By Appreciable Goodfaithpoet
This paper is about the risk and protective factors that are provided for adolescents by the neighborhoods in which they live. I will examine the influence of social exclusion on delinquent behavior. I will define what a neighborhood is. I will then examine the Ecological level influences from the individual perceptions of young people about their neighborhood, to the geographic influence of the global neighborhood, global inequality and the need for effective government leadership in our world.
Wherever there are neighborhoods that have a sense of cohesion and common identity because they have a very large majority of one religion, (In Utah “Mormons” and in other states “Catholics” or “Evangelical Christians” etc.) who believe that they belong to the "one true religion." Sometimes there are two communities that form as a result, the "believer" community and the "non-believer" community. Children who are not of the majority denomination are often rejected and do not have playmates because some parents teach their children not to play with the "non-believers."
The neighborhood environment that exists in each unique neighborhood is a very important factor in helping young people stay away from risky delinquent behavior. These neighborhoods are where young people develop from infancy through to emerging adulthood. These neighborhoods contain many other influences including parental, religious and public educational sources and contributions.
In order to define deviance we must first identify the established norms and expectation of the group in which the activity is taking place. If the majority of people are behaving in a similar way, it is not technically deviant behavior. This makes delinquent behavior a matter of geographic location and historical setting. Even if a behavior is participated in only by a minority, it must still be socially challenged and condemned if it is to be characterized as deviant behavior.
Social exclusion can take place in any community. There are several mechanisms that produce social exclusion in a community. These mechanisms can deny young people the opportunity to feel like a part of the community as a whole.
One way that teenagers mark themselves as “superior” is by excluding others who they perceive as “inferior.” Adolescents become well practiced in the art of exclusion. (Summarized from- Giddens, Anthony, et al. Introduction to Sociology, Sixth Edition, pp. 247)
Lets begin by asking some basic questions; how does the neighborhood in which a young person lives, affect their level of risk for delinquent behavior? What impact does social exclusion have on the level of delinquent behavior that exists in a neighborhood? Or we could ask an even more basic question; what is a neighborhood?
Local Communities are areas that develop naturally as a result of business and residential forces. Business and residential interests compete for land as population groups seek affordable housing. A neighborhood is a smaller portion of the overall community and is a collection of people and institutions that are contained in the same geographic location which is influenced by ecological, cultural, and sometimes political forces. (Summarized from- Park R. 1916. Suggestions for the investigations of human behavior in the urban environment. Am. J. Sociol. 20: pp. 147-154)
Defining the influence of a specific neighborhood is somewhat like defining a family system. If we observe several genograms produced by members of the same family we will see a different interpretation of the relationships of each family member toward the other. The only way for an outside observer to accurately identify the relationship patterns is either to observe the behavior of the family directly or to look at all of the genograms and find the places they agree most often to identify the most accurate reality of that particular family system.
Neighborhoods are difficult things to define and most studies must only look at only one point in time with cross-sectional research. Neighborhoods are not static places and are affected by families moving in and out, the process of aging, institutional resources, friendships, and current norms, which all add up to the collective efficacy of the neighborhood system. U.S. census data does not provide us with enough information about each neighborhood; we must also use systematic social observations by trained observers who use an adequate format to categorize neighborhoods along a range of social and physical attributes. (Summarized from-Tama Leventhal and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn “Children and Youth in Neighborhood Contexts” in Current Directions in Psychological Science. Volume 12, Number 1, February 2003 pp. 30)
I want to place my discussion of risk for delinquency based on the influence of a neighborhood in my own life experience; Bountiful, Utah in the year 1990.
I have tried to analyze the research that I have included in this paper to see whether the research has incorporated cultural influences into the studies. Many of my sources come from the discipline of Sociology which has a great history of research and publication of studies on adolescence and emerging adulthood; some of the best studies on the subject of delinquency come from this discipline.
