Youth And Deviance And The Problems Criminology Essay


Crime is the breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can ultimately prescribe a conviction in a particular society. Individuals in the society may interpret crime in differently. All crime violates the law, but not every breach of the law counts as a crime. For example, breaches of contract and of other civil law may rank as "offences" or as "infractions". Every society has law and social institution such as the police and courts to put laws into force. People commit crimes because they do not have choice. ''Criminal behaviour is a matter of choices''.

Today, there are many reasons for criminal behaviour. The wrong nature of these assertions has a severe on how crime is controlled. People commit crimes to satisfy their self-seeking desire to get something for nothing. They selfishly desire to take advantage of opportunities, make the most of their prurient interests and assert their abilities. All this is done based on their individual capabilities to get what they think is rightfully theirs. The criminal is not a victim of society. Neither is he or she forced into a position of disadvantage by others. Criminals refuse to accept responsibility and accountability for their actions. They blame social sciences, the media and politicians when they are caught. Those who commit crimes always have the notion that they are "being owed" something. They believe that what they get from their criminal acts is their "entitlement".

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According to Robert Reiner (1996), a survey of current crime figures point to a number of patterns. He found out that the level of crime has remained constant between the two world wars according to statistics. Record crime has increased dramatically since then. In 1950, 500,000 crimes were recorded. This figure rose to 5.7 million in 1993. During the 1980s the record crime figures doubled and in 1994 to 1995 crime statistics fell by 6 per cent. These figures clearly shows that the society has gotten used to crime and see it as something that is getting worse as years go by. Deviance is acts that break society's unwritten rules or expected norms of behaviour. Deviance is much more general category than crime. It is often not controlled legally. Crime is a part of deviance. All crimes are deviance but not all deviance is crime.

Youth as an age group is the definition of young. They may be involved in criminal activities. Defining youth as age may be different in every society. In the United Kingdom, the ages between 13 to 19 years and even up to 25 years are categorised as youth. The age range might be 'Children and Young People' of 0 to 18 as well as the ages 18 to 30 years. Crime is an issue that is always highlighted in the society. As a result there has been a greater demand for public information regarding the extent of the crime problem in society.

The police and other crime agencies educate the public about crimes, especially the serious crimes through criminal statistics. Koffman (1996) argued that, crimes that are reported do not tally with what the police record. The discrepancy between the figures given to the public by the police and ones reported is what is called the 'dark figure of crime.' This makes the official statistics of crime incorrect and undependable. Crimes committed in the society are not always reported to the police by the victims and those who witness it. These may be the reason that those who fall victim of crime fear that they will be victimise by the police and the criminals. Some of these crimes are not reported to the police because people do not see it as an offense. Example of such crime is avoidance of tax payment. Some people depend on others to report crimes. Some people also feel that some crimes are not important or trivial to get the police involved.

There are different types of crime that youth commit. These may include car theft, drug, vandalism, shoplifting and many more. Crimes that youth commit have become a big issue because it one of the crimes that the media and the politicians give more publicity to. This therefore has increase crime committed by the youth. Young people between the ages of 15 and 25 commit most crimes. Young people commit more crimes than adult as adult criminals will probably begin to offend at young age. More often than not, young criminals commit crimes as a result of retaliation. Young people who frequently commit crimes may have mental illness as a result of psychological trauma.

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Furthermore, Robert Merton (1938) argued that in every society, the members are set particular goals in which the society provides them acceptable ways of achieving it. Merton knew that in society, it members do not share the same goals. He then pointed out that those who are in a stratified society; their goals are correlated to the class they belong to. People who belong to the lower class had restricted goals. When people are not able to achieve the goals set by their society, and then they sought to deviant behaviours. He however explained crime committed by the poor working class as a reaction to the social organisation of capitalist societies. Merton sees crime as deviant and non-conformist activity. Those who commit crimes are not different from those who abide by the laws in the society. They were all shaped by the desire to achieve material success in live. However, Merton has been criticised by other sociologists. He argues why those in the lower class commit crime but ignores the fact that, those in the middle class also commit crimes such as white- collar and corporate crimes even though they are educated and wealthy. Merton's theory is conflicting because. It means that people choose particular path and Merton does not explain why a person will choose a particular form of deviant from the other. Valier (2001) point out that, there is variety of goals that people make every effort to achieve at any time in the society.

