delinquent subculturesocial GROUPS characterized by a commitment to values which are considered, within the dominant value system, to be criminal or antisocial.
The first sociological work in this area was carried out in the tradition of the CHICAGO SCHOOL. The earliest researchers (e.g. Shaw, 1930) used the interactionist approaches developed in the University of Chicago by G. H. MEAD and others, in studies of the high-crime, and mainly immigrant (Italian, Polish, Irish, etc), areas of the ‘inner city’. In studying different areas of Chicago, Shaw and McKay (1929) found that there were much higher recorded rates of truancy and of juvenile delinquency in the relatively impoverished inner city areas, and that 80% of recorded delinquency was committed by groups of boys of a similar age. The research interest was thus directed onto the group, rather than on the individual, and the Chicago tradition emphasized SOCIALIZATION and the learning of delinquent values, i.e. the cultural transmission of deviant mores. They rejected individualistic explanations of criminality arguing that the social conditions of the groups concerned encouraged the formation of subcultures, and that the problems of unemployment and lack of social acceptance (structural ‘dislocations’) engendered delinquent subcultures. The groups which took a delinquent path had a distinct set of values which determined status and ‘acceptance’ attitudes within the subculture. As Cohen (1955), in a classic study drawing on the interactionist approach, put it, ‘the process whereby they “get that way” is no different from the process whereby others come to be conforming members of society’. This view, then, sees the subculture as a response and 'S olution’ to the poverty, low status, lack of opportunity, etc, of young people in the inner city. Status frustration at school and elsewhere is overcome by status and self-respect achieved within the value system of the delinquent subculture.
In the UK, the exploration of delinquent subcultures has continued in the work of researchers associated with the NATIONAL DEVIANCY CONFERENCE and the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at Birmingham University (see CULTURAL STUDIES).