Resisting Responsibility in the Male Delinquent Subculture
In many societies today, increasingly people find it difficult to take direct responsibility for their deviant behaviors. When the deviant behavior has been legislated against and is defined as delinquent or criminal, people attempt to distance themselves from it and deny they played a part in its inception, execution or outcome. Ironically, this resisting of responsibility is seldom reflected in the media. In movies, television shows and novels, when malfeasance is discovered, the majority of the accused readily admit their wrongdoing through confession and admittance of guilt. As a result, the public feels a sense of satisfaction and a sense of closure. In real life, however, this is another matter. Elected officials, corporate executives, religious figures, community leaders, and private citizens generally deny their involvement in wrongdoing. Regardless of the crime, many defendants claim innocence, even when they are not, thus forcing society to go on the offensive to prove their guilt. It is fashionable, and actually expected by increasingly alienated members of society, to deny the allegations unconditionally, regardless of circumstances. This paper uses a sociological approach combining sociology, psychology and communications to explore the denial of responsibility in a specific population of incarcerated male juvenile delinquents aged 13-18. Each of the 50 boys included in the sample had been adjudicated delinquent; the allegations against him had been sustained. If he had been an adult, in a court of law he would have been found guilty of the charges against him. As the products of a culture that encourages the denial of responsibility, these delinquents are like everyone else; they continue to resist responsibility for their behaviors even while incarcerated. Thus, using qualitative interviews and staff accounts at a placement for delinquent and criminal juveniles, a typology of and various themes in the denial of responsibility are identified and examples of each are provided. Subsequently, four successful institutional techniques for dealing with the denial of responsibility are identified, explained and applied.
Keywords: Juvenile Delinquency, Denial of Responsibility, Guided Group Interaction, Delinquent Subcultures, Qualitative Research
Dr. Sharon Kantorowski Davis
Professor of Sociology and Department Chair, Dept of Sociology & Anthropology, University of La Verne