In 1958, the peak ages for both females and males for criminal activity were 14 years whereas in 1997 1t was 18 years. Statistics indicates that crimes committed by young offenders have decrease in recent years after reaching a peak between 1984 and 1985. It shows that in 1958, 56 per cent of all criminals who were found guilty under the age of 20 years or under compared with 38 per cent found guilty in 1997. The official statistics shows that burglary, street robbery, shoplifting and vandalism are committed by young people. Offenders in the middle-class are linked with crimes such as white-collar crime, fraud and tax evasion whereas working-class commit burglary and street crimes. Statistics indicates that there more ethnic minority in prison than any other groups especially the African-Caribeans and are made up of one-tenth of male prisoners and one-fifth of female prisoners in UK prison. Black youth are likely to be stopped and searched because they are stereotyped as "criminals" than any other ethnic minority group. Young people who live in the urban areas are likely to commit more crime because they are provided with more opportunity to crime. Youth who live in council estates have higher rate of crime than the rural areas. Youth from poverty stricken background stand a greater chance of becoming criminals.

Furthermore, Hall's Marxist theory of moral panic (1978) is about state control of powerless group s such as the working class and members of ethnic-minority groups. He argues that: In the early 1970s, British capitalism experienced a 'crisis of hegemony', that is the cultural domination of the ruling class and their right to govern, was challenged by the economic recession, rising unemployment, inflation and industrial action. Representatives of the working classes, such as the trade unions, blamed these problems on the management of the capitalism on the ruling class. Agent of the ruling class considers that such criticism of capitalism encouraged political instability. The mass media join together with the state and its agents, such as the police, to create a moral panic the criminals who snatch purse or wallet in the tabloid press based on information given to them by the police demolished young black people as muggers. This has had effect of labelling on all young blacks as criminals and a potential threat to white people, and serve as ideological reason of white working class against the black working class. The class 'division and rule' strategy divert attention away from the mismanagement of capitalism, and the subsequent demand from the media and general public for the increase policing of black communities restored ruling-class domination.

In view of this, the labelling theory has been concerned with how the society treat those who are labelled as 'criminals' because it makes the individual more deviant. Becker argues that the label 'deviant' can have negative impact in a person's life. This may result in discrimination against those who have been labelled and they can even find it difficult to find jobs. The person may see himself or herself as deviant and behave as such. These also increase the chances of repeating crimes by separating the individual from the society. Their families and friends may reject them. The 'deviant' therefore associates himself or herself with others who have similar label.

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John Muncie (1993) notes that Marxists see moral panic as part of a capitalist legitimising process identifying 'enemies within'. The groups defined as criminals are the working-class in origin and engage in forms of resistance or rebellion to ruling-class hegemony (cultural dominance). The consequences of moral panic are censure and control. Most victims of working-class and black crimes are themselves working class and black, rather than people who benefit from the organisation of the capitalist system. Crimes such as murder, rape and child abuse rarely have a political motive. It also difficult to reveal evidence of collusion between the ruling class, the police and the media in the deliberate create moral panics act as political diversions. Left realists argue that to ignore the crime highlighted by moral panic as ruling-class mystification is to ignore the real human suffering and damage caused by it. It is more likely that media report these stories because it sells the newspapers. Police also have valuable information about crime for the journalists.

Furthermore, Albert Cohen (1955) pointed out that, offending behaviour was not economically motivated, but simply done for the thrill of the act. This has been proven and by the British crime survey that vandalism account for about 18 per cent of crimes committed today. According to Cohen, 'lower-class' boys strove to copy middle-class values and aspiration but lack the means to achieve success. This therefore results in status frustration. This is a sense of personal failure and shortfall. As a result of this, they reject the values and patterns of acceptable behaviour that they could not be successful within. Lower-class children are much more likely to fail in school and feel humiliated. In attempt to gain status they engage in bad behaviours. Cohen's research has been criticised that it ignores females and is solely about the males. Cohen fails to prove that school really is the key place where success and failure are demonstrated.

