Delinquent Subcultures: Sociological Interpretations of Gang Delinquency

David J. Bordua

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Group delinquency has been of theoretical in terest to American sociology for more than half a century. During that time, four major interpretations of the origins of gang delinquency and delinquent subcultures have emerged. The classical view developed by Thrasher focuses on the de velopment of spontaneous groups under conditions of weak social control and social disorganization. Two other views, somewhat akin, emphasize the adjustment problems of lower class boys and stress respectively the status deprivation of such boys when they fail to place well according to the middle class measuring rod and the alienation produced when opportunities to achieve universally demanded success goals are denied lower class boys. Another view is that of the lower class street gang and its way of life as the adolescent version of a more general adult life style, namely, lower class culture. There is a no ticeable tendency in the recent theories to emphasize irrational explanations of gang delinquency, to view the boys who par ticipate as driven rather than attracted, and polemical pres sures have tended to produce extreme theoretical interpreta tions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)119-136
Number of pages18
JournalThe Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1961
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Social Sciences(all)


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