Youth crime - boys, masculinity, class

HideShow resource information

Risk factors

  • Being raised in a lone parent family
  • Poor parental supervision
  • Persistent truancy and school failure
  • Street-based peer influence
  • Living in a poor area
  • Dependent drug use
  • Joblessness of, or low waged parent(s)
  • Not forming a stable family of destination
  • Being male!
1 of 15

Control theory

Sampson and Laub (1993)

  • Low levels of parental supervision, erratic, threatening, and harsh discipline, and weak parental attachment were strongly and directly related to delinquency
  • .School attachment had large negative effects on delinquency independent of family processes
  • Structural background factors have little direct effect on delinquency, but instead are mediated by intervening sources of informal social control.
  • When the bonds linking youth to society - whether through family or school - are weakened, the probability of delinquency is increased
  • Negative structural conditions (such as poverty or family disruption) also affect delinquency, but largely through family and school process variables
2 of 15

Loss of formal/informal controls

  • Changes in the sexual division of labour, i.e. the large growth of female participation in the labour market, especially in services and caring.
  • Decline in skilled and unskilled male manual jobs, especially in the lower half of the income distribution.
  • Polarisation of the job market (and income) has seen the growth of ‘lovely’ and ‘lousy’ jobs in the UK – in the 2000s the growth in employment share was solely among the highest wage and the lowest wage occupations among men and a strong growth in personal service occupations among women.
  • These changes in the labour market from manufacturing to services; and from male to female employment, may have ‘emasculated’ traditional male working class employment cultures and role models and opportunities
3 of 15

Childhood, class and race - childhood differences

  • Clear differences in assessments of 3 and 5 year old children’s vocabulary, school readiness, conduct and hyperactivity, depending on their parent’s incomes
  • Parental resources, behaviour and parenting style may differ - effecting child development
  • biggest gaps in development are those between no parent in work and both working; parents in poverty and those who were not; those in lone-parent and two-parent families; mother’s education and English language skills
  • Differences between children from poorer and other families persist all the way through school
  • Of all these factors the effects of class and family income level on attainment are strongest, especially among British children compared to elsewhere
  • BUT differences relating to family background have been falling and the life chances of poor children have improved compared to the past
4 of 15

Class and family structure

Some facts:

  • Between 1972 and 2015, the proportion of children living in lone-parent families increased from 7% to 25%. 90% of these lone-parents were mothers.
  • Although 64.4% of single parents are in work, 41% of children in single parent families live in relative poverty, around twice the risk of relative poverty faced by children in couple families (24%).


  • There is a problem of cause and effect – whether poverty and its associated social problems causes family instability or instability creates poverty
  • Third, the data tell us very little about qualitative issues of family stability, quality of parenting or lone parent and child relationships. In any case individuals remarry, or marry later, and form re-constituted families.
5 of 15

Unequal Childhoods - (Lareau, 2011)

  • Large, recent and close up longitudinal studies of family life in the UK and US
  • show that parents’ social and economic location systematically shapes children’s life experiences and outcomes from birth, as individuals and families are grouped into social classes
  • Child rearing varies according to the concerted cultivation practised by White, Asian and Black middle-class parents, and the accomplishment of natural growth practised by working-class and poor parents
  • These different child rearing practices, unrecognized by parents, provide potential advantages in the educational and occupational sorting process
  • Children’s activities (where parents closely monitor and intervene), schooling and parent’s occupation are crucial resources influencing life experiences and outcomes, but key are that they align with institutional and professional expectations, and that children undergo organised activities
  • Black and white young people’s neighbourhood contact with the police institution is wholly negative if they are working-class and poor, and wholly positive if they are white and middle-class. 
6 of 15

Does class influence life outcomes?

  • class does matter.
  • the educational and work outcomes of young people are closely tied to the class position of their parents
  • Because social class is a significant force, existing social inequality gets reproduced over time, regardless of each new generation’s aspirations, talent, effort, and imagination
7 of 15

From generation to generation

  • Advantage and disadvantage cascades down the generations of migrants and their children so that big differences in income, wealth and education can accrue between generations or age

Have migrants and their children improved their position in subsequent generations?

