What Are the Social Causes of Youth Crime?

Topics: Sociology, Criminology, Labeling theory Pages: 9 (3303 words) Published: December 13, 2007
Youth crime has always been a concern in societies around the world. People try to determine the causes to which these problems stem from. This topic intrigued me, so I decided to write an essay on the question relating to this topic, "What are the social causes of youth crime?" The theory that I am going to examine and use to answer this question is the labeling theory. This theory is also known as the societal reaction theory. The labeling theory will often examine the offender in the situation. This theory not only examines the offender, but also the victim and the situation as a whole, instead of breaking it down. This theory claims that a "deviant" is only what the society around him/her describes him as. It also goes on to explain that the reason that many individuals become deviant is because they either grew up in a deviant social surrounding or they are unable to negotiate the rigors of everyday life. The process of making the criminal is a process of tagging, defining identifying, segregating, describing, emphasizing, making conscious and self-conscious; it becomes a way of stimulating, suggesting, emphasizing, and evoking the very traits that are complained of. [Tannenbaum (1928: 19-20)] The first, often called labeling or societal reaction theory, begins with a rejection of the idea that people become committed to deviant or criminal roles because they are unable to negotiate the rigors of everyday life or because they grow up in deviant social surroundings. [Cullen (1983: 123-124)]

This theory known as labeling or societal reaction theory was formed as a significant paradigm in the 1960s and 1970s. Other deviant theorists tend to focus on the deviant and their behavior, while the labeling theory alters from that and moves on to look at the people who label the deviants and their behaviors. Within this perspective, there are four issues that theorists look at (Cullen and Cullen 1978a, b): origin of the "deviant label" or categories of deviant behaviour, who are labeled and why, the effects of labeling on the social system and the question of "Why do people violate social norms?" In the area of the origin of the deviant label, theorists try to explain why one act can be classified as deviant behavior at one time, but perfectly normal at another time. An example of this is when hearing voices was considered as witchcraft and was linked to the devil; therefore making it deviant at that era, but it is now classified as a mental illness (Szasz, 1970.) The second issue that labeling theorists look at is who is labeled and why. It was originally thought that those who are labeled as a deviant are ones who have broken social norms. The labeling authors who argued that it was not that simple for there are those who commit deviant behavior, but are not labeled, while others, who are labeled although they did no wrong. The third and fourth concerns of labeling theorists examine the society's reactions as an independent variable. The third aspect that theorists look at is how labeling a deviant affects the social system. Theorists agree on the fact that when deviants are labeled, it serves a function in society. It shows the other citizens as to what happens if they were to break a norm and keep them in line. The fourth issue is "Why do people violate norms?" Labeling theorists do not follow traditional theorists in going after the victim being labeled, but they examine the surrounds of this victim. They say that the deviant that is labeled does not necessarily need to have any deviant qualities, but when the people around them label them as deviant; it pushes them away from their self-image into the deviant image of what people portray them as. Although there are variations among the many labeling theories, there seems to be two similar qualities among them all. The first one is that the focus of these labeling theories is concerned with the causes and consequences of the stigma or negative...
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