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Youth Deviance Essay

1413 words - 6 pages

Deviance is defined as the recognized violation of cultural norms. This is an extremely broad definition, and depending on who is explaining it, the above definition can mean a variety of different things. Critically examine the theory of deviance with reference to young people and their membership in deviant subcultures or gangs.

Deviance is associated with young people today and is rapidly on the increase within the street and school environment. Young deviants are engaging in gang membership and subcultures with a means of social belonging, social interest and ethnic identity. There are several sociological and subcultural theories which deem to explain deviance. Some of the theories ...view middle of the document...

The Chicago school on gangs urbanized the school into a set of theories arguing that certain groups or subcultures in society have values and attitudes that contribute to crime and deviance. The key focus is on juvenile delinquency. Juvenile delinquency refers to criminal acts performed by juveniles, a juvenile is a young person.

Theorists deem that if this precedent of criminal behaviour can be understood and controlled, it will break the transition from teenage offender into habitual criminal. Subcultural theorists argue that certain groups develop norms and values which are diverse from those held by other affiliates of society. Subcultural theories argue that deviance is the result of individuals conforming to the values and norms of the social group to which they belong. Their subculture allows them to commit certain acts which are seen as deviant.

Albert K. Cohen agreed with this subcultural theory on deviance, where he believed that the development of subcultures is explained in terms of the position of groups or individuals in the social structure.

Sociological theories on deviance diverge from biological and psychological theories that elucidate norm violation in terms of social notion, the development of theories of deviance reflect the social environment which they appeared.

Robert Merton looked at the biological explanation for deviance with his Anomie Theory. The Anomie Theory goes with Merton’s statement that, “good can cause evil”, where unrestrained ambition is a prime cause of deviance.

Anomie is a situation in which cultural norms break down because of fast change. Merton slightly changed the concept of Anomie where he discussed the dysfunction between the goals and the means. Merton proceeded to use the functionalist perspective where he viewed deviance as a result of inadequate integration or cultural affiliation. Merton looked at the agreement on values and norms.

The Anomie Theory puts a great deal of emphasis on the role of culture and merged aspects. He proceeds to explain that social structures are the source of lower-class high crime rates and deviance.

Merton had three (3) adaptations of Anomie;

* Rebels: reject the goals and try to overthrow the presented social order and its cultural values.
* Retreatists: abandon all efforts to attain conformist social goals in favour of deviant adaptation.
* Innovators: use illegitimate, and sometimes illegal, means to gain societally defined success goals, because their experiences limit access to legitimate needs.

Supporting on Robert K Merton’s Anomie Theories, Albert. K Cohen argues like Merton that everyone grasps the same goals and that the lower classes do not have the chance to implement these goals. Cohen’s theory, ‘The Delinquent Subculture’ is a functionalist theory which attempts to elucidate crime and deviance by focusing on normal cultural goals and objectives in society and why the lower classes fail to fulfil these...

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