There are two categories of sociological theories of juvenile delinquency. These are social strain and cultural transmission theories.
Social strain theories argue that non conforming behaviour arises out of circumstances where individuals and groups experience confusion and disruption.(1) These include Durkheim and Merton’s concept of ‘anomie’ where contradiction in norms fosters delinquency. (1)
Cohen’s Delinquent Boys theory says that large amounts of delinquent behaviour results from blocked goals and status frustration.(!)
Agnew’s General Strain Theorists believe that strain is more than disjunction between goals and means and that crime and delinquency is an adaption to stress . This does not necessarily mean reacting in delinquency but that is one form of dealing with strain.(1)
Critics of social strain theories argue that those of lower socioeconomic classes do not necessarily have the same aspirations as higher class households. Strain theories also do not explain why boys commit more crime than girls.(1) If it is just structural frustration that causes delinquency, why is it uneven?
Cultural transmission theories argue that there is contradictory and competitive content of different social groups and that conflict arises from these groups having contact with each other. Theories include Sellin’s Theory of Culture Conflict, Shaw and McKay’s High Delinquency Areas Theory, Cultural Efficacy Theory and Miller’s Focus on Lower-Class Culture. (1)
Miller’s Focus on Lower-Class Culture argues that lower class delinquents are not responding to anomie but rather they they have their own different body of values and norms. These norms are the origins of aggression and antisocial conduct.(1)
Cultural Efficacy Theorists believe that areas of cities develop collective efficacy. This is a group’s shared belief in its ability to successfully complete tasks and sense of social cohesion. This leads to informal social control and if this control is high, people will more than likely band together and stop delinquent activities and build support networks.(1)
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