Delinquency in Three Cultures

By Carl M. Rosenquist; Edwin I. Megargee | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
THE PROBLEM

The juvenile delinquent is a young person who has been labelled as antisocial by the local adult middle-class society, acting through its police and its courts. Perhaps the delinquent, in turn, has classified society as antijuvenile. In any case, a large body of research and theory has proliferated on the nature of the juvenile delinquent. Most of this research has focused on lower-class delinquents in the urban areas of the Northeastern United States. Some studies have compared delinquents with control groups of lower-class nondelinquents; others have used middle-class comparison groups; and still others have simply described the delinquent sample in a quasi-anthropological fashion. Some of the theories have been empirically based; others have been rationally derived.

Our description of the three cultures, in addition to setting the context for the present study, also served to focus our attention on two of the important issues to be confronted. First, it was apparent that many of the characteristics of the lower-class Anglo, as noted in Chapter 3, were quite similar to the description of the typical juvenile delinquent in Chapter 2. Indeed, Miller ( 1958) viewed delinquency as stemming directly from the focal concerns of the lower class. We must pose the question whether these "delinquent characteristics" are simply artifacts of failures to control adequately for lower-class status in some investigations, or do they differentiate the lower-class delinquent from the lower-class nondelinquent? This question has important practical implications. If there is little or no difference between the culture of delinquency and the culture

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