Due to its complex nature incorporating social, psychological, biological, and other factors, the problem of juvenile delinquency needs to be addressed from several perspectives, the social one being the critical component of a comprehensive analysis. Combined with economic and financial issues, social stereotypes and prejudices often serve as roadblocks to the successful development of an individual.
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Popular art, particularly, music, tends to reflect the specified issue quite clearly by hinting at the difficulties that disadvantaged youth may face and the attitude that they develop in order to cope with these issues. Based on the analysis of five songs addressing juvenile crime, the lack of economic and social support coupled with the influence of social prejudices make juvenile delinquency in disadvantaged and poverty-stricken households highly probable.
Social factors represent the strongest influence in the aggravation of juvenile delinquency levels within a society, especially when it takes place in an economically unstable environment. According to Fuller, the notion of juvenile delinquency runs the gamut from a misdemeanor to crimes that are more serious and typically implies the illegal actions committed by an underage person (4). Therefore, it would be reasonable to claim that the subject matter is defined both by the current trends within a society and by the persistent ideas that are intrinsic to a certain environment or epoch.
The band known as the Black Sheep renders the issue of poor family relationships as the risk factor in juvenile delinquency. In their song, the Black Sheep show that the problem of modern juvenile delinquency can be ascribed to the unhealthy relationships within a family and the presence of poor role models for young people. Particularly, the artists state: “My real pops was a pusher, when we left he had a section/So I keep it in the family, or at least I make connection” (The Black Sheep). The specified lyrics are especially indicative of how family-related factors affect the rates of juvenile crime, with the lack of positive parent figures being viewed as one of the major problems.
The song is indicative of the issues that typically lead to the aggravation of the juvenile crime rates within a community. For instance, the issues associated with the problem of poor parenting are addressed in a very direct fashion. The rapper does not shy away from the social factors that have shaped his lead character’s current perspective on social relationships and his role in them. The song renders the problem of poverty and the necessity to resort to criminal activities as the only viable solution to the absence of financial resources that are required to sustain the family.
The identified issue is linked directly to the problem of juvenile crime mentioned by Fuller (251). Particularly, the author specifies that the emergence of delinquent behaviors among young people should be traced back directly to the role models with which they are provided in the setting of their own homes (Fuller 250).
For instance, Fuller argues that the family as “the most basic institution” defines one’s perception of one’s role within a community and allows one to shape one’s core values and behaviors (250). The song, in turn, shows that the lead character has no positive role models in his family whatsoever. Furthermore, the tragedy of the described situation lies in the distorted perception of the narrator, who views the identified scenario as part and parcel of his reality and cannot conceive the absurdity thereof.
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The idea of a dysfunctional family as a perfect environment for the development of delinquent behaviors among young people is a common theme in numerous popular songs. The observed trend is particularly characteristic of the rap genre, which tackles a vast range of social issues. The concerns similar to those voiced in the Black Sheep’s song are also rendered in Biz Markie’s song titled “Buck Wild.”
For example, one should consider the line “Hey I’d like to tell you a little story/About my man named dee/Yo, even from when he was little/He was like kinda on a tough tip” (Biz Markie). The specified quote correlates directly with the problem of poor parenting mentioned by Fuller, who explains that poverty has a direct effect on the propensity among young people to succumb to crime (122). Therefore, to manage the issue of juvenile delinquency as a phenomenon, one should start with improving the family environment in which young people live.
In addition, Biz Markie’s song could also be linked to the problem of societal norms and education. The lack of social perspective and support from school authorities for children from socially disadvantaged families is truly alarming. The specified concern is expressed in Biz Markie’s song: “It wasn’t that he was dumb, he just thought he was too cool/Cause all the moneymakers and the big-time crooks/He never ever seen none of them carryin books/ He’d rather run the block and watch the hustlers play” (Biz Markie). The phenomenon that the rapper addresses is a direct response to the analysis of the problem from Fuller’s perspective: “Although local control is a deeply held value, it sometimes results in disparities in school quality” (Fuller 286). The resulting lack in the support of educators causes young people to seek the assistance of criminal authorities and become a part of a gang.
The specified concern is linked closely to the inherent problems with the school curriculum and the disconnection between social norms and school standards. While the particular gap is quite natural, the fact that it is neither addressed not acknowledged in the school setting may send a wrong message to students, thus encouraging them to abandon the values that they are taught at schools. As a result, the inconsistent control together with the lack of safety at school stimulates students to abandon the social values and norms that teachers and parents promote to them, at the same time accepting the gang philosophy and mentality.
Teenage rebellion is a critical stage in the development of a child, and parental support along with professional guidance are strongly required to assist a child in their process of maturing. However, when left unattended, the described process reinforced by the willingness to take risks that is typical for the specified stage is likely to lead to drastic outcomes. The described observations align perfectly with the ideas expressed by Fuller (128). Specifically, they show that deviant behavior is distorted to an extent where it becomes uncontrollable when exposed to social factors such as prejudices, poverty, and social violence.
