By Iris Myers
DELINQUENT BOYS: THE CULTURE OF THE GANG, by Albert K. Cohen (Routledge and Kegan Paul, 21s.).
ONE of the disturbing features of life in our vast modern communities is the widespread growth of gangsterism among the young. Tales of wanton malice and large scale destructiveness which respect neither property, nor even at times human life, recur with alarming frequency.
In urban areas, gangs of young toughs, who at the same time often lead an exemplary Dr. Jekyll life at home, roam the hack streets bringing terror to other children and even to hardy adults, Our disciplinary resources are powerless to control these increasing manifestations, What is hehind it all?
The motivation is obscure, alike to us and to the delinquent. who often seems completely unaware of the grave consequences of his actions.
PROF. COHEN in this able and well-documented book bases his thesis on American studies of juvenile delinquency, and makes a
plea for the " background approach."
Psychological theories of delinquency, which seek for reasons within the individual. in inherited and acquired disabilities, must, he rightly claims, be combined with social theories, which understand that man is a member not only of the family but of the wider social group, and that he is, in part at least, moulded by society.
In the American scene. where. as he points out, the world of the growing child is largely ruled by " Mom," who imposes her feminine may well he that " goodness " for the boy becomes associated with femininity. and that an escape to e badness" is a masculine protest.
Delinquency among children of the higher status groups seems to express a revolt against the tameness of a too well-ordered existence.
THE major problem in the States, however, is with boys of working-class parents. The impact of prevailing middle-class cultural standards in the closely knit school community breeds frustrations for the under-privileged; and the humiliation the workingclass boy comes to feel in a statusorientated society is compensated by a reversal of the accepted ethical norms.
For both, the gangs which have come to exist as " sub-cultures" in many neighbourhoods provide ready-made group sanctions and group solidarity for the dissatisfied. The inner discontent is, then, reinforced by the social pattern.
In making this clear, Prof, Cohen's hook offers us a fruitful method for the study of our own grave problems of delinquency.