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Cloward and Ohlin's Theory of Delinquent Subcultures: Revisited

NCJ Number
Police Journal Volume: 62 Issue: 4 Dated: (October-December 1989) Pages: 290-296
P Mackay
Date Published
7 pages
Cloward and Ohlin present a theory of juvenile delinquency that builds on the work of Durkheim and Merton and that focuses on the role of high aspirations and low opportunity.
They argue that just when adolescents have been encouraged to adopt a set of economic and material aspirations of which the larger society approves, the means to achieve these goals are systematically blocked. The result of this blocking is strain, which allows the adolescent to develop a source of authority that is an alternative to that of the State. They try to combine the concepts of anomie and differential association, arguing that criminal behavior is learned from a social milieu in which the codes of such behavior are widely available and highly esteemed. They also try to account for the emergence of three types of subcultures: criminal, involving property crime; conflict, involving violence; and retreatist, involving drugs. Matza and others have questioned this analysis, however, instead to focus on individuals and their interpersonal relationships.


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