How useful is Matza’s concept of drift in understanding youth offending and desistance from offending.
This essay will explore the patterns that link empirical evidence to Matza’s theoretical concept of ‘drift’ and its value in understanding youth offending and desistance from offending. The essay will further argue why contemporary society should have a multidimensional explanation for youth offending, and why it is not enough to judge offences based simply on a structural or material explanation. There are multiple dimensions that affect juveniles, all important as the next in understanding youth offending and how it can affect this concept of drift. In addition, this paper will define the idea for a youths struggle for subjectivity, looking at back ground and foreground factors that may influence or attract a young person to offend in particular ways.
Key dimensions of juvenile crime
Kelly Richards (2011) describes juvenile offending as a unique policy and practise challenge throughout the entire system. Whilst there is a large percentage of crime perpetuated by juveniles, majority are likely to grow out of offending as they mature into adult hood; this phenomenon is directly linked to the age-crime curve. The age-crime curve illustrates the trajectory of offending behaviour though out the life course. Richards suggests that the curve depicts that in the early stages of life there is a large number of offences committed by youth. However, the graph also draws a distinct difference between non-violent and violent crime committed during this early stage of development, non-violent dominates. In addition to this there is a high portion of offences between the ages of 18 and 19 followed by a significant drop paralleling Matza’s theory of ‘drift’. Whilst there may be a large portion of juveniles coming in contact with the system, using the age-crime curve one can acknowledge that as people age there is a reduction of offending behaviour. The older an individual becomes the less likely they are to offend.
Adjudications from the children court show us that overwhelmingly, juveniles are committing property related offences as opposed to violent, against the person offences (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2011-12). Statistics clearly identify a trend between non-violent offending and the decline of criminal activity through the life course. This illustrates a picture and shows that there is no need for harsh responses, due to the fact that offending patterns are mainly at the minor end of offending behaviour.
At the same time whilst media often focusses on young people as perpetrators, it rarely portrays young people as victims. McAra and McVie (2012) describe victimisation as exposure to risk suggesting that victimisation is actually a pathway into offending behaviour, meaning, young people that have been a victim of crime in the past are also likely to become offenders. For example, when are more likely to become victimised and in turn, have a much higher rate of criminal offences then that of their female counterparts.
The need for a multidimensional examination of crime
There is numerous, complex forces relating to juvenile offending, meaning that there is a need for a multidimensional examination of crime. Cuneen and White (2011) detail six separate dimensions that effect youth offending. Firstly, gender, males are five to six times more likely to have an experience with the criminal justice system. Secondly ethnicity as well as indigenous status is over represented, indigenous Australians are 4.5 times more likely to come into contact with the justice system. Attributed by background and foreground factors such as; colonialism, cultural destruction, the disintegration of the indigenous community and the destruction of family structures. Cuneen et al. also describe social class, family, drug and alcohol abuse as well as mental illness (comorbidity with drug abuse) as separate dimensions...
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