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Transcript of Subcultural Theories
Marvin Wolfgang and Franco Ferricuti:
The Subculture of Violence
Study of violence in Philadelphia
In the mid-1950s, violent values were uniquely widespread among African-Americans.
"Code of the Streets"
What about violent
Albert Cohen: Delinquent Subcultures
(middle-class measuring rod)
Applies Merton's idea of strain to lower class delinquent boys (1950's)
Success means embracing the dominant culture
But what about those who can't measure up to middle class standards (dress, talk, grades, manners)?
Calls this disjunction "status deprivation"
which leads to rejecting middle-class values and creating/embracing (criminal) subculture
Evaluation of Code of the Streets
We see these types of oppositional cultures among poor ostracized white groups, too (especially rural) – subcultural behavior is more related to poverty than race
Evaluation of Middle-Class Measuring Rod
Responsible for major advances in research on delinquency
Consistency problem - Cohen argues that the behavior of delinquent boys is a deliberate response to middle-class opinion; yet he also argues that the boys do not care about the opinions of middle-class people.
However, his theory does not explain why most delinquents eventually become law-abiding even though their position in the class structure remains low
The “code” is a set of informal rules governing
interpersonal public behavior, including violence
Respect is at the heart of "the code"
What is the code: Rules that govern encounters with others in inner city
Deterrence: the threat of vengeance
Violence becomes a common part of life
Anderson describes two types of families:
Accept mainstream values and attempt to instill them in children
Generally involved in a church community
Tend to be strict with children
Children from the “decent” families have curfews, taught to stay out of trouble
Lack consideration for others
Superficial sense of family/community
Aggressive with children ( physical punishment)
Children generally “come up hard”
Constant campaign for respect
Children from “street” groups go to the streets to “hang”, stay out late
Friends are the primary social bond
Some parents will impose sanctions if the child is not aggressive enough
Have to “look” capable of taking care of oneself (in hopes that you are left alone)
Create oppositional culture to preserve themselves and their self-respect
because they feel alienated from society
a black subculture of violence that actually values violence over the normative parent culture.
This violence is "an integral component of the subculture which experiences high rates of homicide" (Wolfgang & Ferracuti, 1967: 140).
he more a person is integrated into this subculture, "the more intensely he embraces its prescriptions of behavior, its conduct norms, and integrates them into his personality" (Wolfgang & Ferracuti, 155-156).
Evaluation of Subculture of Violence
Originally, widely accepted but not tested.
Empirical tests reveal:
• Cao, Adams, & Jensen (1997) found no difference between black and white approval of violence in response to offensive situations, which is contrary to Wolfgang’s theory. However, they also found that whites are significantly more likely than blacks to express their support for the use of violence in defensive situations, which is also contrary to the subculture of violence theory.
In sum, the authors found that being black does not imply a greater probability of embracing a subculture of violence as measured by individuals’ beliefs and attitudes.
Parker (1989) found found that poverty is the most important predictor of homicide, and therefore argues that socioeconomic theoretical models of the causes of homicide are preferred to subcultural ones.
Working Class boy status frustration addressed in three ways:
1) Desert corner boy way of life for "the college boy"
2) Become a "stable corner boy" (most likely given lack of opportunity)
3) Reject middle class standards in favor of defining status in ways that seem attainable (gang subculture.
Like strain theories, subcultural theories support Durkheim's assertion that external forces affect individual behavior and attitudes. They also remind us that crime is a learned behavior.
We must be careful of some of these theories -- they can come close to stereotyping races and blaming the poor entirely for their behavior and circumstance.
These theories also tend to neglect women and girls. Finally, most people experiencing structural problems do NOT commit serious crime, while some not experiencing these problems DO commit them. These theories cannot explain individual variation