Misdirected social values and increased violence as a juvenile delinquency issue is explored in Third Eye Blind’s song, Slow Motions. In it, the singer says “See my neighbor’s beating his wife/Because he hates his life” (Third Eye Blind). These lyrics provide a vivid description of a young person describing yet another social taboo within his world. Fuller explains that, when facing obstacles constantly, a teenager is likely to take their rebellion to the extreme, becoming especially susceptible to a rapid change in social values: “Antisocial parents are poor role models” (Fuller 272). The destructive effects of aggression and the transgression of social taboos that it entails are depicted quite vividly in the lyrics cited above.
The identified concern is connected to the problem of teenage rebellion, which enables young people to form gangs as the means of challenging societal norms and taboos. As Fuller explains, “The loyalty that some youngsters have toward their gang is remarkable because the kid are willing to give up so much to be considered a respectable gang member” (Fuller 323). In their endeavor at seeking the support of an authority, at the same time pushing the social boundaries, children resort to becoming a part of a gang, which, later on, may lead to involvement in a crime.
Misdirected social values and increased violence as a juvenile delinquency issue is explored in Third Eye Blind’s song, Slow Motions. In it, the singer says “See my neighbor’s beating his wife/Because he hates his life” (Third Eye Blind). These lyrics provide a vivid description of a young person telling about yet another social taboo within his world.
The issue of victimization as a factor that plays an essential part in the emergence of juvenile delinquency as a phenomenon also deserves a mention. Due to the fear of being accused of a specific crime, such as purchasing illegal substances, young people are very hesitant to report the instances of juvenile crime: “One element of the dark figure of crime is unreported crime” (Fuller 15). Thus, people succumb to the patterns of behavior that leave them with no other choice but to join a gang and participate in illegal activities.
A well-known Tupac song outlines the failure of the justice system and the conundrum of the modern society by stating that legal authorities do not provide the support needed for preventing juvenile crime. Specifically, Tupac responded to the issue emotionally: “I want motherf***in’ police trying to pull n****s over on this one” (Tupac). The indicated excerpt also addresses the problem of racial profiling and the effects that it has on criminal delinquency.
The passage provided above displays the true nature of juvenile delinquency as a phenomenon. Specifically, Tupac makes it abundantly clear that the problem of high crime rates among young people of poor socioeconomic background is linked directly to the established justice system and, particularly, the intrinsic flaws thereof (Fuller 16). For example, the drastic lack of trust between the community and the law enforcement authorities that are expected to protect the specified vulnerable population aggravates the situation. The song portrays the police as corrupt and biased, thus creating the sense of despair and the lack of options for young people to pursue. Therefore, “Thug Style” proves that, for the young people of a particular social caste, there are no other options except the titular lifestyle.
The fact that the society that allows juvenile crime to exist represents a machine that one cannot escape and that makes one succumb to crime since the young age is also rendered in other popular songs. Specifically, Virgin Steele states that the issue of juvenile delinquency has reached a drastic scale: “Prime time, teenage crime/Too many 12 year olds doing time” (Virgin Steele). However, in his song, the singer also made recourse to the problem of parenting and the lack of role models for children and adolescents in economically unstable communities.
The artist names the problem explicitly: “Quick to smile juvenile/Was a problem child/Try to put me in the courts/But my force was wild” (Tupac). Thus, the song indicates that the issue of victimization exists, yet it should not be regarded as the tool for transferring the blame for juvenile delinquency to children and their parents entirely. Instead, the issue should be analyzed as a combination of several forces that shape people’s behavior and choices in disadvantaged communities.
Similarly, the issue of young delinquents’ rights also affects the problem of juvenile crime. In Virgin Steels’ song, the specified problem is rendered very clearly: “Can anyone tell me where is home!!! (where is it)” (Virgin Steele). The rapper emphasizes the necessity to provide young people with their rights even in the scenario in which they are seen as criminals. In particular, the neglect of the Miranda right as a critical issue in the modern environment has to be managed.
Likewise, the needs of prisoners, starting from the basic rights for human decency and proper conditions, which are violated in crowded jails, have to be addressed (Fuller 467). Therefore, the issue regarding equality and fairness in treating young delinquents is a critical problem.
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Due to the strong impact of social prejudices and economic constraints, young people tend to succumb to negative influences and choose the roles that the society foists on them, as the lyrics to popular songs indicate. The analysis of five songs has shown that the pressure of family issues, social, and economic factors, such as poverty, unavailability of proper education, and other social constraints, affects disadvantaged young people extensively.
The observed problems hinder vulnerable groups from receiving opportunities for personal development. As a result, the target population becomes especially prone to the influence of societal prejudice. Furthermore, one accepts the mentality that encourages them to become members of a gang: “Like a ball on the green, giving strokes with my team” (The Black Sheep). Consequently, the levels of juvenile delinquency and the following increase in juvenile crime rise consistently.
Biz Markie. “Buck Wild.” YouTube, uploaded by lee allen. 2011. Web.
The Black Sheep. “Autobiographical.” YouTube, uploaded by TrueOGpimp. 2010. Web.
Fuller, John Randolph. Juvenile Delinquency: Mainstream and Crosscurrents. 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2016.
Third Eye Blind. “Slow Motions.” YouTube, uploaded by lksldsdsdlsdgs. 2009. Web.
Tupac, Shakur. “Thug Style.” YouTube, uploaded by izelkay. 2009. Web.
Virgin Steele. “The Final Days.” YouTube, uploaded by VirginSteele82. Web.