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Describes social theories explaining gang formation & membership. Social deviance, social disorganization, control & strain models, delinquency theory.... More...
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Paper Abstract:
Describes social theories explaining gang formation & membership. Social deviance, social disorganization, control & strain models, delinquency theory.

Paper Introduction:
Who joins the gang? On the surface this question seems to have a clear answer. However, answers often pertain to individual characteristics due to the individual nature of the question. Most people assume that potential gang members are plain hoodlums, or people who desire and even accept criminal activity as a way of life. For this reason calculated solutions to the gang problem frequently revolve around methods of dealing with the individual such as counselors or the youth authority and even prison. But as time has told these are ineffective. Recent media attention of gang activity illustrates this failure. Consequently the need for a different approach emerges. One of the initial steps in the process of understanding all of the dynamics of the gang problem lies in recognizing the gang issue as a social one. At this point

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. Where delinquency applies to this generalizedanalysis depends on the degree to which a group experiences socialcontrols. The relationship between delinquency and gangs, therefore,becomes very complex. Social Order of the Slum. This leaves the control model fordelinquency as a validated choice. Two dominant theories of social delinquency have tradi-tionally beensocial disorganization theory and cultural deviance theory. They are neither a cause of delinquencynor a result of perpetuating it. First, the model conforms to the socialconditions within which high "gang" occurs. . His argument contains theother side of reaching a credible under-standing. Kornhauser provides a cleardefinition: Theories of cultural deviance assert that delinquency results from socialization to subcultural values that condone or permit law violation. 18 ). Because not all social deviance theories arevalid, careful steps must be taken when selecting one theory over another,the result of which leads to a better understanding of gangs, from whichsolutions to the original question and the problem can be realized. When a gang which possesses clear boundaries likethat of the gang forms spontaneously, the likelihood of it doing so due tolack of social controls is high. Alongside a controltheory of delinquency, an analysis of the moral order of a slum and itsbasis can help to illustrate forces giving rise to gangs. Not culture conflict in general, but conflict in the very definitions of what constitutes crime is the cause of delinquency (1978, p. By this data, Kornhauser concludes that the strain model isdisconfirmed, thus criminologists should turn their attention toalternative theories of delinquency. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Thrasher, Frederic M. This skews the question of "who joins a gang"towards either an answer blaming the lack of social controls vis-à-vis thefamily or education, or even describing the individual as a pathologicalcriminal. The interstitial group is found inthe interstices of the inner city. . Here in these areas exist newimmigrants to both foreign and from rural areas of the country. 181).For cultural deviant theorists delinquency is always normative. 52). (1983). ReferencesHorowitz, Ruth. Who joins the gang? One solid method of analysis is to combine agood social deviance theory with an analysis of the social conditionsconductive to gang formation. The gang then is simply one unit in this network. But as time has told these are ineffective. Consequently the needfor a different approach emerges. Forstrain models delinquent acts are motivated by frustrated wants theygratify. Because this modelrecognizes socially induced forces such as internal and external controlsas well as social strain it prevails over cultural deviance theory whichdoes not. Honor and the American Dream. However, criminality outside of the gang possesses a comparablerate as that within the gang. It is characterized by the following types of behavior: meeting face to face, milling, movement through space as a unit, conflict, and planning (1972, p. 21).Further appraisal by Kornhauser affirms the validity of socialdisorganization theory relative to delinquency. those whose aspirations and expectations are both high nearly always have the lowest delinquency rates, while those whose aspirations and expectations are both low usually have the highest delinquency rates (1978, p. Thrasheralso notes that gangs are formed spontaneously. In fact as many gang members grow older theybecome more conventionalized. The Gang. The relationship, then, between who joins agang and control theory for delinquency cannot be analogous becauseindividuals in a gang must then be victims of inadequate controls, therebymaking gangs a "surrogate family" or even educational replacement. As a result a more complex and diverse approach must be taken toreach a clear understanding. One vitalfeature about the slum that Suttles stresses is the "personalistic order"that exists there, because the low income area possesses a precarioussocial order based on primitive bases of association among its residents.Consequently small groups form based on age, sex, ethnicity, andterritorial