Marginalized Adolescents and Inner-City Knife Crime – Interdisciplinary Approach to Interrelated Risk Factors: Agency, School Exclusion, and Delinquency – A Constructivist Method
Is the desocialising failure to maintain a marginalised minority within the state education system facilitating the ‘triangulation’ of school exclusion, ‘looked-after’ status and criminality?
The plethora of sensationalist coverage in the media in the past two years on the subject of teenagers involved in knife crime is creating an ever-expanding public concern (Clement, 2010). The question prompting this commentary is, ‘What are the realities confronting marginalised young people in the UK transitioning into the full rights and responsibilities of adult citizenship?’ (Clement, 2010). With the condition of marginality advancing, alongside the looming recession still threatening free-market economies, the future appears increasingly uncertain for many with personal biographies sharing much in common with many of their peers living in the more deprived neighbourhoods of Britain (Clement, 2010). In conclusion, the value of synthesising rather than disputing paradigms to produce different layers of knowledge should facilitate discussion (Clement, 2010).
Subsequently, there has been a decade-long escalation of precariousness in employment, which threatens to universalize the conditions up to now associated with ‘marginalisation’ across wider paths of the working class (Clement, 2010). Growing up on the sink estates of the city, young people in the age of transition from child to adulthood see their future life chances profoundly undermined by the present lack of opportunities for development educationally, psychologically and vocationally (Clement, 2010). There are better ways of dealing with the marginalized minorities; involving individual’s from under-privileged groups to become involved in positive activities, supporting parents with limited resources and supervising and supporting young offenders caught up in the criminal justice system (Alexander, 2008). Subsequently offering these individuals a sense of agentic scope (Alexander, 2008).
A detailed analysis of the sociology of this form of advanced marginality, which distinguishes an increasing minority of urban youth, demonstrates how it both has causes that are ‘properly political, rooted in the abandonment of the ghetto by the state’, and heralds ‘the social question of the new century, namely the desocialization of wage labour’ (Wacquant 2008a, pp. 224, 287)
Anti-social sources of crime are not merely symptomatic antisocial behaviour of the accused, but, rather, the desocialising failure to maintain a marginalised minority within the state education system (Clement, 2010).
As MacDonald and Marsh emphasise, most youth are not ‘disconnected’.
“The habitus of self-restraint begins to give way to more unrestrained outlets of emotion, as all the old assurances begin to unravel . . . without the social solidarity of the pre-1970 period ad hoc outbursts of anger can now become our response to delays, frustrations . . . a new intolerance – zero tolerance of those not making a contribution to social well-being.” (Pratt 2005, p. 265).
This contrast in fortunes between the working and non-working poor breeds divisions, encouraging a climate of ‘new punitiveness’ (Clement, 2010).
Risk factors for different age groups
Risk factors change over time, with different age groups being affected by the same factors to varying degrees: a risk factor that predicts a 7 year old will be violent later in life may not be a good predictor when that individual is 12. As an example, the most significant predictive factors of serious and violent offending among young people aged 12-14 (as established by Lipsey and Derzon’s meta- analysis) are shown in below. These factors, when present among young people aged 12-14, are likely to predict (further) violent offending when they are aged 15-25. The factors are ranked according to their statistical strength, with group 1 containing the most reliable predictors and group 5 the least reliable. (Within each group, the factors are also ranked according to statistical strength, e.g. ‘weak social ties’ being a relatively stronger predictor than ‘antisocial peers’.) Questionnaire will be based on the statistical probabilities as shown here:
Predictors for serious and violent offending for young people aged 12-14, in descending order of statistical reliability
(Source: Lipsey and Derzon 1998)
1. Weak social ties (engage in few pro-social activities; low popularity with friends/acquaintances)
1. Antisocial peers (i.e. peers engaging in criminal activities) 2. Carrying out other types of crimes
3. Aggression (aggressive/disruptive behaviour; verbal aggression toward others)
3. Negative attitude toward school, poor performance and behaviour at school
3. Having a one or more of the following psychological conditions: problematic behaviours, high activity levels, impulsiveness, poor eating habits, high levels of daring; psychopathology, short attention span
3. Having a poor relationship with parents 3. Being male 3. Being physically violent toward others
4. Having antisocial parents
4. Previous crimes against people using threat or force and including sexual offences
4. Problem behaviour such as aggression, antisocial behaviour, temper tantrums
4. Low IQ (e.g. learning difficulties, verbal and non-verbal reasoning problems, low language ability)
5. Coming from a ‘broken home’, where either the parents have separated or the young person is living separately for some reason away from the parents
5. Being a member of a poor family (as indicated by measures of socioeconomic status, housing stock in one’s neighbourhood, parental and siblings employment status)
5. Experience of childhood abuse – emotional, physical, sexual, neglect or other maltreatment
5. Other family characteristics (e.g. high family stress, large family size, discord between parents)
5. Using drugs/alcohol 5. Ethnicity – youth from ethnic minorities had a greater risk of offending
Alexander, C., (2008).Constructing The ‘Gang’. Published by Runnymede in June 2008, this document is copyright © 2008 the Runnymede Trust. ISBN-13: 978-1-9067320-1-1
Crighton A. D., (2010). Assessment. In G. J. Towl, D. A. Crighton (Eds.), Forensic psychology (pp. 244-258). Wiley-Blackwell.
Crighton A. D., (2010). Risk Assessment. In G. J. Towl, D. A. Crighton (Eds.), Forensic psychology (pp. 260-270). Wiley-Blackwell.
Clement, M. (2010). Teenagers under the knife: A decivilising process. Journal Of Youth Studies, 13(4), 439-451. doi:10.1080/13676261003802406
Evaluation of Psychology Reports in the NSW Department of Juvenile Justice Program: An Analysis of Their Effectiveness
Fazel, S., Singh, J. P., Doll, H., & Grann, M. (2012). Use of risk assessment instruments to predict violence and antisocial behaviour in 73 samples involving 24,827 people: Systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ: British Medical Journal, 345(7868), 1-12.
Fitch, K., (March 2009). Teenagers at risk. The safeguarding needs of young people in gangs and violent peer groups, NSPCC
Kemshall, H., Marsland, L., Boeck, T., & Dunkerton, L. (2006). Young People, Pathways and Crime: Beyond Risk Factors. Australian And New Zealand Journal Of Criminology, 39(3), 354-370. doi:10.1375/acri.39.3.354
Lennings, G, J., Stephenson, J., Cotter, M., Johnston, I., Jenkins, T., (2001)
Towl, G. J., (2010). Ethical Issues in Forensic Psychological Policy and Practice. In G. J. Towl, D. A. Crighton (Eds.), Forensic psychology (pp. 62-69). Wiley-Blackwell.
Wacquant, Loïc. (2008). Urban outcasts: A comparative sociology of advanced marginality; Cambridge: Polity Press
Wacquant, L. (2012). ‘The prison is an outlaw institution’. Howard Journal Of Criminal Justice, 51(1), 1-15. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2311.2011.00686.x