Towards an Understanding of Juvenile Delinquency

Towards an Understanding of Juvenile Delinquency

Towards an Understanding of Juvenile Delinquency

Towards an Understanding of Juvenile Delinquency

Excerpt

FOR MANY YEARS I have been preaching that statistical studies are no more than a starting point of a social investigation. Any study in any of the social sciences that is content to present as its "findings" a series of statistical tables is abortive. Any study that, having produced some statistical tables, proceeds forthwith to read off the conclusions is most likely to be superficial. Statistics should not be taken as signposts that tell us where the road leads. They are not the data of the social sciences -- their data are social phenomena. Statistics are indispensable evidences of these phenomena. In order that they may serve their true role three processes of investigation are called for. The first is of course a thorough familiarization with the subject matter to which they refer. Second is the framing of hypotheses suggested by a scrutiny of the statistics, and here a trained imagination is of first importance. The third stage is the testing of these hypotheses on the one hand by checking the statistics afresh, breaking them down in new ways and seeking new relevant evidences, and on the other by relating them to previously established conclusions in order to discover their consistency with what is already known.

None of these processes is easy. There are no short cuts to substitute for them. No mechanical reliance on techniques will take us anywhere. Social investigation is an enterprise that makes high demands. Much of the research that passes for it evades the problem.

It is, therefore, with all the greater satisfaction that one welcomes a study that meets the challenge. Dr. Bernard Lander has done so in his study of delinquency in the city of Baltimore. He exposed the weaknesses of much of the work done in the investigation of the causes of delinquency, bringing out the defects of the methods on which certain conclusions have been . . .

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