The purpose of this research is to examine the relationship between the abused child and delinquency. The plan of the research will be to set forth the context in which the relationship between these two phenomena has been identified in the literature of the professional discipline, and then to discuss ways in which conclusions can be drawn about how the vicissitudes of human behavior connected to the phenomenon of the abused child have an impact upon the vicissitudes of human and (significantly) institutional behavior that have been connected to observed phenomena associated with what in an earlier decade might have been called juvenile delinquency and what in the current era is attributed not only to that term but also to youth crime, gang violence, and the like. Equally important will be an examination of the response of the institutions of criminal (and social) justice to these phenomena.
In the background of any discussion of the connection between child abuse and delinquency is sociological theory that can help explain how each phenomenon can arise in a stable society on one hand, and how one phenomenon can have an impact on a second on the other. The theories of Max Weber are important in this regard. Both child abuse and delinquency represent what could be called an aspect of irrationality in a society otherwise defined, by Weber, as rationalized. According to Weber, indeed, rationality is that invisible thing, force, process, and (most important) attitude whereby a society moves away from impulses, superstition, and emotion that probably cannot be controlled by mankind and toward social structure and organization that can be controlled by man.
The principle of rationalization is the most general element in Weber's philosophy of history. For the rise and fall of institutional structures, the ups and downs of classes, parties, and rulers implement the general drift of secular rationalization. In thinking of the change of human attitudes and mentalities that this process occasions, Weber liked to quote Friedrich Schiller's phrase, the 'disenchantment of the world.' The extent and direction of 'rationalization' is thus measured negatively in terms of the degree to which magical elements of thought are displaced, or positively by the extent to which ideas gain in systematic coherence and naturalistic consistency (Gerth and Mills 51).
This does not mean that a mere rational attitude guarantees one kind of perfect social structure. It also does not mean that rationalism itself is perfect. First of all, many different "rational conclusions" (Weber, 1946, p. 324) have been drawn by many different societies in the world. Secondly, rationalism itself is impersonal and bureaucratic--the enemy of personal freedom and the individual personality. The picture of bureaucracy as a corruption of social organization is always in the background of Weber's theory of the connection between rationalism and capitalistic society.
There is also the question of conflict, and it is here that the theoretical tension of bureaucracy and the rational social structure highlights child abuse as a social problem. Turner explains the core of Weber's view of power in society:
When economic elites, for example, are also social and political elites, and vice versa, then those who are excluded from power, wealth, and prestige become resentful and receptive to conflict alternatives.
Another condition is dramatic discontinuity in the distribution of rewards, or the existence of divisions in social hierarchies that give privilege to some and very little to others. When only a few hold powers, wealth, and prestige and the rest are denied those rewards, then tensions and resentments exist. Such resentments become a further inducement for those without power, prestige, and wealth to engage in conflict with those who hoard these resources.
A final condition encouraging conflict is low rates of social mobility....