Individual Level Influences
In the article, “The CANEP Scale: Preliminary psychometric findings of a measure of youths’ perception of their neighborhood environment” by Corinna Bisegger and Bernhard Cloetta, they identified a new scale to determine the perception of young people of whether their environment is safe, clean, quiet, and providing opportunities for social contact with peers. This instrument measures the perception of security in the neighborhood. The same living situation does not have the same effect on every individual; phsychological processes such as the perception of the situation or adaptation mechanisms play a very large role in every individual’s quality of life and health.
My perception of the world has been shaped by the experience of being raised in a family that was very religious. Our family belonged to the dominant religion in our community. The following story may quickly and effectively paint the picture for you about my family background. One Sunday, my family of origin was sitting in Church, all ten of us filling up the second row as usual. I was sitting at one end of the bench and my dad was at the other. Being unsupervised as I was, I pulled a few elastics out of my sock, tied them together and began flipping my little sister. My father looked down the row and saw me doing it so he opened up his bible to a certain passage and sent it down the row with the instructions to give it to me. My brothers and sisters, being as they are, took the liberty of reading it as it came to them. When it finally got to me I read it. The scripture was 1 Corinthians 13:11 "When I was a child I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: But when I became a man I put away childish things."
Now, when I read this I stopped... For a while, then I forgot and started again. My father saw that I was doing it again and sent this scripture down the row, my brothers and sisters also read this, Proverbs 15:5 "A fool dispiseth his fathers instruction: but he that regardeth reproof is prudent."
Now, I am no match for my father's wisdom in things dealing with scriptures, but this time I thought that I had him. I sent up Matthew Chapter 5 verse 22. The last sentence states, "whosoever shall say thou fool shall be in danger of hell fire." But, my dad proving again his superior knowledge sent back down Exodus 21:17 "And he that curseth his father or his mother, shall be surely put to death." After I read that, the problem was solved.
Adolescents’ perceptions are dependant upon more that their social support measures. When we examine Individual support experiences, it can help us to understand the social environment aspect of loneliness. Perception of the wider context which surrounds individual experience is very significant. We must use ecological models in our search for understanding the adolescent development process. The length of time that young people have lived in a community has a significant impact on their sense of community. When young people arrive in a community they may seldom think about their neighbors, however, after they have been there awhile they have a different feeling when they are around their own block as opposed to elsewhere in the city. Young people can even get to the point that they feel comfortable knocking on a stranger’s door in their community if they needed assistance. (Summarized from- Grace M. H. Pretty Et al. “Exploring Adolescents sense of community and its relationship to loneliness” Journal of Community Psychology Volume 22, October 1994, pp. 355) I am thankful for the experiences that I have had at Weber State University that have helped me to see beyond the majority culture and reach out to “strangers” with sincere brotherhood. I had one of the most powerful experiences while taking the Library Studies Skills Class at Weber State University.
The instructor explained about the rare books collection and then offered to give us the opportunity to look at some of these rare books. I was able to hold in my hands, a very old religious text that is connected with my faith in God. I looked around the room,filled with a desire to share the joy I felt. I then noticed a man who was having the very same experience, as he was reading from an old religious text of a different religion. It was apparent to me that this man was of a religion and nationality different than my own. His eyes met mine, and as we saw the tears in the other persons eyes, he said, “These are beautiful,” as he cradled a book in his hands. “Yes they are”, I agreed.
As I looked into his eyes, I realized that this man was a good and honest man. I realized at the same time, that whatever had moved him to tears must therefore be good as well. These feelings banished any fear, suspicion or prejudice instantly from my heart. I felt a bond of brotherhood with this man.
This shared experience, gave me an appreciation for the things that other people hold sacred. As human beings, we hope and yearn for the same things. On that night, I realized very powerfully that those who hold as sacred, the written words that teach civility and morality, have ever so much in common.
