The sociological theory of delinquent subcultures belongs to Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin which is based on Robert Agnew’s general strain theory and social disorganization. Agnew’s theory explained that multiple sources of stress and strain affect a juvenile’s emotional traits and response, resulting in criminal or delinquent behavior. Cloward and Ohlin theorize that certain groups or subcultures in a society have values and attitudes that are conducive to crime and violence, and result in criminal or delinquent behavior.
In a criminal subculture, the youth learns criminal behavior from established adult criminals who act as role models for him. Living in an area with an existing criminal subculture, a youth has fewer opportunities to achieve success, therefore resulting in access to criminal behavior. The norm for the area is criminally based, and provides easy income through petty crimes for an uneducated youth. A child born to a single parent in a lower income area will face obstacles many middle and upper class children will not.
A middle class family usually consists of a two parent unit, one or both parents working, but home in the afternoon or evenings with the family. The family unit is close, doing things together, providing support, and volunteering for school functions allowing them interaction in their children’s academics. It’s unlikely that either parent has a criminal record. With proper supervision, children would attend school and have curfews to abide by.
They may hold a job while in school, and may not feel the need to seek out a source of acceptance from negatively influential youths, to find love and support they are lacking at home because they would be receiving it from their family. If the parents are divorced, the children could still remain in supportive loving homes, have a parent home in the evenings, involved in the children’s activities because the absent parent would work and have the ability to provide financial assistance.
The absent parent continues to be a positive influence in the child’s life, guiding him towards further education and employment, resulting in a productive member of society. A lower class income would consist of a single parent, either being the mother or the father, raising the child, would most likely hold one, possibly two jobs to make ends meet, taking them away from the home leaving the children home alone after school and in the evening, creating a latch key kid. The father may be incarcerated, or not a part of the child’s life, leaving him without a male role model.
Without supervision, the child can do as he wishes, may decide to forgo the homework to hang out with the friends, resulting in delinquent activities. School eventually becomes a place where he doesn’t want to be, maybe because he’s being bullied having no one to turn to, or is failing because he’s doing poorly on assignments or tests, and feels it’s easier to give up. At that point, the child feels it’s easier not to go to school, eventually dropping out, and having to turn to petty theft or drug dealing for money because without an education he cannot find a job.
Dad may be unemployed, or an alcohol/drug abuser setting a poor example for his kids. The child may experiment with drugs and alcohol because they see their parent(s) use, eventually turning to dealing to support their habit. He may drop out of school due to a drug or alcohol habit, also preventing him from obtaining or holding any form of employment. The child has entered delinquency due to his family environment, does not have an education, and finds it easier to work the street crime than to hold a job. The child heads into a future of menial jobs and criminal behavior.
As a Youth Tracker, one of my cases is a 17 year old male who was having numerous truancies and failing grades his junior year and ended up in court. I took the case last April, and learned of his family situation and proceeded to work not only with him on his academics, but also with his mom and dad and their relationship with the boy. Zack comes from a slightly above lower class family where both parents work long hours to make ends meet. Dad owns his own business, mom works 12 hour shifts and they have accumulated a large amount of debt, which results in very little extra spending money.
Their home is in a lower class area of town, and is quite rundown. Zack has a younger sister residing at home who dad seems to focus his attention on, leaving Zack to feel excluded and unwanted. Zack works at his dad’s business, striving to do well for dad’s approval yet fails to achieve that. Dad is focused more on Zack’s mistakes rather than his accomplishments, and tears down any self esteem Zack has with criticism. Dad has worked with the tracker services in working with Zack, but appears to want to be his friend rather than his father, and struggles with discipline.
Mom has a closer relationship with Zack, tries to take part in his activities and academics but does struggle with that because she works such long hours, and isn’t around. She tried to be around more for him, but the need for financial gain prevented that. In the last three to four months, mom has worked well with the tracker services, is involved daily with his grades and attendance, and has adjusted her schedule to spend more time with Zack and has learned to discipline his inappropriate actions and behaviors. In the beginning Zack showed little concern with where he was academically.
