Subcultural theories in criminology view criminal activity as a result of young people living in subcultures that have broken off from the rest of the society. A subculture is a group that has values and norms that differ from the mainstream culture. According to subcultural theories, deviance or delinquency occurs when young people conform to the ideas and values of the subcultures they are subscribed to. The theory has become popular in explaining that peer groups have power in encouraging individuals to commit crimes, and could be the key to combating juvenile to adult criminal transformations.
Albert Cohen’s approach to the subcultural theory focused on the delinquency subculture, rather than the economically-oriented career criminal. His view was that youth living in slum areas want to achieve the success levels valued by mainstream cultures. However, since they lack social and economic opportunities for advancement to match peers in the majority society, they reject its dominant norms and values. Thus, they turn to the values and norms of divergent/delinquent subcultures that allow opportunities for advancement through criminal acts that are not frowned upon but instead, celebrated. Gradually, since delinquent subcultures value criminal acts such as theft/vandalism as a measure of success, young people commit crimes for respect, and not necessarily, the monetary gains it provides.
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