The End of the Youth Gang

Fad or Fact?



    1. Norfolk, Virginia
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    • Hedy Bookin-Weiner is working on a study of group delinquency in Richmond, Virginia. Her research interests include juvenile detention and youth gangs.


    1. University of Delaware
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    • Ruth Horowitz is an associate professor of Sociology at the University of Delaware. Her research interests include juvenile gangs and urban communities. She is the author of Honor and the American Dream: Culture and Identity in a Chicano Community (Rutgers University Press) and numerous articles. Currently she is working on a study of transitional urban neighborhoods.

  • AUTHORS' NOTE: An earlier version of this article was presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology, Washington, DC, November, 1981. We would like to thank Walter B. Miller, David F. Greenberg, and Irwin Deutscher for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this article.


The varying attention criminologists have paid to youth gangs over the past several decades cannot be explained completely by the actual seriousness of gang delinquency and its extent relative to other kinds of delinquency. In order to explain this changing focus of attention by delinquency researchers, this article explores the interrelationships among four types of factors: social and political conditions, ideology, current sociological theory, and available methods. We focus on ideology and methodology, and argue that when ideology is largely centrist, such as during the 1950s and 1960s, theory would most likely be interactionist or subcultural and gangs would likely be of interest. During periods of greater ideological polarization, such as the late 1960s, however, we would expect to find more theoretical and empirical concern with either the individual or with social and economic structure and little interest in gangs.