Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Jamie J. Fader
Status offenses refer to conduct considered illegal only when committed by a minor. These acts of “non-criminal misbehavior” include running away, curfew violation, truancy, underage drinking or smoking, and ungovernability. Understanding status offenses as a contemporary social problem requires us to contextu-alize them within a historical perspective. Changing conceptions of gender, race/ethnicity, social class, family, and urbanization play a fundamental role in shaping their construction. During the colonial era, the family served as the model for morality and social order. In this period, the family—particularly the father—had ultimate legal autonomy to maintain discipline of children. Domestic matters such as childrearing remained in the private domain, and families viewed government attempts to intervene with suspicion. This authority met its first systematic challenge in the early 19th century, however, with the identification of poverty as a particularly pressing social ill. A centralized system of public and private institutions evolved to address poverty, ...