Research supports these theories. In one study, a program offering individuals a chance to Move To Opportunity (MTO), that is, out of their current neighborhood into a safer, more prosperous one, was offered to several residents. Then, the criminal behaviors of the juveniles participating were studied. The researchers found that “moving to a lower-poverty, lower crime neighborhood produces different effects on the criminal behavior of male versus female youth” (Kling, Ludwig and Katz, 2005).
In a two to three year follow up study, the arrest rates of both male and female adolescents dropped. In another study, the researchers found that “social organization (measured as collective efficacy) has a strong protective effect in terms of reducing youth death rates. The impact of collective efficacy holds for both preventable and health-related youth mortality. Results suggest that neighbors may contribute to protecting the lives of youth by helping mobilize residents to engage in community social organization” (Feinberg, 2006).
He suggests that the investment in the community may waylay crime. In general both the social strain and the social disorganization theory encourage involvement of both public and private institution in the lives of potentially violent teens. For example, churches, schools and even private businesses have all done their part to promote social bonds and to reduce crime through a variety of programs aimed at building up rather than striking down communities. On popular program is the D. A. R. E program or Drug Abuse Resistance Program.
Led by police officers and offered in public schools, this program helps limit the negative influences that can stress a teen and teaches the students how to avoid peer pressure. “D. A. R. E. was founded in 1983 in Los Angeles and has proven so successful that it is now being implemented in 75 percent of our nation's school districts and in more than 43 countries around the world” (New D. A. R. E. , 2006). Other programs that involve youth in their communities in positive ways also achieve the goal of reducing juvenile crime.
According to The Department of Education, most juveniles commit crimes between 2pm and 8 pm, after school hours before parents get home. Thus, programs like YMCA after school programs and the Boy/Girl Scouts of America help involve students in supervised recreational activity during those hours. Here the teenagers can avoid the strain and disorganization of the streets and engage in positive activities. “Recreation programs allow youths to connect with other adults and children in the community.
Such positive friendships may assist children in later years… Such involvement helps stop the disconnect many youths feel as they enter their teenage years, and ties them to the community they are a part of” (Juvenile Justice FYI, 2004). Other organizations such as the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) have instituted several programs targeted at reducing gangs. These programs understand that the stresses of life and disorganization of society can lead adolescents to seek out negative bonding in gangs.
As a result, programs such as the Youth Gang Prevention Initiative seek to offer job training and skills assistance to at risk teens that may or may not still be in school. This training will help them find a job, raise self esteem and perhaps escape the negative situation. In addition, the office provides funding to cities and states to help them learn to deal with gang issues themselves (Department of Justice's Youth Gang Prevention Initiative, 2006). Juvenile delinquency plagues most urban and even some suburban and rural areas across the country.
Two sociological theories best explain this phenomenon: the social strain and the social disorganization theories. Both show how stresses in society cause individuals to lack positive bonds and turn to negative influences as the result of a chaotic and ineffective community. Studies have shown this to be the case. However, many programs are developing to assist individuals and communities overcome this strain and chaos to rise above delinquency and offer safety to the community once again.
It is important to realize that not all juvenile crime is caused by ‘bad’ kids but instead by ‘bad’ situations. The sociological approach seeks to reduce these bad situations in order to save ‘good’ kids from becoming bad. Hopefully, these programs will continue to be funded and recognized as important steps toward this goal.
- Akers, R. (2000). Criminological Theories: Introduction, Evaluation, and Application. Los Angeles: Roxbury. Department of Justice's Youth Gang Prevention Initiative. (2006). Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Retrieved 11 December from http://ojjdp.ncjrs.gov/programs/antigang/