Microsystem Level Influences
“Social capital has grown into an important theoretical concept in the social sciences. Within criminology it has been applied in the framework of social disorganization theory and other theories of social control. However, while adult social capital has received much attention, adolescent social capital, and its possible relationship to offending, has not been studied. This gap in the literature is somewhat surprising since criminologists have recognized adolescents as major agents of crime. Social capital can be transmitted from parents to adolescents. There is a strong correlation between adolescent social capital and Adolescent violence and property offending. Adolescent social capital is strongly associated with offending in early adulthood. The intergenerational transmission of social
capital is an important source of social capital development that influences adolescents’ behaviors for years to come. Parental social capital relates positively to adolescent neighborhood social capital and adolescent school social capital. The relationship between parental social capital and adolescent school social capital is as strong as the one with neighborhood social capital. This suggests that parental social capital transmission teaches adolescents the know-how to accumulate social capital in a number of different environments, not only those safeguarded by parents. The intergenerational transmission of social capital has diametrically opposed effects for violence. While adolescent neighborhood social capital increases violence, social capital in school decreases violent offending. The cause for these opposing relationships is likely the different environmental contexts in which both types of social capital exist. While adolescent neighborhood social capital exists in an environment providing adolescents with unstructured activities, the environment in which adolescent school social capital is developed represents structured activities and, by definition, pro-social value formation. It is likely that young adults in the transitional period between adolescence and adulthood maintain their adolescent social capital networks, leading them to engage in the same offending patterns they displayed in adolescence. Social capital networks, and with them offending patterns, likely shift after the young adults have established themselves in adult life.” (Weiss, Harald E., Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol 69(8-A), 2009. pp. 3342.)
The generous amount of social capital which was available to me in my neighborhood as I was developing is the reason that I was able to feel so much support and warmth. My father had been a leader in the local congregation of our religion and had earned the respect and gratitude of many people. All I had to do to cash in on the social capital of my family was to identify myself as my Father’s son and I was showered with affection and praise.
Mesosystem Level Influences
Conceptual and empirical work on child and adolescent development has clearly shown that the boundaries of developmental context must be pushed beyond the walls of the household in order to help us to understand the importance of the neighborhood context in understanding development. In the African American community especially there has been strong evidence that the positive parenting style and economic success of parents have not been enough to insulate young people from the influence of troubled neighborhoods. Youth who live in inner-city environments have added stressors that are not experienced in other neighborhoods. High neighborhood violence, having to ride the bus or train, high noise levels, may be contributing factors in the increased level of delinquency and deviant behavior among those who live in these environments. Studies have shown that community satisfaction plays a great role in the mental health among rural African Americans. Neighborhoods can serve as either risk or protective factors in the adolescents’ experience of life stress. Because many young people are becoming increasingly autonomous, they spend less time at home or in school and more time in their neighborhood. (Summarized from- Kevin W. Allison, Et al. “Life Experiences among Urban Adolescents: Examining the Role of Context” Child Development, July/ August 1999, Volume 70, Number 4, pp. 1019) “Youth violence is a widespread problem with severe consequences. Excess violence exists in noncohesive impoverished communities. High levels of social disorganization, scarcity of economic opportunities, and low levels of citizen engagement are all known to be community-level risk factors for youth violence. Additionally, because witnessing
violence has been shown to be a risk factor for aggressive behavior in youth, neighborhoods with endemic violence may become vulnerable to developing a cycle of violence.”(Measuring Neighborhood Connection and the Association with Violence in Young Adolescents By Rachel Widome Ph.D) “Extended residence in the neighborhood is likely to increase exposure to, and presumably the influence of, prevailing normative conditions and opportunity structures. Conversely, the educational expectations of more recent entries into the neighborhood are presumably shaped, at least in part, by the characteristics of their previous neighborhood. Thus, according to this perspective, long-term residence will intensify the impact of neighborhood poverty and disadvantage on school dropout. In contrast, the social capital and social control perspectives raise the possibility that the impact of neighborhood socioeconomic distress on school dropout is stronger among short-term than among long-term residents.” (Crowder, Kyle, and Scott J. South “Neighborhood distress and school dropout: the variable significance of community context”) As citizens in our communities follow news stories of horrific crimes in their areas, there is often such a large amount of time between arresting the individuals responsible for the crimes and sentencing them. This unfortunately sends the following message to every citizen; “Don’t worry, if you get caught doing something wrong, our legal system will never get around to punishing you anyway.” Our decision as a nation to be more compassionate toward criminals has only served to increase the amount of criminal behavior and hence, has also increased the amount of injustice and violence toward innocent people that follows such a trend.
