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Albert Cohen Approach Applied to Gangs and Drug Use in Teenagers

Essay by review  •  November 3, 2010  •  Research Paper  •  3,579 Words (15 Pages)  •  2,814 Views

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Albert Cohen's thesis is that class based status frustration is the origin of subcultures. Crime culture existed in certain social groups and the individuals learned the value of the delinquent subculture through participation in gangs. Delinquent subcultures have values that are in opposition to those of the dominant culture. The strain is rooted by low economical conditions, poor parental relations, and low school standards, with no chance of succeeding in the future. The anti social structure of cities also affects the why a boy and or girl joins a gang. The formation of gangs in cities, and most recently in suburbs, is assisted by the same lack of community among parents. While almost half of high seniors used marijuana at least once, thirty-seven percent said they had used it in the past year, and twenty-three percent said they had used it in the previous month.

Strain Theory, posits the disjuncture between socially and sub culturally sanctioned mean and goods as the cause of criminal behavior. Albert Cohen's thesis is that class based status frustration is the origin of subcultures. Cohen's focus is on school based achievement status. The institution of the school symbolizes middle class values for honesty, courtesy, personality, responsibility, and the middle class measuring rod. It is this environment where competition takes place for status, approval, or respect. Strain is interpersonal, located at the level of group interaction.

There are many problems facing today's society. One of the problems is the violent condition that surrounds the lives of children in America. We are awarded of the violence among our juveniles because we read, hear and see it. The newspapers, magazines, news media, and our neighborhoods testify the living proof of the chaos. What can we do to influence these kids to stay out off

trouble? First of all, we have to realize this is a very serious problem. And it has to be stopped. The second step is to figure out what causes children to be violent and become juvenile delinquents. This negative attitude causes them to lead a life of delinquency and a life isolated from society's idealistic world. When we ask this question, many others come in mind. Do these problems begin in the family? Are parents good role models or are they condoning the violence? How can we prevent parents from destroying the minds and future of these children?

Albert Cohen was born in 1918 in Boston, Massachusetts. He received a Bachelors degree in Sociology from Harvard University, Masters degree in Sociology from Indiana University and a Ph D. in Sociology from Harvard University. He received the American Society of Criminology Edwin H. Sutherland award in 1993. In 1955 Albert K. Cohen wrote Delinquent Boys: The Culture of the Gang. Cohen assumed that the delinquent subculture was found in the lower class, where the social control was not strong enough to constrain the delinquency. Cohen asserted that "the delinquent subculture was mostly to be found in the working class". Delinquent subculture was the most common form in American society, especially in lower-class males. He characterized the delinquent subcultures as "non-utilitarian, malicious, and negativistic."

Cohen contends that crime culture existed in certain social groups and the individuals learned the value of the delinquent subculture through participation in gangs. In his theory, Cohen tried to explain why children of the lower class were induced to become delinquent boys and what the characteristics of delinquent subculture were.

Delinquent subcultures have values that are in opposition to those of the dominant culture. These subcultures emerge in the nation's largest cities. The strain is rooted by low economical conditions, poor parental relations, and low school standards, with no chance of succeeding in the future. Cohen notes that the position of one's family in the social structure determines the problems the child will later face in life. Therefore, they will experience status frustration and strain and adapt into either a moral boy, or a delinquent boy.

There is an assumption that juveniles steal items, for the desire to have the items. They may want them because they can eat them, wear them or otherwise use them; or they can sell them; or even---if we are given to a psychoanalytic turn of mind---because some deep symbolic level they substitute or stand for something unconsciously desired forbidden. Their delinquent acts serve no real purpose. They often discard or destroy what they have stolen. Their acts are random and are often directed at people and property. This type of

delinquency in contrast to most adult crimes seemed to serve no useful purpose. Juvenile gangs stole thing they did not want or need, vandalized and maliciously destroyed property, and participated in gang wars and invoked assaults. Stealing, in the delinquent gang, serves as a form of achieving peer status within the group, with no other motive.

Youths who have no ascribed status by virtue of their families, and who typically lose in the competition for achieved status, are placed under serve strain. All children seek social status, but not everyone can compete for it in the same way. Juveniles of low income families struggle to achieve the values of the middle class children. Lower class parents cannot socialize their children in the terms of the values as middle-class parents.

Cohen concluded that gangs have a separate culture from the dominant culture, with a different set of values for measuring status. The anti social structure of cities also affects the why a boy and or girl joins a gang. The formation of gangs in cities, and most recently in suburbs, is assisted by the same lack of community among parents. Parents do not know what their children

are doing for two reasons: First, much of the parents' lives are outside the local community, while the children's lives are lived almost totally within it. Second, in a fully developed community, the network of relations gives every parent, in a sense, a community of sentries who can keep him informed of his child's activities. Parents need to maintain an active role in their children's lives. In modern living-places (city or suburban), where such a network is attenuated, he no longer has such sentries.

Middle class parents, teachers, and social workers, for example, operate according to a set of values, or standards, which constitute what Cohen calls a middle-class measuring rod. These criteria are derived from "middle-class norms," which are also "manifestations of the dominant American value system". In all school children, despite of their

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