However, Walter Miller (1950) suggested that deviancy was linked to the culture of lower-class males. Miller (1962) suggested that working-class have six 'focal concern' that are likely to lead to delinquency:

''A person should both look good and also be witty with a 'sharp repartee'.


Being physically stronger than others is good and it is important to demonstrate it.

It is important not be pushed by others

They believe there is little they can do about their lives.

He argues that young lower-class males are pushed towards crime by then implicit values of their subculture. However, Matza (1962) argued that there were no distinctive subcultural values, rather than all groups in the society used a shared set of subterranean values. Most people control deviant desires. They rarely emerge but when they do, we use techniques of neutralization to provide justification for our deviant action.

Denial of responsibility. The offender denies that it was their fault: 'it was not me; it was the alcohol or drugs'.

Denial of victim. The offender claims that the victim was wrong, for example in the rape case where the woman was dressed in a way that 'led him on'.

Denial of injury. The offender claims that the victim was not really hurt or harmed by the crime. This is often use to justify theft from a company as opposed to stealing from individuals.

Condemnation of condemners. The offenders feels a sense of unfairness of being picked on for something others have done and not been punished for.

Appeal to higher loyalties. The offender claims that the rule of law had to be ignored because more important issues were at stake. The offender was, for example, 'standing up for his family, community or race'.

Studies of policing indicate that police officers are more likely to stop, search and arrest young African-Caribbean males than any other group. Holdway (2000), and Lord McPherson's report into the death of Stephen Lawrence, illustrate the institutional racism of the police which produces an occupational culture in which negative stereotyping of African-Caribbean is the norm. Hood (1989) research indicates that the possibility of some bias in the judicial process. He concluded that young Africa-Caribbean males were more likely to receive custodial sentences than young white males for the same type of offence. It has been argued that while these biases exist, the fact still remains that in some area of London, young African-Caribbean males do commit more crimes than other social groups.

Furthermore, Cashmore (1989) argues that young African-Caribbeans in Britain are encouraged like everybody else to pursue material success but their opportunity, is blocked as a result of racism, failing-inner schools and unemployment. They also experience alienation and they are aware that their situation arises from being black in a mainly white society. As a result of this, they turn to street crime as a form of innovation to justify their criminal activities on the ground that white society has given them nothing and they therefore have no obligation to abide by white laws. The blocked opportunity is experienced by majority of African-Caribbeans but only few of them actually turn to crime.

Masculine is having appearance that is associated with men. Men present themselves in the society as being successful through the things they do every day.

"Masculinity is accomplished, it not something done to men or settle beforehand. It is never static, never a finish product. Rather, men construct masculinities in specific social situations" (Messerschmidt 1993).

Men always try to accomplish or demonstrate their masculinity in every aspect of their lives. However, men do not put up the same type of masculinity. Because some men are not able to demonstrate their masculinity, they find another way of presenting themselves as real men. Messerschmidt argues that, 'masculinity is always personal but certain forms of masculinity are available, allowed and encouraged by one's class, race, and sexual preference'. There are two types of masculinity. Hegemonic masculinities are the dominating type and it is highly valued. It is based upon the subordination of women. Men who are hegemonic take advantage of women. Subordinated masculinity has less power and less status. Examples of this type of masculinity are the homosexuals masculinity and African Americans masculinity. White boys from middle-class have access educational success and often demonstrate sporting skill. They are able to exhibit some characteristics of hegemonic masculinity when they are in school. However, because they are not able to demonstrate their hegemonic masculinity in school as a result of being controlled, they engage in deviant acts when they are not in school. They escape being labelled as criminals because of their background by the authority.

On the other hand, white boys from working-class do not have access to educational success and so therefore cannot have access to masculinity that is associated with it. They express their masculinity through violent behaviours. They oppose authority when they are in school and outside school and thinks being tough is very important. Furthermore, those from the lower working-class from ethnic minority groups who find it difficult to attain success in life are not able to demonstrate their masculinity and instead live their lives on the street. They use robbery and violence to make themselves masculine over their victims. They sometimes use rape to have power over women.

