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Assess the usefulness of subcultural theories in understanding of crime and deviance.

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Introduction

Assess the usefulness of subcultural theories in understanding of crime and deviance Subcultural theorists argue that delinquents commit deviant acts because they see the world from a different point of view, thus portraying there is something 'wrong' with them. It has been argues that delinquents have a 'distinct set of values' which shape the way they act, these distinct values within the main society is known as a subculture. Cohen (1955) set out to explain why most deviant acts such as graffiti or vandalism are not motivated by economic rewards. Cohen concluded that these delinquents felt they had low status among the community and searched for ways to improve their status, this suggestion can be supported by the fact that most delinquents are low educational performers living in deprived areas. The effects of school can be clearly linked to delinquency - high performers receive rewards for their good acts whereas low performers gain no recognition and therefore feel worthless, Willis' study (learning to labour) of schoolboys shows how fatalistic children carry on their poor behaviour outside of the school, thus affecting their out of school activities. With this fatalistic approach the delinquents brand themselves as failures and develop a subculture of their own values. Cohen suggests that for these lower class boys subcultures have two functions, 1. To create an alternative set of values that they can measure their behaviour and compete for status among their peers, and 2. ...read more.

Middle

and being 'sharp'), Excitement (men on the lookout for fun), Fate (believe little can be done about their lives), Autonomy (do not wish to be 'pushed around' so resent authority such as the police or a boss) The ideas of Miller are expressed in Parker's study 'View from the boys' it shows adolescents in Liverpool on a night out were not looking for trouble but should anyone hint they are not manly a fight may well follow. On the nights out the boys attempted to pick up girls often on how they look (smartness). When the boys go out they are wanting to have fun (excitement) but do not know what will happen when they leave their house (fate) but do not wish to be pushed around by bouncers or the police (autonomy). However studies such as Parker's stress that these values are only found within working class males whereas this may not be case. Research in Britain, however, as found that the factors influencing crime only stress how ordinary delinquents are. Matza (1964) claimed that delinquents do not posses distinct values neither are they propelled by subcultural forces strong than themselves. Instead he argued delinquents are similar to everyone else in a sense that they hold the same values as the rest of society and show remorse for their acts. Matza pointed out that we all have two levels of values. The values that guide us most of the time (respectable, conventional ones) ...read more.

Conclusion

The youths in this study tended to focus more on their leisure values than middles class youths. Studies by Patrick and Parker showed how the subcultural theory could be split into positivistic and Marxist strands. Patrick's 'Glasgow gang' study gave an in depth inside perspective of why people commit crime. By using covert observation Patrick was able to find a presence of tightly organised gangs formed around a strong psychotic leader. Whereas Parker's study suggested that a structural Marxist analysis was needed to understand the situation and views that lead youths to boys. Many Subcultural studies have followed a positivist approach, studies which adopted this approach found that no one single variable that is the cause of crime but a number of 'shifting' variables differed within each individual, this became known as the multi-casual approach. A study by West and Farrington found five factors as possible sources of delinquency, these are low family income, large family size, comparatively low intelligence, having a parent with a criminal record or having parents considered to be unsatisfactory in rearing children. Youths who are subject to these conditions are likely to commit a number of deviant acts. It has been suggested that it is far more beneficial for children to come from a bad family living in a good neighbourhood rather than a good family in a poor neighbourhood, this can be used to criticise the findings of West and Farrington by suggesting the environment is much more influential than the youths family. ...read more.

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