Crime and deviance: Age

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  • Created by: Tom
  • Created on: 14-04-14 19:32

Functionalist Views

  • Eisenstadt(1956) - Western cultures lack the initiation ceremonies that mark the change from childhood to adulthood that other cultures have, so young people lack clear sense of role and status.
  • teens exist in a confusing period of transition, combined with hormonal imbalances, this causes stress.
  • teens spend their leisure time with peers who suffer the same identity crisis, adopting clear youth styles to distinguish them from children and adults - sometimes forming/joining delinquent subcultures.
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Early Subcultural Theories

  • Albert Cohen(1955) - many youths experience status frustration, especially if failing at school. Unable to improve self image legitimately, they seek status from peers by performing vanadlism etc.
  • Cloward and Ohlin(1961) - how young people deviate depends on the illegitimate opportunity structure in their area. If a criminal structure opportunity is available, they will join it, otherwise they express fustration through a gang in a conflict subculture(violent crime). If people fail in both the legitimate and illegitimate opportunity structure they turn to retreatism via group substance abuse.
  • Walter B.Miller(1962) - rather than belonging to subcultures, young w/c males acted antisocially because of six values or focal concerns typical of w/c. They valued toughness & smartness, didn't run from trouble, sought excitement, asserted their autonomy in face of authority, and were fatalistic.
  • David Matza(1964) - argued against view youths deviated ebcause of different values. argued everyone is influenced by subterranean(unconventional) valuessometimes, but most hide them - youths do not. Youths may drift in to crime when bonds with parents are loosened, but they rarely assume crime as a career. Also examined techniques of neutralisation used by accused youths(i.e "I did it to support my friends") - their attempts to justify breaking laws show attempts at moral reasoning reflect something akin to mainstream moral values.
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Early Subcultural theories(cont.)

  • Peter Willmott(1966) and David Downes(1966) - seperate studies of London youths, both suggested w/c youths drifted into crime because their jobs were so boring they sought excitement in their leisure. Hanging around streets they drifted into unplanned deviant acts and were easily seen by police. They found no evidence of distinctive subcultural values or deliberate criminal acts in response to status frustration.


  • useful explaining why youths behave antisocially in groups, but disagrees what extent they have deviant values.
  • Values are not easy for a researcher to identify in a situation where peer pressure influences responses.
  • Conservatives argue researchers such as Maltza are too tolerant of youth crime
  • Matza's subterranean values and techniques of neutralisation are actually very different from mainstream behaviour
  • Feminists argue these studies ignore girls.
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The New Criminology

  • Ian Taylor, Paul Walton and Jock Young(1973) -  crime needs to be explained by combining a range of theories - subcultural, structural and interactionist.
  • To explain a crime, the sociologist must consider the:
  • wider origins of the deviant act - structural factors such as economic decline on families leading to poverty and formation of supportive subcultures.
  • immediate origins of the deviant act - different ways structural demands are interpreted by people at different social levels.
  • actual act - what might lead youths with similar problems to choose different actions such as crime or retreatism
  • immediate origins of social reaction - every day factors influencing police to arrest some youths and turn a blind eye to others.
  • wider origins of social reaction - political influences on why certain acts are viewed as crimes and how they should be punished
  • effect of social reaction on deviants' further action - building on interactionist studies of secondary deviation
  • nature of the deviant process as a whole - looking at the somplex interaction between structural, subcultural and personal influences on the offender and further comlications of societal responses.
  • useful in recognising crime cannot be adequately explained by single theories, but the multi-casual approach is cumberson to apply to specific research.
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Marxist subcultural theories

  • followed the lead of New Criminology by combining 2 approaches
  • class is much more significant influence of youth subcultures than functionalists said
  • stressed class conflicted more than traditional subculturalists such as Matza
  • youths are less influences by ruling class hegemony(social control through ideology) than adults, who conform due to responsibilities to dependants.
  • Phil Cohen(1972) - youths in East London led unstable lives because of decline in traditional manual labour and local redevelopment disrupted extended families. Their deprivation in a time of increasing consumerism led some to turn to crime.
  • Marxists at Birmingham University's Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies used simology to examine youth styles - interpreted clothing as political protest.
  • Stanley Cohen criticsed CCCS interpretations as subjective, as the youths did not explain them as motivated by class resistance.
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The New Right

  • Wilson and Herrnstein(1985) - practical reasons why many teenagers commit more crime than adults:
  • they have more energy and drive but fewer economic and social opportunities to achieve their desires for money and sex than adults
  • they are less able to defer gratification
  • they are increasingly independent of adults who might have imposed or reinforced conventional standards
  • they sepnd time with peers who value independent or defiant behaviour
  • these ideas appeal to common sense but neglect discussion of female youth crime
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