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School, Strain, and Juvenile Delinquency

NCJ Number
J G McKelvy
Date Published
73 pages
To identify possible determinants of delinquent behavior among high school students, this study examined whether students who perceive discrepancies among their aspirations, expectations, and current achievements experience estrangement from school.
The theoretical framework used followed Merton's theory of anomie which was modified and transformed to be examined on an individual level. Participants were 1,088 high school seniors, male and female, selected from 3 high schools in Washington State. All three schools served predominantly white middle and working class neighborhoods. Data were gathered by an anonymous questionnaire geared to tap information about the students' attitudes toward their families, the school, and religion, as well as their involvement in delinquent acts, drugs, and alcohol. A total of 38 percent of the students came from white-collar homes and 63 percent from blue-collar homes. The questionnaire was designed to study the relationship among the students' perception of discrepancies between education and occupational aspirations and expectations, estrangement from school, and delinquent behavior. Relationships among the variables were found to be weak, giving little support to the anomie theory. Findings suggested that the more immediate measure of success, such as grades, were more important to high school students than anticipated goals and expectations. Socioeconomic status appeared to make no significant contribution to the relationships examined. Students who did indicate a discrepancy between current grades and expected educational attainment were less positive toward school. Differences were noted between males and females on goal attainment, although the findings were inconclusive. Tables and about 36 references are included. (Author abstract modified)