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Paradox of Youth Violence

NCJ Number
J. William Spencer
Date Published
220 pages
This book offers information on the nature of juvenile delinquency and the role of cultural politics in shaping criminal justice and social services policy.
The central themes of this book are that the media has constructed youth violence as a rather complex, uncertain, and ambiguous problem and that these images of youth violence reflect the ways our culture understands the problem today. Chapter 1 provides an overview of the problem of youth violence. Chapter 2 examines the construction of the condition of youth violence and the person/categories that populate it, focusing on the juxtaposition of evil and innocence, including information on how broader cultural understandings of race, class, and place have been used to assert that the problem is spreading beyond familiar boundaries. Chapter 3 investigates a collective search for causes of and solutions to the problem. Causal accounts comprised talk of the multiple and complex origins of the problem, but the specific causes being talked about sometimes depend on what frame is being invoked. The causes being discussed depend on whether the problem is framed as big-city or small-town violence. Chapter 4 examines the drama of "iconic narratives of youth violence," which are more than relatively short and simple atrocity tales and horror stories which symbolize the problem. As symbols, these narratives both inform and draw on the more general images of the condition and its various framings, its person/categories, and the emotions discussed in chapter 3. Also examined are how understandings of race, class, and place are overlaid on these images to produce narratives of "communities" and "neighborhoods." Chapter 5 explores what lessons might be learned from this study. Chapter 6 explores how in and through public discourse, today's challenges regarding youth the paradox of youth violence can be more effectively examined. Figures, references, and index