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Sociological Theories on the Causes of Juvenile Delinquency

Briefly list and describe the major schools of thought concerning theories on the causes of juvenile delinquency, then answer the following questions:
1. Which school of thought do you find most compelling? Why?
2. Which school of thought do you find least compelling? Why?
3. Imagine you have been given a large grant to start a program designed to decrease juvenile delinquency in your community. How would you allocate your resources and structure such a program? Which theory of juvenile delinquency would most support your approach? Why?

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List and describe the major schools of thought concerning theories on the causes of juvenile delinquency.

Deviant behaviour is "social" in nature. Juveniles need to be understood within a larger sociological context.

Social strain theories and cultural transmission theories, as I will focus on here, are also studied within criminology as sociology is regularly used within criminological study. Upon further examination, you will find that almost all, if not all, of the following theories fall within the Positivist School within criminology. This thought presumes that all criminal or delinquent behaviour is influenced and/or caused by internal and external factors outside of the individual's control.

The classical school of criminology generally states that juveniles choose to commit delinquent acts.

These explanations share the underlying assumption that "nonconforming behaviour arises out of social circumstances in which individuals or groups experience normative confusion or disruption." (Thompson, William E., and Jack E. Bynum. 2013. Juvenile Delinquency: A Sociological Approach. Ninth Edition. Pearson, p.92 [If the page number doesn't correspond then I am referencing the Eighth Edition]).

I have attached Chapter 4: Sociological Explanations of Juvenile Delinquency: Social Strain and Cultural Transmission Theories, of the above text. You can also access it from the following link:

This text explains the following concepts and theories:

"anomie": The condition of a society or group with a high degree of confusion and contradiction in its basic social norms (Emile Durkheim).

Durkheim's Concept of Anomie
During unstable social conditions, the usual rules that prevent people from committing socially unacceptable acts becomes weakened, and some people find it difficult to know what is expected of them.

Robert K. Merton's Concept of Anomie
There is dissatisfaction between what the individual aspires to do and the means available to that person to accomplish it. This realization is that some individuals are helpless in achieving socially approved roles which causes frustration.

Albert Cohen's "Delinquent Boys"
Cohen's research falls within "subcultural theory" within criminology. Simply stated, delinquent behaviour results from blocked goals and "status frustration." The class structure comes into theory here. In this case, boys of a lower class want to achieve the same access and privileges as those boys who are in the middle and upper classes but they are blocked from achieving this movement usually in the education system.

Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin's "Delinquency and Opportunity"
Cloward and Ohlin's research also falls within "subcultural theory" within criminology. They bring forward the concept of "illegitimate opportunity." They contended "that while lower-class juveniles have differential opportunities for achieving success through legitimate means, they also have differential opportunities for achieving it through illegitimate means" (p. 97). Youth will get frustrated if they cannot achieve their goals by either method.

Robert Agnew's "General Strain Theory"
Agnew sees crime and delinquency as adaptations to stress. The three major sources of this stress are: (1) There is a discrepancy between means and goals or between expectations and actual outcomes; (2) There is a loss of something positive in one's life; and, (3) There is a presence of negative circumstances or events in one's life.

The underlying assumption was that the heterogeneity of the American population associated with twentieth century industrialization and urbanization resulted in an inharmonious mixture of ethnic, religious, political, and ...

Solution Summary

This solution will assist the student in identifying sociological theories on the causes of juvenile delinquency. It will also assist the student in identifying the school of thought that is most compelling in a particular context will introduce program design.