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SOCC30 Midterm: Teenage-Troubles-Chapter-1-2

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Julian Tanner
Study Guide

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Teenage Troubles: Youth and Deviance in Canada
Chapter 1) Deviant Youth: The Social Construction of Youth Problems
oJuly 2012 - Summer evening went to a neighborhood party attracted lots of unwanted people
Uninvited guests show up - gunfire is heard
2 people dead
23 people injured
Ordinary residential community has been transformed into "the worst shooting spree in Toronto's history."
oApril 20, 1999 - two heavily armed male students entered Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado
Shot dead 12 of their students + teacher before shooting themselves
Columbine set the standard by which all shooting are now judged and interpreted
oMedia coverage of the event moved from reporting the basic facts to putative explanation.
oPossible causes: media violence, violent nature of much popular culture, "Goth" subculture, parental neglect, local
law enforcement agents, and easy availability of lethal firearms.
oCrime and Deviance
Crime- major discontents of modern civilization
Youth are a major focus of these anxieties: shootings, youth gangs, drug use, violent
entertainment media,
oColin Vaughan
Commentary on youth gangs in Toronto
The title of his article, "everything old seems new again, to teens" sums up his thesis: for all its apparent
novelty, contemporary teenage behavior is not really different from that of the past.
oBritish criminologist Geoffrey Pearson reached a similar conclusion and made it the starting point for his own
investigation of the nature of the "youth problem" in the U.K.
His book was called "Hooligan" in 1983 examines youth misbehaviors and finds a familiar concern with a
juvenile crime problem that seemingly has no precedent, the prescribed solution for which is sought in stiffer
punishments for young offenders.
Pearson found that the troubled present was compared with an apparently more tranquil past.
Sociological implications of Pearson's observations:
1) Anxieties about the delinquency activity of youth have a long pedigree.
2) Myth of the good old days influences our thinking about and prescriptions for contemporary
juvenile offenders - usual assumption that juveniles were punished more harshly in the past, and
that is the reason why delinquency was less of a problem.
3) Studying reactions to delinquent behavior is as important a task for students of crime as
studying the behavior itself.
Social Constructionism and Youth Deviance

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Teenage Troubles: Youth and Deviance in Canada
Sociologists have pondered the nature of social problems and the threat that they pose to society.
Traditional argument of delinquency is that it is a problem because the antisocial behavior of adolescents
is dangerous and damaging to persons and property within the community.
Objectivist approach to social problems
Social constructionists are less interested in the behavior itself, and more interested in how certain
conditions become recognized as social problems.
They point out that some objectively harmful or dangerous conditions never achieve social problem
status, while others become serious social problems without much evidence that they are very injurious.
Constructionists interested in the problem of youth are more likely to post questions about media
representations of youth gangs than about the causes of gang behavior.
Ex. Patrick Parnaby's 2003 examination of how squeegee kids became a significant social
problem (law and order)
Parnaby acknowledges the causative links between the conditions of homelessness,
unemployment, and crime, but is more interested in how a particular segment of street youth
population has been rendered problematic by media coverage.
Squeegee Youth - they are homeless youth who clean car windows at traffic lights in
anticipation of some financial reward
Parnaby suggests that squeegee youth began attracting media attention, soon later, public
disapproval sometime in 1995.
Parnaby stated that squeegee kids were criminalized by an appeal to preexisting concerns
about youth and urban disorder.
He argues that in large cities like Toronto, squeegee youth have a physical presence that brings
them into direct contact with members of the public
He says that squeegee kids are threatening because of their breaching of spatial norms which
contribute to deviant representation in news stories.
Media Portrayals of Youth Deviance
As Pearson's study suggests, media reportage of young people in general accentuates the negative, a
tendency confirmed by another British study.
Content Analysis: sample of national and local newspapers revealed that the vast bulk of youth stories
had a negative orientation in that they concentrated disproportionately on deviant activities.
Youth gangs are a particularly attractive topic for news organizations.
They note that the word "gang" was first introduced into the English language in the 17th century and was
originally used to describe groups of sailors and workmen.
Term has a negative connotation
Politicians such as Prime Minister Steven Harper, are thus able to talk about the threat of gangs and the
need for tougher anti-crime legislation without explicating what the nature of the threat is.

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Teenage Troubles: Youth and Deviance in Canada
Richardson and Kennedy also find that gang terminology is more readily applied to criminal groups
stereotypically seen as representing racial minorities (street and drug gangs) than to white ones (hate groups,
bikers, for example).
Fasiolo and Leckie in 1993 analyzed daily news stories about gangs over a four-month period from July
to October 1992, focusing on how gangs were characterized in the Canadian print media.
Fasiolo and Leckie's content analysis included the type of gang mentioned in news stories
(everywhere except Quebec)
The origins or causes of gangs were not mentioned in the majority of stories.
Supplementing the quantitative analysis with a qualitative reading of the news stories, the researchers
identified a number of recurring themes and patterns.
News stories said there are a new and growing problem:
1) Consequence of profound social changes and economic uncertainties in modern
2) They are viewed as a product of changing social values that are held responsible for
increasing youth violence.
3) race / ethnic composition
oSteve Chibnall (1977) identified a number of informal criteria (or rules) that are used regularly by
journalists as the basis for story selection.
His study suggests how crime stories are going to be presented and how many photographs are
going to accompany a story and which ones, what headlines are going to be used, etc.
oOne common strategy is to introduce a story with a dramatic example
Joel Best from the Los Angeles Times that concerns a gang intervention program in that city (quote
on page 13)
This is what journalists refer to as a grabber.
Best captures the broader problem of gang warfare to the specific image of a remorseless pre-
oRoberts claims:
Media attention generates negative public opinion, to which politicians feel, for reasons of electoral
survival, obliged to respond.
He suggests that media leads reflects popular opinion.
Also suggests nature of the news coverage frames policy options regarding youth crime more or
less exclusively in terms of a criminal justice response (police, courts, and prisons);
oThus, ruling out of consideration alternative means of reducing or preventing youth
oThe public’s reliance on the news media for information about crime therefore…
Intensifies its fear of crime
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