Exosystem Level Influences
Police departments that provide good training in dealing with family violence can serve as reliable health sentinels for children exposed to domestic violence crimes. Many police departments have recognized their vital role when they are the first responders to vulnerable populations. This recognition has led to police departments who serve as a public health surveillance system through an effort of Community policing. Community policing is an organization wide philosophy that encourages partnerships and active problem solving through community engagement. This improves the response to families experiencing domestic violence. (Summarized from- “Domestic violence crimes and children: A population-based investigation of direct sensory exposure and the nature of involvement” by Rachel A. Fusco, and John W. Fantuzzo)A process that has worked well in connection with law enforcement in Japan is called reintegrative shaming. This process seeks to involve the community and family directly in the justice system.
“Reintegrative Shaming . . . works as follows. People central to the criminal’s immediate community – such as family members, employers and co-workers, and friends – are brought into court to state their condemnation of the offender’s behavior. At the same time, these people must accept responsibility for reintegrating the offender back into the community. The goal is to rebuild the social bonds of the individual to the community as a means of deterring future criminal conduct.
“. . . it is a familiar practice in other social institutions such as the family. Think of a child who misbehaves. The parent may express disapproval of the child’s behavior and try to make the child feel ashamed of her conduct, but the parent may also reassure the child that she is a loved member of the family.
“These social bonds could also be fostered to increase the power of shame and
reintegrate offenders into local networks of community involvement.” (Introduction to Sociology Sixth Edition by Anthony Giddens, et al. pp. 68) Some young people maintain a reputation in a community as law abiding and good people. However, because of their affluent parents they have access to cars which enable them to commit their delinquent acts in different cities far from the eyes of local policemen. Young men from lower SES backgrounds may actually cause less trouble in a neighborhood but be almost persecuted by the local police department for causing more simlpy because they do not have a vehicle to transport them to distant locations to participate in their delinquent behavior. (Summarized from - Chambliss, William J. “The Saints and the Roughnecks”)
Macrosystem Level Influences
“The transition to adulthood involves risk. Sociologists have focused on the question of understanding and managing this risk. Much of this research has tried to go beyond family characteristics and examine the possible role of community or neighborhood. There are overwhelming advantages in white suburban middle and upper income neighborhoods. These teenagers and their parents can rely on the social capital of the neighborhood, whereas the teenagers and their parents in the inner cities cannot. Parents in a majority of the suburban neighborhoods in the sample could, in fact, rely on their neighbors to provide a caring and watchful environment for teenagers. The family did not have to operate as a "self-sufficient" entity; it could rely on the neighborhood social capital--built on pre-adolescent neighborhood friendships and on the investment of the neighborhood women and their gendered carework.” (Bould, Sally “Neighborhoods and inequality: The possibilities for successful transition to adulthood.” Sociological studies of children and youth: Vol 9.; pp. 49-66. New York, NY, US: Elsevier Science, 2003. viii, 229 pp.) I love both my neighborhood and America as a whole more than I love any political Party and so I’ll vote for the candidate that will be the best leader for America. I personally worry about the tendency to govern by the lowest common denominator of public morality. We need leaders who have great wisdom, solid integrity and complete honesty. We need leaders who will be champions for families because they know that they are the building blocks of communities. The role of Government is to guarantee freedom, punishing those who are guilty of breaking the law, provide protection against foreign invasion, and to find solutions to the problems in our communities. We cannot ignore problems that prevent families from living in a community with a healthy environment. We need leaders who are full of love for others. Only these leaders can lead others in a cooperative and successful way.
Many candidates and public servants seek to appear to be honest, generous, and caring, without actually being any of those things.
