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What role do youth subcultures play in initiating and sustaining deviant behaviour?

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Introduction

Word count = 2,298 What role do youth subcultures play in initiating and sustaining deviant behaviour? In order to investigate the role that youth subcultures play in initiating and sustaining deviant behaviour it is firstly important to examine what is meant by the term 'youth subcultures'. The word 'culture' is used by Clarke et al (Hall & Jefferson, 1976) to refer to the "level at which social groups develop distinct patterns of life, and give expressive form to their social and material life-experience." The word 'subculture' suggests that there is a separate entity within the larger society with which the larger society must contend. Brake defines 'subcultures' as "meaning systems, modes of expression or life styles developed by groups in subordinate structural positions in response to dominant meaning systems, and which reflect their attempt to solve structural contradictions rising from the wider societal context" (Brake, http://www.sonlifeafrica.com/model/subcult1.htm). For Brake membership of a subculture necessarily involves membership of a class culture and the subculture may be an extension of, or in opposition to, the class culture. Subcultures are significant in that they offer participants the opportunity to construct an identity, different to the ascribed identity offered by work, home or school. The way in which this new identity is achieved is of concern though, as most youth subcultures are centred around acts of deviant behaviour. ...read more.

Middle

Their aspiration of achieving a social status can be achieved within the subculture, they also look for happiness and excitement within the subculture. This is often achieved through deviant behaviour. Whereas the works of Cohen and Cloward and Ohlin are based on the idea that youth subcultures have a set of normative values which are mostly in opposition to those of the larger culture, the work of David Matza differs dramatically. Indeed, he asserts that "A number of supposedly delinquent values are closely akin to those embodied in the leisure activities of the dominant society" (Sykes & Matza, 1961: 715). Sykes and Matza refer to these values as 'Subterranean' values, they include: the pursuit of excitement, the disdain for routine work, and the acceptance of aggressive toughness as a proof of masculinity (Sykes & Matza, 1961: 716). Although delinquent values are akin to those in the dominant society, members of the upper and middle class sectors confine such values to certain circumstances, such as holidays and recreation. Some young adolescents however do not confine such values, and manufacture their excitement by breaking laws and causing trouble. These are generally the members of the youth subcultures, and it is in this way that they initiate and sustain deviant behaviour. Sykes and Matza also proposed that too much free leisure time played a major role in the deviant behaviour committed by youth subcultures. ...read more.

Conclusion

The essay then explored the work of Matza, who condems strain theories. It examined Matza's theory that deviant youths were merely acting upon 'subterranean' values that everybody possesses, for example hedonism. Whereas most people confine them until holidays or recreation, deviant youths merely have bad timing. Matza also theorizes that lower class youths have an abundance of free leisure time with no structure, their boredom leads them to commit deviant acts. After the work of Matza the essay then explored the labeling theory, and the propositions of Becker that members of youth subcultures were labeled as deviants and so lived up to these labels. It then finally explored Miller's theory of culture conflict, suggesting that youths turned to deviant behaviour when the conduct norms of the middle-class came into direct conflict with the conduct norms of the lower-class. This essay has attempted to explain the role of youth subcultures in initiating ad sustaining deviant behaviour, by examining theories suggesting why youths commit deviant behaviour. It would appear that a large number and variety of factors all play a part in this, including a lack of legitimate opportunities, a great deal of leisure time, but with long spells of boredom as they have nothing to do, differing values to the larger culture and being living up to the label of a deviant. ...read more.

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