From 1990 to to the present there has been a sharp increase in juvenile crime across the United States. From 1996 to the present there has been a slight decline from the statistics in 1995(OJJDP). What was the cause for this uprise in juvenile delinquincy? I will discuss 2 different theories to why there was such an increase in juvenile crime rates.
I will analyze the rise of the “Gangsta-Rap” culture in the early 1990’s and how it may have affected teenagers that are in lower- income families. Many people believe that the increase in real life violence on television is a cause for violence in juveniles. I will discuss the evidence for this theory. It seems to me that the best theory to explain the rise in juvenile crime is the social constructionist theory. Different sub-cultures of teens have higher crime rates than others because of their interests, whether it be the music that they listen to or the types of television programs that they watched as child. In the early 1990’s a new form of Hip-Hop music appeared in America known as Gangsta-Rap.
This style of Hip-Hop had lyrics pertaining to killing police, gang warfare, guns, and robberies. This style of music perked interest in teenagers across the country. Song titles such as “F*ck the Police” gave laughter to teenagers in middle and upper class America, but for these rap artists, the lyrics they wrote were their way of life. The Gangsta-Rap culture came straight from the worst neighborhoods on the Pacific Coast of the United States, where this kind of lifestyle was led by 1000’s of people stuck in the slums of America. Could the lyrics from these kind of songs promote violence in low income areas where teens look up to these Rap artists? Teenagers that grow up in neighborhoods that are considered low-income (more so in larger cities than suburban areas) have a very low amount of opportunities to leave these areas and become successful in life. Teens in these areas are looking for the easy way out.
There isn’t many legal ways of getting out of a slum and becoming successful. Teens in these areas are more likely to sell drugs and perform robberies to make money than hold a steady job. In essence, crime is already higher in low-income areas than it is in higher-income areas. When gangsta rap was introduced in the early 1990’s, It became very popular with people facing the same problems as these rap artists had in their childhood. These rappers glorified murder, violence, and drug dealing in their songs which perked the ears of many teens in the struggle. Hearing the people that they look up to preach this way of life, opened more doors for crime in these teen’s lives.
Many teens get heavily involved in the music that they listen to. A large amount of evidence of this can be found by looking at the “hard-core” crowds that follow different types of music. The Punk Rock culture is a good example. Many kids that are intoduced to punk rock music incorperate the music into their way of life. They dress in tight jeans with holes, have odd and sometimes even ridiculous hair styles, piercings, tattoes, and their way of life is to not care about anything.
Hard-core punk music is usually hate based. Hate for the government, society, drugs, and other issues.. The teens that get heavily involved in punk music will fight against governmental issues and things that they dislike about their surroundings. The hippie culture, driven by 60’s music that preached peace, excercised what they heard in the music that they cherished.
They promoted peace and protested against things such as war and hate. I point out that all of the people that are part of these cultures surrounding music, for the most part, use the music they listen to and incorperate it into their belief systems and their ways of everyday life. As I have said earlier, Gangsta-Rap lyrics revolve around guns, violence, crime, and drugs. Juveniles that are influenced easily by the music that they hear, incorperate these things into their way of thinking.
This I believe is what was responsible for the rise in violence from 1990 to 1995. Gangsta-Rap doesn’t preach peaceful confrontation and working out problems. Teens that live in slums would seem to be more prone to follow the words the rap artists that they look up to because of the similarities in thier circumstances. This in theory is what has driven more teens than ever to get involved in crime.
Television is said to be part of the reason for a rise in juvenile crime. I believe that this pertains more to teens that are not in the large city, low-income catagory. My reasoning for this is that families in larges cities that live in slums have a low probablity of having cable televison. This means that their children don’t have many opportunities to watch violent programs.
For 40 years there has been violence on TV. Starting with Western style shoot out movies in the 1960’s. The violence in these types of media were not as graphic and real-life like as they are today. Children could often make the judgment that the softcore violence in older televison shows was fake. Technological developments in the film industry n the late 1980’s has allowed the violence on television to come to a point where it is very believable.
Along with this has come a tolerance for more violence on TV. Children watching films and TV shows from the late 1980’s on, see this kind of violence and to them it is real. A study done found that “the greater was a boy’s preference for violent television at age 8, the greater was his aggressiveness both at that time and ten years later” (Lefkowitz 115-116). Reaserchers performed a follow-up study on the subjects of the previous experiment when they subjects were 30 years old and found that ” The violent programming they had watched was related to the seriousness of the crimes they committed, how aggressive they were to their spouses, and even how aggressive their own kids were” (Leonard Eron, cited in Kolbert D20). With a rise in portraying real-life violent crime on Television in the past decade, along with the fact that almost every child in America has access to a television (in contrast to 40 years ago when a TV was a luxury), many people believe that this is the cause for more crimes being committed by teens in America. In order to conduct my research on showing that these 2 cases are the prevelant factors in the increase of juvenile violence from 1990 up to the present, I will need funding.
I wish to perform a cohort study on a population of 5000 boys only boys because of “the greater incidence, frequency, heterogeneity, seriousness, and persistency of male delinquincy” (Wolgang, Thornberry, and Figlio, 1987) throughout the Lancaster County area. Starting in January of 2002, 5000 boys at the age of 7 will be studied until the age of 17. The adolescents’ habits of watching television and the shows they watched will be studied thoroughly. Studies of the crimes they commit, drug and alcohol use, and their correlations to television will studied also. The family’s socio-economic status will be studied to evaluate it as any evidence of a factor.
A cohort study will also be done on 500 of the boy’s siblings that are close in age to examine any similarities amongst them. I feel this study will provide sufficient information on the correlation between juvenile delinquincy and television. I wish to perform another cohort study involving 2500 boys from middle and upper class families, and 2500 boys from lower class families in the Lancaster County area. Starting at the same date as the television study, it will involve children of age 10.
I will examine these children until the age of 17. The reason for the seperation of the study is to determine any link between family income, surroundings, and crime rate. Careful observation will be taken of the habits of the music listened to throughout the 8 year period. The dress style of each teen will be closely examined.
The reason for this is when teens get past a point of just listening to music and become closely knit with a style of music, many times their style of dress will resemble that of the music they listen to. This can be seen in any highschool looking at different clickshippies, punkers, and “gangsters” (There is no dominant term used for this group. It is the group deeply involved in rap music. They wear lots of gold jewelry, medallions, etc, and have their pants sagged low). I will perform a study of crimes, drug use, aggressiveness, and academic standings of the teens involved.
Many vital statistics will come out of these studies. These statistics can be used to study many different correlations between juveniles and crime. This knowledge can be used for future reference in the fight to lower juvenile crime rates and understand problems before they start.
- Lefkowitz, Monroe M. 1977. Growing Up to be Violent: A Longitudinal Study of the Development of Aggression.
- New York: Pergamon. Wolfgang, Marvin E., Terence P Thornberry, Robert M. Figlio. 1987.
- From Boy to Man, from Delinquincy to Crime. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Kolbert, Elizabeth. Dec 14,1994.
- Television Gets Closer Look as a Factor in Real Violence. New York Times, pp A1, D20. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquincy Prevention. On-line.
- Available: http://ojjdp.ncjrs.org./ojstatbb/qa253.html