segmentation in order to reduce the likelihood of intersegmentconflict as well as facilitate a segmentary and ordered socialorganization. New Brunswick; Rutgers University Press.Kornhausre, Ruth Rosner. For this reason calculatedsolutions to the gang problem frequently revolve around methods of dealingwith the individual such as counselors or the youth authority and evenprison. (1978). As a model of for the causes of delinquency, control theory fits thedelinquent activity of the gang. Suttlesnever even suggests that family ties are precarious; in fact, they arequite strong in ethnically homogenous areas while still amidst heavy gangpopulations. Recent mediaattention of gang activity illustrates this failure. Furthermore, if delinquency comes intoeffect gangs only facilitate it. ForSuttles: The street corner group provides a way of ordering people into a manageably small number of social aggregates . the function (of which) is rudimentary and primitive: it defines groups of people so that they can be seen as representatives rather than individuals (1968, p. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, Rev. Ed. Finally, from social disorganizationcomes disorganized institutions which, as Kornhauser states, "cannotprovide basic elemental human needs: fellowship, status, excitement, andsecurity" (1978, p. 22 ).Thus the gang as an analogous unit serves to create order where there isnone. This observation leads to theconclusion that gangs are comprised of poorer adolescent males. Looking at the elements of the analysis thus far reveals two points:first, that delinquency arises out of a lack of sufficient social controls;and second, that within the interstices of a city (slums) socialorganization bases itself upon a network of somewhat homogenous groupswithin a hetero-geneous society. For now, all that can be acknowledged is that gangsserve the individual adolescent male of the slum who seeks elemental humanneeds and a means of social order. On the surface this question seems to have aclear answer. First it illustrates who wouldjoin a gang by locating the individual. 34 ). Theproblem herein surfaces when research based upon interviews withdelinquents and gang members as well reveal their recogni-tion ofdelinquency as deviant. They arealso found in close proximity to industrial sectors of the city. Thus, gangs ultimately serve to establish orderand to fulfill human needs. As aresult these tend to be low-income areas. Social institutions such as schools, the family,religion, and so forth do not meet the needs of the potential gang member.Reasons for this are found by examining the social conditions relative tostructure of these interstitial areas. . Thus, to understand the relationship between delinquency andgangs required new studies that can evaluate the cost and benefits ofcriminality for gangs. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Suttles, Gerald. Relative to social disorganization theory delinquency stems fromeither a lack of adequate social controls or the frustra-tion of needs orwants indicated by a discrepancy between aspiration and expectation. Anther sociologist, Gerald Suttles, analyses the social structure ofthe interstices or slums of the inner city. 46).This definition encompasses much of the delinquency theory and also leadsto the answer to our original question. At this point several socialtheories can be evaluated and their viability relative to gangs assessed.But currently only few studies maintain a concrete social analysis ongangs. The weakness in the strain model emerges from the assumption thatthe discrepancy when largest leads to a higher rate of delinquency.However, studies reveal otherwise. (1968). Social Sources of Delinquency. However, answers often pertain to individual characteristicsdue to the individual nature of the question. The formerapproach is also composed of two models, the control model and the strainmodel. Most people assume thatpotential gang members are plain hoodlums, or people who desire and evenaccept criminal activity as a way of life. One of the initial steps in the processof understanding all of the dynamics of the gang problem lies inrecognizing the gang issue as a social one. Furthermore, while control models may possess elements of straininsofar as not to possess causality for delinquency, strain models onlyfind strain elements in society as direct causes of delinquency.Kornhauser defines the differences between social disorganiza-tion andcultural deviance theory: "Social disorganization refers to the relative lack of articulation of values within culture as well as between culture and social structure" (1978, p. In fact, the most reveredstudy in gangs, The Gang by Frederic Thrasher, reflects control theory.This becomes evident looking at his definition of a gang: The gang is an interstitial group originally formed spontaneously, and then integrated through conflict. As Kornhauser points out: Youth with aspirations exceeding their expectations do not usually have higher delinquency rates than those whose aspirations and expectations are both low . (1963). In the accounts Thrasher presents manyyoung gang members who use "ganging" as a substitute for inadequate socialcontrols (1927, p. This highlights the rootof the control model. Quite frequently gangs are assumed to be delinquentalmost all of the time. As a model cultural deviance theory only recognizes differencesin norms and values between social groups.

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