We need leaders who really are commitment to working with everyone to achieve a happy and prosperous national community that will lead this Country toward collective success and the realization of happiness for both individuals and families.
As we look beyond our national neighborhood and examine the global community in which we live, it does not take long to realize that Global Inequality is also complex subject. It is an easy out to simply accept dependency theory and oversimplify the inequality in the world. It seems convenient to accept the view that forces like colonialism are the only reason that some Countries in the Global Community continue to struggle while delinquent behavior runs rampant among their young people.
I have examined the possibility that many of the current theories contain only a part of the truth about this issue. I’ve noticed as I studied a map of rich and poor Countries and also a map of world Hunger, that there seems to be a similarity in the majority of poor and hungry Countries. I noticed that the closer a Country is to the equator the more likely it is to have a high level of poverty and hunger.
Jeffrey Sachs refers to this concept of “technologically disconnected regions.” Mr. Sachs states that these regions are caught in “a poverty trap plagued by tropical infectious disease, low agricultural productivity and environmental degradation – all requiring technology solutions beyond their means.” (Introduction to Sociology Sixth Edition by Anthony Giddens, et al. pp. 285)
Perhaps the negative effects of colonialism find their saddest manifestation in the lives of those who have allowed themselves to be exploited for generations and are no longer able to live happily in either the world of the white land owner or the independent, self-sufficient world of their ancestors. What hope can be found in these neighborhoods where disease and delinquent behavior abound?
Perhaps the most important and vital need in overcoming Global Inequality is the need to help change the hearts and beliefs and capability of those who have been so used and mistreated in this world. Only then, and only using a combination of
approaches through government reform and individual persuasion, will these citizens of the world be able to begin building an economic structure with their great, great grand children in mind.
Summary and Discussion
I agree with those who assert that Governments should never force people to be good. Governments should mainly be in the business of punishing people when they do things that are wrong. Citizens should participate in politics as individuals, and not in affiliation with a religious group as a voting block. There is a need for the separation of the management of church and state.
Imagine that you are the driver in a race and you loose control and spin out on the race track. If you were to regain control one second before impact and were limited to the following three choices, which would you choose? Choice number one would be to turn right and hit the concrete wall and thus destroy your car and die in the process. Choice number two would be to continue straight ahead and hit the end of a metal guard-rail and thus save your own life while destroying your car. Choice number three would be to steer the vehicle left and into the crown of spectators who have gathered to watch the event, thus saving your own life and your car and yet killing six or seven of the fans. What would you decide in the small amount of time that you would have?
Knowing and being connected to those in my community has helped me become willing to die rather than to kill others to preserve my life. I hope that in the future, I will not feel the pressure of time constraints or fall into error because of the terror of experiencing death, if I am ever in such a position and need to make a similar decision. This is the attitude that we must have as we seek to improve the neighborhoods in which we live. There must be determination, courage, and active work motivated by real concern and love for every member of the community regardless of their ethnicity or religious persuasion.
I now view the practices of the most influential group in the community where I grew up differently as I look at these practices using the perspective that I’ve gained during my education. Among the Snomrom uniformity seems to play a large role in their cultural traditions. Harmonious interaction was the goal that led to the code of this group’s traditional worship-day dress. The most interesting manifestation of these rituals is to be found in the powerful cultural and social trends which influence the male practitioners. Social norms require each male to purchase an elaborate and expensive costume made of natural fibers which are dyed to a very dark color. A bib-necklace is also worn over the top of this costume or uniform. If a male wears a different costume to these religious ceremonies he is noticed and extended special warmth and kindness. However, if this male continues wearing non-traditional garb to the religious services, arrangements are made for a used costume of worship-day finery to be provided at no cost to the visitor.
If these gifts are not accepted, the visitor will be treated with suspicion by the frustrated local leadership of the snomrom. This leadership may consider requesting a meeting with the discordant individual about his choice of apparel. The instructions given to these adherents in their sacred books are that no one should be excluded from attending these ceremonies regardless of the composition of their clothing fibers. However, no man, young or old, is encouraged to participate directly in the work of these rituals unless clothed in the appropriate costume, complete with the colorful bib-necklace.
