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Theories Explaining Juvenile Crime

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Theories Explaining Juvenile Crime

Many theories, at both the macro and micro level, have been proposed to explain juvenile crime. Some prominent theories include Social Disorganization theory, Differential Social Organization theory, Social Control theory, and Differential Association theory. When determining which theories are more valid, the question must be explored whether people deviate because of what they learn or from how they are controlled? Mercer L. Sullivan’s book, “Getting Paid” Youth Crime and Work in the Inner City clearly suggests that the learning theories both at the macro level, Differential social organization, and micro level, Differential association theory, are the more accurate of the two types of theory.
Two major sociological theories explain youth crime at the macro level. The first is Social Disorganization theory, created in 1969 by Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay. The theory resulted from a study of juvenile delinquency in Chicago using information from 1900 to 1940, which attempts to answer the question of how aspects of the structure of a community contribute to social control. The study found that a community that is unable to achieve common values has a high rate of delinquency. Shaw and McKay looked at the physical appearance of the neighborhoods, the average income of the population, the ethnicity of the neighborhood, the percent of renters versus owners, and how fast the population of the area changed. These factors all contribute to neighborhood delinquency.
The text provides some evidence to support this theory in Table 14, ”Index rankings of reported crimes in police incorporating the neighborhoods.” This chart shows Projectville ranked highest in every category except motor v...


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...lton Park. For example, youths in Projectville were paid to burn down a building, while in Hamilton Park the juveniles were arrested for the same crime. In Projectville, even the police will buy stolen goods.
The study discussed in the text clearly shows that crime in Hamilton Park is much lower than in either Projectville or La Barriada. The reasons for this are clearly explained by Sutherland’s two learning theories, his differential social organization theory and his differential association theory. The other theories, Shaw and McKay’s social disorganization and Hirschi’s social control theory, do have some merits, but do not apply as clearly to the neighborhoods in the study. Clearly, Sutherland’s theories of learned behavior and favorable and unfavorable definitions offer clear explanations for the crime in Projectville, La Barriada and Hamilton Park.


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