Culture, Peers and Delinquency, edited by Clifford R. O'Donnell, Binghamton, NY, Haworth Press, 2003, 87 pp., $24.95.
Culture, Peers and Delinquency gives us an expansive look at the potential ways in which culture affects teens and their decisions. This collection of five essays gives readers insight into how traditional cultural values can have surprising correlation with teen behavior patterns, specifically in regards to how and why teens turn to drugs, violence, and elopement.
In the first essay Joie Acosta postulates that the strength of the association between a teen and their traditional culture in fact does not correlate with or predict this teen's risk for delinquency. She gathers her data using questionnaires, arrest rates, and interviews with Honolulu youth broken down into four main cultural types. Her data, though limited, do suggest a novel, ubiquitous "youth culture" that may be a better predictor of teen delinquency than their own cultural background.
In the next essay Yuko Yamapriya gathers interesting data on Japanese youth and their delinquency trends from 1970s to the present. She points out that there is an increasing attachment to school and work for Japanese youth and adults, and the bond to the family is weakening. Failure to make this attachment to school or a job secondary to learning, developmental, or social issues often hastens delinquency. She provides a very detailed look at what some Japanese youths face in ijime, or bullying, and how to some it is better to be bullied than to be alone.
In the next essay Nghi Dong Thai focuses on Vietnamese gang members living in Honolulu and how these youths are fostered into delinquency by peer associations. The author notes a lack of correlation between delinquency and neighborhood of rearing, single-parent home, or academic achievement.
Rene Galbavy elucidates unique data in her paper using interviews of 20 incarcerated females on how their relationships with other females affected their choices. She found that among these youths there was little to no impact of peer relationships on their decisions to commit crimes and that, when asked, traditional punishment is not a deterrent to committing crime. She extrapolates her data to suggest that youth justice should be gender-specific with a family-based approach for females and a peer-based approach for males.
Finally the editor, Clifford O'Donnell finds that his community-peer model of interaction can be appropriately mapped to male delinquents. He postulates that environmental variables determine delinquency. He goes on to discuss assessment, prevention, and intervention with this group.
This collection of essays has definite value to those who are involved in the juvenile criminal justice system in any way as it provides data and strategies on how to make improvements. Overall it is an interesting and stimulating collection.
Laura J. Cooper, M.D.
Hasbro Children's Hospital
Brown Medical School
Providence, Rhode Island