England, Ralph W.: A Theory of Middle-Class Delinquency
Stephanie L. Kent
The period of social change in the United States following World War II inspired sociologists to study the behavior of youths, particularly juvenile delinquency. Most criminologists at this time focused on the delinquent behavior of poor, inner-city youths and the development of street gangs. Ralph W. England, on the other hand, was more interested in explaining why middle-class youths commit crime. He thus developed a distinct theory to account for an increase in criminal and deviant behaviors that occurred among middle-class youths during the 1950s. His work culminated in his seminal article, “A Theory of Middle-Class Juvenile Delinquency,” published in the Journal of Criminal Law, Criminology, and Police Science in 1960. Before advancing a specific explanation for delinquent behavior, England speculated on changes in the status of youths in American society. Through the 20th century, society shaped the development of a youth subculture, or a set of values, beliefs, and ...