  • The evidence (Hills et al 2010, Hills 2015) appears to show that the differences in social and economic outcomes between the more and less advantaged within each ethnic group are much greater than differences between ethnic groups


  • Today, for the first time - striking improvements in the attainment of poorer and minority children and young people in London’s schools, compared to the rest of England
  • Further, the reason is said to be London’s ethnic diversity and the benefits of higher educational aspiration among children because they are the children of immigrants
  • Differences in educational performance between boys from poor and affluent neighbourhoods generally remain very large
  • By age 19 only a third of poor young people achieve the equivalent of two A-levels compared to nearly two thirds who aren’t poor
8 of 15

Masculinity and crime

Men socialised into a form of "hegemonic masculinity"

  • males associated with certain attributes - heterosexuality, competitiveness, authority - dominant model of how to be a man
  • contrasted with "subordinated masculinities" - other ways of being male .e.g bisexual, feminine
  • deviance is a core method which men who experience goal blockages use to communicate their masculinity e..g domestic violence resource for declaring maleness
  • such offending more common within lower class males due to more goal blockages 

Connell (2005)

Connell (2005: 114, 116) explains:

  • Protest masculinity- picks up themes of hegemonic masculinity in the society at large but reworks them in a context of poverty
  • The project of protest masculinity… develops in a marginal class situation, where the claim to power that is central in hegemonic masculinity is constantly negated by economic and cultural weakness… By virtue of class situation and practice (e.g., in school), these men have lost most of the patriarchal dividend
  • For instance, they have missed out on the economic gain over women that accrues to men in employment, the better chances of promotion, the better job classifications
  • If they accept this loss they are accepting the justice of their own deprivation. If they try to make it good by direct action, state power stands in their way.
9 of 15

Masculinities and schooling

  • Girls outperform boys in school
  • Boys are much more likely than girls to be permanently excluded from school
  • Certain masculine styles sit uncomfortably with the kinds of knowledge and behaviour expected in schools often perceived and felt by boys to be feminised and emasculating
  • Schools are not gender-neutral
10 of 15

Poor white boys fall behind in school - reasons

  • White working class boys living in disadvantaged areas are the lowest performing/achieving group of pupils in schools at GCSE after the small population of Traveller children
  • Only 15% of the white working-class group achieve GCSE A*-C compared to 53% nationally
  • Caribbean followed by Bangladeshi boys are the next worse performing groups at 17% achieving good GCSEs
  • School failure is a strong predictor of delinquency, crime and anti-social behaviour
  • Low aspirations and do not do their homework
  • However, black and Bangladeshi boys from middle-class backgrounds were also not achieving and failed to progress at secondary school despite having parental support, high aspirations and being diligent about their homework
  • Low expectations among teachers could be holding them back
  •  More recently, black and minority children are performing very well in some London schools
  • Growing divide between the performance of white working-class youngsters and children from wealthier homes - children whose parents could afford to provide them with a home computer or private tuition did well - pupils who suffered ‘family discord’ (arguments) and whose parents did not monitor their whereabouts were likely to do badly
11 of 15

School disaffection, failure and truancy

  • 40% of pupils leave school at aged 16 or before
  • Most children, of whatever background, start well at school, yet as their school careers progress some groups, particularly working class boys and girls, suffer attrition in their performance and engagement with school that may lead to boredom, disaffection, truancy and exclusion
  • Boys start out performing similarly to girls but then diverge in their performance 
  • Importance of parental educational background
  • The schooling process is not neutral – it does not provide equal opportunities for all pupils to succeed according to individual ‘effort’ and ‘ability’ – as schools discriminate and sort
  • Different outcomes between schools reflect pupil intake and the biggest single indicator of low educational achievement is poverty and class
  • Competition, selection and setting
  • A sense of educational injustice can lead to resignation and disaffection
  • School disengagement is an effect of attending ‘failed’ schools in poor neighbourhoods
  • Young people brought up in poor areas they ‘fail’ to connect doing well at school with access to decent jobs
12 of 15

Persistent Truancy

Truancy is driven by:

  • Feelings of failure and boredom 
  • Experiences of being bullied
  • Belonging to peer groups having anti-school values
  • Poor parental supervision
  • Among girls especially, they may be caring for siblings or even a parent(s)
13 of 15

Mason (2016)

  • It was not always the case that ethnic-minority children did better than white English ones, but the reason why some of them do now is pretty obvious: their problem – racism – is defined; their language skills tend to be well-developed; their culture is one of aspiration; they have social and religious institutions that promote cohesion.
  • By contrast, the problem of poor white kids cannot be properly defined: not in the language of free market capitalism, at least. It has nothing to do with being “overtaken” – still less with any reverse discrimination against them.
  • It is simply that a specific part of their culture has been destroyed. A culture based on work, rising wages, strict unspoken rules against disorder, obligatory collaboration and mutual aid. It all had to go, and the means of destroying it was the long-term unemployment millions of people had to suffer in the 1980s
14 of 15


Parenting and poverty do matter and not only are they

interlinked, they are interrelated with race and class too

15 of 15


No comments have yet been made

Similar Criminology resources:

See all Criminology resources »See all Criminal Justice resources »