Across the wide body of studies delving into delinquency in America, it is easy to locate research on and analysis of minorities, underprivileged socioeconomic urban centers, and turbulent family structures. However, this leaves a significant section of the delinquent population largely neglected: white middle-class youth. Contrary to the factors shown to affect delinquency in others and the applications of theory applied to them, the issues plaguing this particular portion of adolescents are in many cases entirely unique, suggesting the necessity of a more nuanced approach from angles that have up until fairly recently remained unexplored.
With this book, Currie seeks to explore causes for delinquency among white middle-class American youth, analyze methods of absolution, and suggest policy and community changes that may serve to help this often-overlooked demographic and reduce rates of delinquency.
Across the text, Currie opts for a very straightforward, down-to-earth diction that suggests a he’s writing for a general audience beyond the sociological community, in several cases using phrases like “what social scientists call,” and further explaining the conventions of the discipline for the reader (Currie 2005). His points are easily digestible and simply but thoroughly explained, and he cites a wide variety of direct quotes, existing literature and recent, relevant news sources to support his observations.
First, Currie outlines the idea that youth drift into an apathetic state of “whatever” rather than simply seeking out delinquency. In this perspective, it is a gradual slide from conformity to offending brought about by increasing apathy rather than a large, traumatic event. This slide is largely attributed to the culture surrounding white middle-class adolescents.
In turn, focus is shifted to support and morality structures in modern American society. Currie suggests that while standards placed on middle-class youth for behavior, performance, and achievement are being ever heightened, the support necessary to help adolescents on their way to fulfilling them is eroding.
Underlying this erosion, Currie posits, is a rise in social Darwinism; a selfish, individualistic, survival-of-the-fittest social structure is leading to middle-class delinquency. Tying right in with the discussion on heightening standards, parents, schools, and communities at large are becoming more judgmental and less tolerant of deviance. Then, they are reacting in ways and assigning treatments that are ultimately calloused and harmful.
As the book comes to a close, Currie begins to look at the ways youths escaped from their cycles of delinquency. He connects their successes to the analysis of the prior chapters and suggests several steps communities can take to become more supportive and prevent the proliferation of delinquency. Among these is the creation of more constructive opportunities, less restrictive labeling and treatment of...