However, the official criminal statistics show that women commit less crime than men. Approximately 80 per cent of those convicted of serious crime are men. There are only 2,000 women in prison, accounting for about 4 per cent of the total prison population. There are differences in crime committed by men and women. Majority of women are in prison for non-violent crimes, although there has been increased in female violence crime and also increase in proportion of crime committed by women. It has been argued that the statistics are incorrect because females commit more crimes but are often treated leniently by the police and the court. Pollack (1961) on the other hand believe that, women are naturally better at concealing crime and consequently much female crime is hidden. He saw women as being naturally deceitful and suggest that women's domestic roles provide opportunities for committing crimes that could be easily be covered up, for example, child abuse and domestic violence.

Steffensmeier (1995) argues that women are treated more leniently by the courts because judges are reluctant to separate their children from them and regard women as less dangerous than men. It is suggested that judges see women's motive for crimes as qualitatively different to men. Women are seen as acting emotionally and irrationally, whereas men's criminal actions are seen as being motivated by greed, wickedness and a have tendency to violence. Allen (1995) also note how women are often given psychiatric care as an alternative to prison because the court believe that they are more prone to emotional crisis.

There are several reasons why women commit less crime than men. Both Smart (1979) and Oakley (1973) have suggested that males are socialised into being tough and aggressive whilst females are socialised to accept passive, caring roles and lack the non-conformist values associated with delinquency and crime. In public, females are controlled by fear of acquiring a 'bad' reputation. Lee (1992) notes that, girls are anxious to behave well in public to avoid being labelled as a 'slag' or as 'loose'. Women and girls may be subjected to strong social control than men. Smart (1979) notes that girls are strictly supervised by their parents when it comes to activities outside the home which makes them have less opportunity to engage in juvenile delinquency. Many women do not have the technical knowledge to commit crimes like car theft. Women are also less likely to be involved in white-collar crime because the top jobs in industry and government are occupied by men. In adulthood, females may constrained by their duties as mothers.

Women may commit crime for various reasons. The feminisation of poverty and especially the increasing numbers of single-parent families headed by women may partly be account for women who commit social security fraud or fail to pay their television licence. Walklate (1995) notes that the majority of female crimes are property crimes, for example, shoplifting, which suggest that females commit crime out of economic necessity, that is to provide their children with toys, food, clothes and so on. Croall suggests that for teenage girls, crimes may have little to do with poverty. They are motivated by drug habit which often leads to prostitution and shoplifting and the need to obtain designer clothes, which are seen by them as vital in shaping their image and identity.

Recently, moral panics have focused on violent girl gangs and increases in female violence. Evidence from US suggests that girls from poverty-stricken backgrounds join street gang because they feel a strong need to join a group and defend a territory. However, such girls, despite their involvement and drug-pushing, still retain a strong sense of femininity, which is their aim is to support male members of the gang as girlfriends. Edwards (1988) suggests that prostitution may be due to poverty caused by limited job opportunities coupled with women's low earning potential and low welfare benefits.


Deviance is socially constructed. The society create norms and laws which changes as years pass by as a result of activities that happens in the society. In the society, some people may want change; others want to maintain things as they are. Troyer and Markle (1993) illustrated this process using example of cigarette-smoking. Smoking in the 19th century was condemned because it was associated with heavy consumption of alcohol among the working-class immigrants and prostitution. It became acceptable, desirable and more people took up the practice after the First World War. It was again linked with illness in the 1960s and was covered in the media. Smoking is now becoming increasingly deviant now. Some values and norms support conformity whilst others support deviance. This means that deviant roles and behaviours are socially constructed. The labelling theory makes us to understand that deviance exist because some people see certain acts as deviant. The social process of labelling may involve the agents social control such as the police, social workers, teachers, the mass media, drawing attention to particular issues, labelling particular people and acts as deviant create 'moral panic.