He cared less whether he graduated with his class; he would just go to summer school until he was able to get his diploma, if he didn’t get his GED first. Zack had failed four classes the last semester of his junior year, and then failed two during summer semester. Zack engages in marijuana use with his friends, and does what he wants, goes where he wants, with his friends. It has appeared Zack’s social life with his friends has been his focus, smoking marijuana. Zack was asked why he seemed not to care about his schooling and why he smoked marijuana.
His answer was that he would take over dad’s shop one day, that would be his income, and his friends accepted him, were like family and did not judge him. He sees nothing wrong in smoking marijuana and has no concern with needing negative urine analysis’ as the judge has ordered. I became the positive influence in his life, providing the structure and discipline he was lacking, and kept daily tabs on his school, behavior and family relationships. He had stolen money from the family business, and was rumored to be partaking in shoplifting with his friends.
I shared with him the hard truths of where kids like him ended up when they progressed down the wrong road. He could be removed from his home and placed in a foster home, group home or even Boys Town. Did he want to be away from his family, having to follow someone else’s rules? No. He could be caught for his petty shoplifting or drug use, and not only be ticketed but incarcerated in juvenile detention. He could be driving under the influence, or be the passenger, have an accident and end up seriously injuring or killing someone.
He would then be looking at jail or prison time, along with a possible felony record. Then, as harsh as it may have been, I asked him if his goal was to end up living in the same conditions as he was raised in, making enough money to barely scrape by, and struggling to support a family, or if he wanted to excel in business, own a beautiful home, and be able to provide his family with more than they needed. It sunk in. When school started in August, Zack began assuring me and his parents that he would make this his best year, especially with it being his senior year, and would graduate with his class.
Since that time Zack has held A’s and B’s in all of his classes, has not had any truancy, is home by curfew, and has set goals for himself. He wants to succeed in taking over his dad’s business one day, but now plans to go to college to acquire the education enabling him to build the business, not just run it. He still smokes marijuana on occasion, but his use has diminished and he understands the importance of being drug free. Zack needed a positive force to push him in the direction of success, showing him what he was capable of. He didn’t need to be stuck in the same circle his parents were stuck in.
Zack also took the initiative to work on rebuilding his relationship with his father, and with his parents now being in the midst of a divorce, Zack has not let that affect him, and continues to work to reach his goals, regardless of where he started from, he’s aiming in a positive direction and will most likely be a productive member of society. I feel Zack is a good example of how a youth’s destiny can be rewritten with the right influences. I was raised in a two parent family, taught right from wrong, disciplined for inappropriate behaviors and actions, and was surrounded by love and security.
I was raised to respect the law and those who enforce it by a father who was a deputy sheriff and an uncle who was a state trooper. I graduated high school, attended some college, then worked and supported myself. I have no criminal record and although I dabbled in drugs when I was young, I stayed on the right path. Then, found myself as a single parent for eleven years, lived in a lower income area, but was fortunate to have an above average paying job during the day ensuring I would be home with my daughter in the evenings.
My neighbors included working single parents, drug dealers and individuals who were in and out of jail. Even though I lived paycheck to paycheck, a second job for me wasn’t an option – I wanted to be there for my daughter -and I was fortunate to receive child support regularly. I spent time with my child, showing her unconditional love, provided her a safe and secure home, a supportive foundation, and surrounded her with friends and family of excellent standards. I believe your environment, family and daily influences are what makes the youth, and decides his faith.
I held onto what I was taught and learned, and as difficult as it was at times, I raised a respectful girl, with morals, ethics and values and who has goals set far into the future. The child who grows up with no love, support system, or guidance may know no other way than the way of his parents, but with the right influences and assistance through after school clubs, job training and community based programs, our youth can be taught, educated, and brought out of the negative lifestyle, helping them to excel down the correct path in life.
Siegel, L. J. , and Welsh, B. C. (2009). Juvenile delinquency: Theory, practice and law (10th ed. ). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. http://socialscience. stow. ac. uk/criminology_notes/delinquency_opportunity. htm http://www. enotes. com/topic/Subculture_theory http://encycl. opentopia. com/term/Subculture_theory http://misssrobinson. wordpress. com/tag/subculture-theory/