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The Relationship Between Social Class And Delinquency

1451 words - 6 pages

Most people have preconceived notions regarding the relationship between social class and delinquency. A common assumption is that lower-class juveniles are more likely to engage in delinquent behavior than their higher-class counterparts. Criminologists have performed a large number of studies examining the socio-demographic characteristics of delinquents, which often yielded contradictory results. When analyzing the extent and trend of juvenile delinquency in the United States conclusions can be drawn from estimates derived from arrest records, self-reports, and victimization data. Arrest estimates, self-reported information, and victimization data provide different estimates of the extent of delinquency in the United States (Maxfield et al., 2000).

The relationship between social class and delinquency is gauged by examining studies based on arrest data and self-reported data. Early studies based on arrest data found that lower-class communities have much higher arrest rates than higher-class communities. On the basis of these studies criminologists concluded that social class was strongly associated with delinquency. Early self-report studies of delinquency found little or no relationship between social class and delinquency. The self-report studies accounted for the findings from the arrest data by citing its biased nature. It was claimed that offenses committed by lower class juveniles were more likely to come to the attention of the police and thus were more likely to result in an arrest (Hagan et al., 1985). Studies such as Chambliss’ “Saints versus the Roughnecks” accounts for the reason why lower class juveniles are perceived to be more delinquent than their higher class peers, citing reasons such as decreased visibility of the higher-class delinquents and the pre-existing biases authority figures have towards the two groups.

Studies on relationship between race and delinquency primarily focus on two groups, African Americans and Whites. Applicable arrest data reports that African Americans are disproportionately involved in delinquency, with larger differences for serious crimes. Recent analysis has indicated that these race differences have declined in recent years. Criticism of these studies note that crimes committed by African Americans may be more likely to come to attention of the police and that African Americans offenders are more likely to be arrested than their white counterparts. Early self-report data found little or no relationship between race and delinquency. Later self-report studies found that African Americans and whites commit similar levels of minor delinquency, while African Americans are more likely to engage in serious delinquency, but not to extent reported in arrest data. The studies attributed the discrepancy to a larger percentage of high-rate African Americans offenders than high-rate white offenders. Victimization data suggests that African Americans are more likely than whites to be both offenders...

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