors, labelling and the consequence of the media.

Although there are many subjects emerging from New Labour ‘s authorities, the thought of managerialism is peculiarly strong in relation to youth justness ( Muncie, 2004 ) . This yarn in young person justness can be seen in the constitution of young person piquing squads, who have peculiar ends set for them and are capable to cost-benefit analyses and supplying ‘best value ‘ . New Labour have besides introduced hazard appraisal for young person wrongdoers. Other managerial policies introduced are the duty placed on local governments by legislative act to cut down young person offending and the puting up of a cardinal Youth Justice Board ( Muncie, 2004 ) . As a consequence of this all local governments have drawn up programs to cover with young person offense. Overall, Fionda ( 2005 ) argues, the authorities have non, hence, been that successful in covering with young person offense.


The scrutiny of the manner childhood has been socially constructed revealed that it is frequently seen in a negative visible radiation. What might one time hold been considered the ‘exuberance of young person ‘ has come to be seen as behavior that is condemnable. The causes of young person offense have been analysed in a figure of different ways. Positivist attacks have tended to underscore the function of psychological, familial and basically internal factors in young person offense. Analyses that emphasise anomy and strain, nevertheless, have begun to indicate to the structural causes of offense. Labeling and the power of the media have besides been found to be of import in building the thought of certain types of young person felons. It has even been possible for ‘moral terrors ‘ to emerge from the demonization of immature people. Critical criminology has emphasised how immature people ‘s offense should be seen within a structural model as a rational response to societal and economic jobs such as poorness and deficiency of chances. The high prevalence, meanwhile, of Black and cultural minority immature people in the condemnable justness system may ensue from the multiplier consequence of holding many coincident disadvantages. Finally, recent authorities responses to offense hold been mostly managerial in nature and, despite an early tendency towards recreation, immature people are progressively being held in detention – a response non considered effectual by many criminologists.


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