Age and crime

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Pearson - young people have always formed the largest group of criminals and deviants, for example: 'hooligans' (1890s), Teds and Beatniks (1950s), Mods/Rockers and Hippies (1960s), Skinheads/Punks and black muggers (1970s), young people demonised for anti-social behaviour/vandalism/street gangs/illegal drug-use/knife and gun culture, and rioting (2000).

Peak age for offending is between 15 and 20.

The proportion of this age group found guilty of or cautioned for indictable offences around five times as high as the average for all ages.

1/5 of all those cautioned or convicted in any year for indictable offences are ages 10-17, 1/3 are under 21.

Cooper and Rye - 10-17 year olds account for around a quarter of all recorded crime, with nearly 85 per cent of this committed by males.

A 2002 self-report survey found that almost half of Britain's secondary school students admitted to breaking the law.

Roe and Ashe - (based on findings from the 2006 Offending, Crime and Justice Survey) 22 per cent of 10-25 year olds admitted to committing at least on of twenty core offences in the previous twelve months, with assault and theft making up the main offences.

The reasons most often given for law-breaking by young people are to impress others, and boredom.

Edinburgh Study of Youth Transitions and Crime - (4,300 young people, aged 11-12, Autumn 1998) half the offences committed by 11-15 year olds involved rowdiness and fighting in the street, with the rest consisting mainly of shop-lifting (usually sweets) and vandalism (usually graffiti).

Many young people will break the law at some time, but the kinds of offence they commit are usually fairly trivial, opportunistic, short-lived and isolated incidents, related to peer group activities, such as under-age drinking, vandalism and shop-lifting.


  • Status frustration arising from ambiguity of status in transition between childhood and adulthood.
  • Focal concerns of working-class subculture carrying risk of law-breaking.
  • Weakened sense of identity arising from status frustration leading to a state of drift involving occasional acts of delinquency.
  • Status deprivation and frustration arising from blocked opportunities to achieve social goals by approved means lead to development of delinquent values.
  • Labelling and police stereotyping.
  • Weakened social bonds, which would otherwise discourage crime and deviance, due to status frustration. 
  • Thrill-seeking and excitement arising from risk taking, providing peer group status.

Cohen, Cloward and Ohlin, Miller - status frustration and delinquent subcultures

Status frustration and the peer group: young people are often deprived of an independent status in society, as they are caught in the transition between dependent child and independent adult status, and they may experience a sense of status frustration at this situation. The peer…


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