Delinquency Theories: Appraisals and Applications

Delinquency Theories: Appraisals and Applications

Delinquency Theories: Appraisals and Applications

Delinquency Theories: Appraisals and Applications


Delinquency Theories: Appraisals and applicationsprovides a fulsome and accessible overview of contemporary theories of juvenile delinquency.

The book opens with a comprehensive description of what a theory is, and explains how theories are created in the social sciences. Following on, each subsequent chapter is dedicated to describing an individual theory, broken down and illustrated within four distinct sections. Initially, each chapter tells the tale of a delinquent youth, and from this example a thorough review of the particular theory and related research can be undertaken to explain the youth's delinquent behaviour. The third and fourth sections of each chapter critically analyze the theories, and provide a straightforward discussion of policy implications of each, thus encouraging readers to evaluate the usefulness of these theories and also to consider the relationship between theory and policy.

This text is an invaluable resource for both undergraduate and graduate students of subjects such as youth justice, delinquency, social theory, and criminology.


Given this book’s title, it should be clear that defining theory and delinquency are necessary if we are to going to study the major explanations of this behavior. In general, theories are designed to explain or predict some event or phenomenon. Delinquency is defined as the violation of criminal laws by persons under the age of 18 (or younger, depending on the type of crime and the jurisdiction). Both of these statements are deceptively simple and mask many underlying assumptions and realities about the way people behave. For instance, many theories of behavior, whether they involve delinquency or musical tastes, make reasonable claims, yet fail when used to explain the way people actually behave. In addition, the term delinquency, similar to the term crime, is often not useful. Buying cigarettes one time and killing multiple people both fall under the umbrella of delinquency if committed by a 13-year-old, but should we treat them the same way? Can we explain both behaviors using a single theory? Delinquent behaviors are extremely diverse and it is best to admit that understanding them with theories is a complex exercise. Before studying theories of delinquency, it is therefore necessary to consider some of these concerns.

What is a theory?

As mentioned earlier, a simple definition of a theory is that it is an attempt to explain or predict some event or phenomenon. Many of us claim to have theories of why something occurs. However, we often confuse an opinion with a theory. Opinions are judgments or beliefs that are not necessarily based on facts or generalized ideas . . .

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