Unit 3

Please answer all question accurately and completely. There are a total of 9 questions

1. Explain how the theoretical explanations from Shaw and McKay can explain why more adolescents from poverty areas became official delinquents.

2. If you had the financial resources, what program similar to the Chicago Area Project would you set up for Amarillo, Lubbock, or the Midland/Odessa (Texas) area that would help reduce delinquency?

3. Have you ever perceived anomie? If so, why? If not, why not? In your opinion, can anomie contribute to delinquent conduct?

4. Some delinquents are from middle class families. Do these teenagers become delinquents for the same reasons as lower class youths? Please defend your answer by citing points from both the Cloward and Ohlin and the Agnew theories.

5. What parts of the Cloward and Ohlin Opportunity Structure Theory were responsible for the programs that they advocated? If you were doing an evaluation of such programs, what would your report say?

6. If you had to implement a delinquency program in either Amarillo, Lubbock, or the Midland/Odessa area (all in Texas), what types of programs, based upon the propositions from Cloward’s and Ohlin’s theory and from Agnew’s theory, would you advocate? Again, if you are unfamiliar with these cities, please use an area you are familiar with.

7. Discuss the propositions of social bond theory and the efforts to test it. Please be rather complete in your answers.

8. Discuss the propositions of social bond theory and the efforts to test it. Please be rather complete in your answers.

9. Several years ago in The Woodlands, an affluent community about thirty miles north of Houston, several teenagers from Mc Collough High School would regularly drive into the “Montrose” area of Houston, a well-known gay socializing area near Rice University. Their purpose was to harass and threaten gay men who were holding hands, embracing, or just walking down the street. One Friday evening, the boys from The Woodlands stopped a gay couple and proceeded to beat up on them. As the result, one of the men later died from the assault. Other men were able to get the license plate number from the boys’ car. They were taken into custody. Many people defended the teenagers, and many thought that the charges should be reduced from murder to at least manslaughter or aggravated assault. The boys defended what they did on the basis that gay men were repulsive and subhuman. Many adults agreed with this assessment. Show how techniques of neutralization were probably used by those in this case. Again, be rather detailed in your answers.
10. By using the Figure for Evaluating Theories of Delinquency that appears in the Unit Two lecture notes; answer the following two-part question about Shaw and McKay’s theory and Cloward and Ohlin’s theory. (a) What assumptions do the theories make about human nature, the social order and cultural values? (b) What delinquency control policies or social program policies came from each theory?

The Contribution of Individual Theories to Understanding Delinquency

(Chapter 3)

This unit, along with Units 3 and 4, are about theories of delinquent behavior. Some of them are used to explain aspects of criminal behavior by adults as well. Delinquency and crime theories are very much like the concepts of childhood and adolescence that you read about in Unit 1. They have changed considerably over time.. In the past two hundred years, these theories have ranged from those that locate the causes of crime and delinquency entirely within the individual to those that locate its causes entirely within the organizational aspects of society. The various theories’ assumptions about human nature are equally diverse. Some assume that people are born inherently evil, while others assume that they are born inherently good. To make sense out of such diverse biological, psychological, and sociological theories, we need to establish a framework for evaluating their explanation and their predictability about delinquent behavior.

One of the goals, then, of these three units is to utilize just such a framework. Another goal is to see what these theories have given our society in general and the juvenile justice system in particular as explanations for delinquency. A third goal is to see what social policies (or public policies) have come about because of these theories. Social policy involves spending money (usually local, state, or federal tax revenue) to solve the problem of delinquency, to prevent it, to divert first time juvenile offenders from further delinquent behavior, or to manage delinquency. Social policy means programs, certain kinds of punishments, and certain kinds of responses to delinquency by law enforcement, juvenile courts, detention centers, juvenile institutions, school teachers and administrators, parents, and even the clergy. Often, these are called delinquency control policies.

Before we look at Unit 3, which is primarily concerned with the textbook material in Chapter 3, let’s consider the framework for evaluating not just theories that focus on the individual, but also theories that focus on the institutions in society, the processes that influence all individuals in society, and the stigmatizing labels that society can imprint on individuals who misbehave…particularly juveniles who misbehave.

Implications for Evaluating Theories within a Framework

The diverse theories that we will consider make one conclusion very, very clear: the search for a full understanding of delinquent behavior has been characterized by a mixed bag of values and assumptions. All theories are affected by cultural values. Cultural values are deeply held and, therefore, deeply influence how we view certain acts and how we react to these acts. They are our society’s artifacts our cultural heritage and our society’s history. They are passed down from one generation to another. While they can and often do change, that change is usually slow or gradual. If we were to draw a simple diagram of the place of delinquency theories in our cultural and social life, it could look like this:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Figure for Evaluating Theories of Delinquency

The diagram indicates that cultural values lead to certain assumptions about human nature and the social order of society. Those assumptions, in turn, contribute to both the formulation of theories of delinquent behavior and social policies to control it. But, the relationship flows in both directions: although theories of delinquent behavior are affected by prevailing values and assumptions, they also tend to alter those values and assumptions.