Who are the American Snomrom and where do they live? To answer this question, simply spell Snomrom backward. That is correct! The culture of which I speak, exists among those who are American Mormons like me. Wearing a suit and tie to church on Sundays, is a strange tradition from the perspective of many of those who live in different parts of the world. (In the above section, I borrowed heavily from the Ideas of Horace Miner as found in “Introduction to Sociology Sixth Edition” by Anthony Giddens, et al. pp. 68)
As long as any Church members cherish the idea that they are superior, then that belief may well result in prejudice toward others. Even the mildest for of discrimination is out of line with the teachings of Jesus. One convert believed that he had not been valiant enough to have been born into the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day saints. He said that he did not mind but that he was glad that he was a member at all. Some LDS people seem to believe that there is a specific hierarchy of spiritual talent that existed before we came to this earth life and that it carries over into the mortal sphere. The highest responsibilities would belong to those born into the homes of those who were already members of the Church of Jesus Christ; following close behind would be converts to the LDS Church; in last place straggled all of the non-Mormons. (Summarized from- “Beached on the Wasatch front” - by Karen Margaruet Maloney from Dialogue a Journal of Mormon Thought. pp. 103)
The kind people in the neighborhood where I grew up taught me that I am a child of God. I was treated with warmth and kindness. I was taught by the example of those in the neighborhood that the most important things I could become in my life are a husband and a Father. However, I have realized that they may have done this only because I was one of them.
It is easy to overlook the difficult situations that some have faced when they are not raised in an area where their family is a part of the dominant cultural or religious tradition. If someone was not of the LDS faith and grew up in Bountiful Utah in 1990, they may have had a different experience entirely. I have been able to realize that I grew up in a community that had a long list of things that were deviant behaviors, drinking Coca-Cola, saying swear words, and listening to music the featured electric guitars as an instrument. I have talked with people who lived in our community while they were growing up and heard their stories about the fact that neighborhood children were told not to play with them because they were not LDS. I may not be able to change every community or neighborhood but I can change the way I view my neighbors and reach out in love and brotherhood as we seek to solve the problem of delinquent behavior in our community together.
Corinna Bisegger and Bernhard Cloetta “The CANEP Scale: Preliminary psychometric findings of a measure of youths’ perception of their neighborhood environment”
Giddens, Anthony, et al. “Introduction to Sociology, Sixth Edition”, pp. 68, 247, 285
Park R. 1916. Suggestions for the investigations of human behavior in the urban environment. Am. J. Sociol. 20: pp. 147-154
Tama Leventhal and Jeanne Brooks-Gunn “Children and Youth in Neighborhood Contexts” in Current Directions in Psychological Science. Volume 12, Number 1, February 2003 pp. 30
Maloney, Karen M. “Beached on the Wasatch front” published in “Dialogue a Journal of Mormon Thought.” pp. 103
Grace M. H. Pretty Et al. “Exploring Adolescents sense of community and its relationship to loneliness” Journal of Community Psychology Volume 22, October 1994, pp. 355
Weiss, Harald E., Dissertation Abstracts International Section A: Humanities and Social Sciences, Vol 69(8-A), 2009. pp. 3342.
Allison, Kevin W., Et al. “Life Experiences among Urban Adolescents: Examining the Role of Context” Child Development, July/ August 1999, Volume 70, Number 4, pp. 1019
Fusco, Rachel A., and John W. Fantuzzo “Domestic violence crimes and children: A population-based investigation of direct sensory exposure and the nature of involvement”
Widome, Rachel Ph.D “Measuring Neighborhood Connection and the Association with Violence in Young Adolescents.”
Crowder, Kyle, and Scott J. South “Neighborhood distress and school dropout: the variable significance of community context”
Chambliss, William J. “The Saints and the Roughnecks”