Subcultural Values and Violent Delinquency: A Multi-Level Analysis in Middle Schools

Graham C. Ousey, University of Kentucky
Pamela Wilcox, University of Kentucky

One classic explanation of violent crime and delinquency stemming from The Chicago School tradition of the early 1900s suggests that individual differences in proclivity for violence qare due, in part, to differences in the extent to which individual's have internalized values that support such activity. Specifically, individuals whose social contexts lead to higher levels of exposure to social groups that espouse pro-crime norms, values and behaviors are believed to have a much greater probability of adopting these norms and values and acting in accordance with them. Empirical support for the deviant subculture models is mixed, but overall, research suggests that individuals who hold values and attitudes that support violence are more likely to commit assaultive offenses. A limitation of this literature, however, is that studies generally have not simultaneously examined how macro- and micro-indicators of deviant subcultures affect violent crime. Moreover, these studies have not considered whether the often reported individual-level association between pro-violence values/attitudes and violent behavior varies as a function of the pervasiveness of subcultural values in the aggregate context in wqhich individuals are embedded. Using schools as social contexts that vary in the degree to which subcultures of violence exist, we addressw the limitations outlined above and examine the multi-level connection between subcultural values and violent behavior.

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Updated 05/20/2006