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Testing a Subcultural Theory of Crime and Delinquency in a Gang Context

NCJ Number
Journal of Gang Research Volume: 21 Issue: 4 Dated: Summer 2014 Pages: 1-9
David Brownfield
Date Published
9 pages
Since subcultural theories of crime and delinquency have been among the most prevalent and influential explanations of criminal gangs, this study examined the relationship between gang membership and adherence to subcultural deviant or criminal values, and the effects of gang membership and associated subcultural values on gang involvement in serious offenses was assessed.
Consistent with prior research, the current study found support for both subcultural theory and social control theory as explanations for serious offenses committed by gangs. The subcultural theory that gang membership encourages the development of deviant or criminal values is supported by the empirical analysis. Gang members were more likely to endorse manipulative and instrumental attitudes toward the law, as well as lack of respect for the police. These subcultural values were significant predictors of self-reported serious offenses, such as assault with a weapon and cocaine use. In addition, the effects of measures of social control theory, such as academic performance or school grades were also significant. The lack of parental attachment (measured by intimacy of communication with mothers) was also found to be a significant predictor of serious offenses. The author advises that although there is evidence that supports subcultural theory hypotheses, a comprehensive explanation of risk factors for serious crimes likely will need to incorporate factors that stem from several theories, including social control theory. Data for this analysis were obtained from a 2006 survey conducted in a large metropolitan area in eastern Canada. The survey focused on neighborhoods known by police to have significant levels of gang activity. A random sample of 618 participants was selected from class lists provided by schools. Participation in the study was voluntary. 3 tables and 16 references