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Delinquent Reform and the Labeling Perspective

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice and Behavior Volume: 12 Issue: 2 Dated: (June 1985) Pages: 131-169
G Bazemore
Date Published
39 pages
This article examines the utility of the labeling perspective in the explanation of reform among delinquents.
In the labeling view, juvenile court labeling is expected to increase the probability that offending will be extended into the adult years. Further, change in delinquent identity, or the internalization of the delinquent label, is argued to mediate the labeling/reform relationship. Using data on a cohort of delinquents followed for 15 years, an empirical test of this labeling interpretation is presented. This test is replicated in the case of 'positive' labeling where the effects on reform of labeling by the school are expected to be mediated by positive self-esteem. A common alternative explanation of the posited relationship between labeling and subsequent offending focused on individual variation in delinquent involvement is also examined using these data. Findings challenge the traditional labeling view that changes in self-esteem or delinquent identity (i.e., 'acceptance' of the label) are required intervening processes in the relationship between labeling and future offending or reform. The alternative explanation of the labeling/ reform relationship is also not supported in these data. An organizational level interpretation and new research directions are suggested. (Publisher abstract)