Is the formation of gangs lined to strain theory
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IS THE FORMATION OF GANGS LINKED TO THE STRAINS SET OUT BY COHEN, CLOWARD & OHLIN? MIGHT OTHER EXPLANATIONS EXPLAIN THIS PHENOMENON BETTER? DISCUSS This paper will consider the formation of delinquent gangs within our society from a criminological perspective. It will look at the definition of a gang, its motives, purposes and effects. It will then examine links to strain theory, first proposed by Merton, which was expanded upon in the work of the criminologists Cohen, Cloward and Ohlin. It will consider other criminological theories and explanations to see if they help us understand this phenomenon. It will conclude that the strain theory forms the basis for a school of thought, but that other theories may more suitably provide the impetus for a new phase of criminological studies to examine this problem from a specifically UK perspective. There is no generally agreed-upon definition for a gang as such. However, a suggested definition (Klein, 2005, p. 136) could be a "durable, street-oriented youth group whose own identity includes involvement in illegal activity." This suggests a group of individuals that share a common identity. A gang can signify an opposition to mainstream norms, such as abiding by the law, and can flourish in areas where there is a lack of social control to prevent its presence on the street.
These youngsters would often take on board the label, indulge in delinquent behaviour as a group more readily, becoming actors in a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. In a speech by David Cameron (2006), leader of the Conservative opposition, he argues that the "hoodies" are seen as a sign of aggression and to some represent all that is wrong with youth culture, but he suggests this to be a misunderstanding. He points to the fact that this reaction demonstrates that there is a pressing need to find a long term solution to the problems of youth crime and anti-social behaviour. Another criminological point of view is suggested by Miller (Jacobs, 2006, p. 86) arguing that gang behaviour does not result from some form of reaction against middle class culture, but more that it is just an exaggerated form of lower working class culture. Furthermore, Cohen's theory is questioned by Matza (Jacobs, 2006, p. 83) who suggests that it over-predicts delinquent behaviour, not taking into account that individuals will often drift in and out of this way of life. As gang members tend to be under 25 years of age, this implies that they move out of the lifestyle as they get older. It is worth emphasizing that all the theories outlined above have been based on US society, which is similar to the UK in many ways.
Therefore, if our society follows or mirrors US society, as it so often does, this urban irritation could develop into a major social problem as it has in the US. The present is the ideal time to research this behaviour with the criminological intensity of the last century, but from a more specifically UK perspective. The way forward must be to analyse this gang behaviour further before it is passed on to a new generation of youths and evolves in increasingly undesirable directions. Reference List Bennett, T. and Holloway, K. (2004). Gang Membership, Drugs and Crime in the UK. British Journal of Criminology, 44(3), 305-323. Cameron, D. (2006). Thugs: beyond redemption? Retrieved May 1, 2007, from The Centre for Social Justice website: http://www.centreforsocialjustice.org.uk/default.asp?pageRef=139 Jacobs, M. (Ed.). (2006). Introduction to Criminology (3rd ed.). Portsmouth: University of Portsmouth. Klein, M. W. (2005). The Value of Comparisons in Street Gang Research. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 21(2), 135-152. Moser, C. and Winton, A. (2002). Violence in the Central American Region: Towards an Integrated Framework for Violence Reduction. Retrieved May 1, 2007, from Overseas Development Institute website: http://www.odi.org.uk/publications/working_papers/wp171_b.pdf Police identify 169 London gangs (2007, February 21). Retrieved May 1, 2007, from BBC website: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/london/6383933.stm Respect Action Plan (2006). Retrieved May 1, 2007, from Home Office website: http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/documents/respect-action-plan Webster, C., Macdonald, R. and Simpson, M. (2006). Predicting Criminality? Risk factors, Neighbourhood Influence and Desistance. Youth Justice, 6(1). 7-22.
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