This paper investigates the issue of school violence in low-economic urban areas as it pertains to general strain theory. Recent school shootings such as the incident at Columbine High School, although traumatic, are relatively infrequent when compared to national statistics of urban school violence. Psychoanalytic and personality theories best explain school massacres, which are beyond the scope of this paper. An increase in the severity of school violence over the past few years is due to the socialization of guns into urban culture. Research supports evidence that schools located in low-economic urban areas generate weapon-related violence (She ley, McGee, & Wright, 1995; Metropolitan Life Insurance, 1993; Ringwalt, Messerschmidt, Graham & Collins, 1992; Gottfredson and Gottfredson, 1985).
Agnew (1999) suggests that, “high-crime communities are more likely to select and retain strained individuals, produce strain and foster criminal responses to strain” (p.
An increased level of violence in urban schools is a reflection of neighborhood violence. The cycle of fear created by violence socializes many young males to carry guns for either protection or to increase self-esteem. Agnew’s (1999) general strain theory explains possible relationships between school violence and socioeconomic stressors. Principles of general strain theory include discrepancy between immediate or future goals and methods to achieve these goals. This discrepancy may be due to blocked opportunities or inadequate skills and abilities.
Violence in Schools Violence among youth, especially in schools, is one of American society's most pressing concerns. It is also a source of controversy. While no recent nationwide study of the real extent of youth violence is available, small-scale and regional studies indicate that youth violence is increasing, at least slightly. In addition, youth, like adults, are now more frequently using ...
Constant exposure to adverse situations (e. g. , drive by shootings, fear of victimization) creates tension, especially in adolescents who cannot escape the stressors of low-income neighborhoods and negative family environments. Finally, the loss of positively valued stimuli, such as the loss of a girlfriend, death of a loved one, or loss of self-esteem can result in a nomic behaviors. There are two paths that bring guns into the hands of adolescents.
Youth are either legally socialized into gun ownership by parents or illegally socialized by family, peers, and gang members. The Rochester Youth Development Study (OJJDP, 2001) is a ten-year longitudinal study of the development of delinquent behavior and the relationship of increased gun violence. The study compared boys who owned guns for protection (n = 40) with boys who owned guns for sport (n = 27).
Sixty-seven percent of the boys who owned guns for protection reported involvement in street crimes, 55% reported gang related activities, and 32% reported selling drugs. Those boys who owned guns for sport had no statistical differences in crime than those boys who did not have access to guns. Those boys who own guns for socially approved reasons (such as hunting or target shooting) do not increase the risk of violent crime in the general population.
Youths who are socialized in to illegal gun ownership on the street, increase the risk that those guns will be used for criminal activities. This street socialization into illegal gun ownership correlates with living in impoverished inner-city communities in which economic survival depends on illegal activity. General strain theory explains the increase of violence as more males from low-income neighborhoods turn to gangs and drug trafficking for economic sustenance. Increased incidences of gang related activity in urban neighborhoods contributes to adolescent attitudes that poverty is escaped through illegal activities (OJJDP, 2001).
Gangs in schools can have a huge impact on students and their education. If gangs in schools are a large problem many kids may be afraid to attend school. Gangs can put a lot of fear into kids, causing lack of concentration in school because children hear all the bad events that gangs do, like killing and hurting people. In school, gang members intimidate other kids just because they are in a ...
Urban youths find themselves inundated by a culture that stresses economic success; however, they lack legitimate means to prosperity. A common characteristic among young males in low-economic communities is to achieve status or respect by displaying material possession and demonstrating a tough demeanor.
Individuals who lack material possessions may take them from others, or “campaign for respect” by verbally and physically abusing others (Agnew, 1999).
Youths not directly involved in gang related activities are indirectly affected by the need to carry guns for fear of criminal victimization. Blumstein (1994) posits a “diffusion” hypothesis to explain the cycle of fear perpetuated by the drug culture. Juveniles involved in drug trafficking carry guns for self-protection. In turn, other young people acquire guns to protect themselves from drug-involved gun carrying youths.
This fear that young people experience is not a feeling that they can simply disregard when they enter school grounds. Thus, the culture of fear, which originates in urban communities, disseminates into schools. The Louis Harris Poll (1993) showed that 35% of children age 6-12 fear that their lives will end in gun violence. Youths who interpret school environments as antagonistic and dangerous react by carrying guns to school for self-protection. The majority of school violence may be related to problems of interpersonal conflicts. Maze rolle, Burton, and Cullen (2000) studied the relationship between exposure to strain, anger, and delinquent behavior in relation to violence, drug use, and school-related deviance.
They reported that strain had a direct effect on adolescent violence, but was not directly related to drug use or school-related deviance. This theory coincides with a report by Block and Block (1995) that found that in Chicago only 3% of gang shootings were drug related. Instead, the majority of gang shootings relate to “assaultive behavior, gang rivalries, or reactions to status threats” (p. 8-9).
Preservation of the 2 nd Amendment When our forefathers sat down to write the bill of rights they made ten basic rules or freedoms that all Americans are entitled to. For hundreds of years no one has questioned any of those freedoms, that is until recent years. The second amendment gives Americans the right to bear arms. The purpose of this amendment is to be able to form a militia in order to be ...
This research relates to Agnew’s third tenet of strain theory, which states that deviance producing strain involves loss of positively valued stimuli. Agnew referred to examples of strain such as the loss of a loved one (Agnew, 1999).
However, the loss of one’s self-esteem or “losing face” can be equally traumatic to young people (Anderson, 1994; Elliot, 1994).
Guns are a powerful method to ensure respect and compliance from other youth. The result is that school disputes, previously settled by fist fighting, now have the potential to end in gun violence. General strain theory states that crime is a function of disjuncture between valued cultural ends and legitimate means. As a result, individuals in low-economic urban areas have reacted by creating illegal alternatives to escape poverty. Attitudes that illegal activities are the only way to escape poverty have filtered down to youths and schools, either directly by drug activity or indirectly by fear of victimization.
Agnew’s general strain theory explains the problems that create disjuncture; however the solutions are deeply rooted in changing cultural practices of racial discrimination. References Agnew, R. (1999).
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