Because both of these statements are often true, theories play an important role, not only in accumulating knowledge about delinquency, but also in constructing new cultural values and ways of controlling delinquency. An important point to remember is this: it is not always the scientific adequacy of a theory that will determine its uses, but rather it is the capacity of the theory to capture and give expression to emerging cultural values

Framework for Assessing the Theories

Because of this state of affairs, we will take two steps to sort out the many theories that exist, and we will draw some overall conclusions about them. First the theories will be classified into major types, ranging from the early theories of rational choice to deterministic theories of the late nineteenth century to the early and later psychologically based theories to the societal based theories of most of the twentieth century to the societal reaction theories of the last thirty years to the “new” rational choice theories and social bond process theories of our present time.

Second, we will organize our examination of each of the types of theories in order to answer a series of questions. Some of these questions have easier answers than do others.
(1) What are the assumptions about human nature and social order on which the theory is based?
(2) What values does it reflect; and what images of children, youth, and society does it portray?
(3) What are the “facts” on which it concentrates in trying to explain delinquency? Are any of those “facts” among those that we considered while examining the various measures of delinquent behavior: age, gender. race/ethnicity, social class, or the group nature of delinquency?
(4) How has the theory affected social policy?

Once these questions have been addressed, we will be in a better position to draw some conclusions about the overall contributions of each of these theories.

BECKLEY’S OBSERVATIONS – Rational Choice Theory

Rational Choice Theory is based on the idea that a delinquent or criminal violation is the product of a rational decision to break the law. It has its roots in “classical criminology,” dating back to the late 1700s. In the last twenty-five years, choice theory has made a comeback. The reason for this is that the public, lawmakers, and some in the juvenile justice system became frustrated and angry with increases in property related offenses, in the illegal use of alcohol and drugs, in gang activity, and in the increase in violent acts committed by juveniles during the late 1980s and the early 1990s.

Rational choice theory suggests that youthful offenders choose to engage in antisocial activity because they believe that their actions will be beneficial and profitable. Whether they join a gang, steal cars, or sell drugs, their delinquent acts are motivated by reasoning on their part that youth crime can be a relatively risk-free way to make better their personal economic and social situations. Choice theory also suggests that these youth have little fear of getting caught or of the consequences of the punishment for their wrongful activities. But you know, even without carefully reading the part of Chapter Three that deals with rational choice theory, that not all delinquent behavior can be traced to rational choice, the profit motive, or enhancement of social status. Some, however, could be traced to thrill seeking or other risk-taking behavior.

However, rational choice theory has broad appeal because it focuses on an individual’s misbehavior or the behavior of a small group of adolescents. It’s easier to blame someone than to blame a larger part of society like the family, the schools, or the unequal access by some groups (like minorities) to economic success. The consequences of this appeal are several: “get tough” policies for those who commit certain offenses, more use of juvenile detention facilities than during the 1970s, mandatory “sentences” for certain kinds of delinquent offenses without any discretion on the part of juvenile courts, and lowering the age by which a juvenile offender can be tried as an adult for certain violent offenses. Remember, once a social policy has been implemented, it takes time to undo it, even if it seems to be either misguided or falls short of its goal of prevention and deterrence of future delinquent conduct.
BECKLEY’S OBSERVATIONS – Bio-social Theories

The early biological theories were “kinds of people” theories, that suggested that law violators are innately inferior while those who obey the law have inherited the ability to control their antisocial impulses so that they behave in responsible ways. The earliest and most prominent of such theories was the one advanced by Cesare Lombroso. He applied the positive methods of science, based upon his training as a physician, to test out his assumptions.

Lombroso, as your text points out, believed that criminals (and delinquents) are a distinct physical type and possess physical stigmas that are characteristic of an earlier form of evolutionary development. Lombroso also studied differences between male and female offenders.

Although almost all of Lombroso’s so called scientific observations have been discredited, his work gave rise to an entire generation of early and middle twentieth century theories about physiological and biological characteristics of delinquents and adult criminals.

William Sheldon advocated studies of somatotypes (or body builds). He studied hundreds of institutionalized delinquents during the 1930s, the 1940s, and the 1950s. He was convinced that mesomorphs, who have well developed muscles and athletic appearances, were active, aggressive, sometimes violent, and most likely to become delinquent. One major flaw in his research was that he never considered delinquents who were on probation or who were dealt with in informal ways.

On the other hand, some of the neurological dysfunctions offer a partial explanation for the law violating behavior of some delinquents. Minimal brain dysfunction, learning disabilities, and attention deficit disorder must be taken into account as at least offering a partial reason for the delinquent behavior of some older children and adolescents.

 

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