Streetlife and delinquency

Hagan, J., & McCarthy, B.

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Hagan, J., & McCarthy, B. (1992). Streetlife and delinquency. The British Journal of Sociology, 43(4), 533–561.

The correlation between class and delinquency often observed in areal studies and assumed in prominent sociological theories is elusive in studies of individuals commonly used to test these theories. A restricted conceptualization of class in terms of parental origins and the concentration of self-report survey designs on adolescents in school have removed from this area of research street youth who were once central to classic studies of delinquency. We argue that street youth experience current class conditions that cause serious delinquency, and that life on the street is an important intervening variable that transmits indirect effects of control and strain theory variables, including parental class origins. Data gathered from nearly 1000 Toronto school and street youth are analyzed with important implications for the conceptualization of class and delinquency, testing and integrating sociological theories of delinquency, the measurement of delinquency, and the use of cross-sectional and longitudinal research designs. Our findings especially encourage incorporation of street-based samples into research on class-based aspects of theories of delinquency.

Main finding
The analysis shows that children of unemployed parents are more likely to be truant or homeless, and that time spent on the street increases delinquency. High risk youth are highly likely to participate in one serious theft whether or not they are in school or on the street; however, they are more likely to steal frequently if they are on the street. Low risk youth are more likely to steal at least once if they are on the street.

Description of method used in the article
The authors conducted probability sampling from three schools for a total of 563 surveyed students. They also conducted purposive sampling in city streets, parks, and social service agencies for a total of 386 people. All participants were between 13 and 19 years old.

Of some practical use if combined with other research

Organising categories

Crime and Aggression
Physical types
Geographic locations