Explain how the theoretical explanations from Shaw and McKay can explain why more adolescents from impoverished areas become delinquents.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Shaw and McKay’s social disorganization theory is a theory that is based explicitly on geographical place.  It argues that place is just as important as other factors (such as race, age, and income) in explaining why some people become delinquent and others do not.  If place is very important in determining who becomes delinquent, then people from impoverished areas will be more likely to become delinquent simply because of the fact that they live in poor areas.

Social disorganization theory holds that poorer areas of cities generally have a variety of characteristics that make people in those areas more likely to become delinquent.  For example, such areas will generally have a large proportion of single-parent households.  There will not be many activities that are supervised by authority figures.  These sorts of things will mean that there will be fewer ties between members of the community.  In this sense, the community is not organized.  Without organization, the community is less able to exert any control over its youths.

This is why people from impoverished areas are more likely to end up as delinquents.  They live in areas that tend to lack structure.  Because there is little structure and organization, it is more likely that people will wind up as delinquents.

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