Gluecks' Theory of Juvenile Delinquency

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  • 0:03 Juvenile Delinquency: Theories
  • 0:21 Gluecks' Theory
  • 0:57 Biological Factors
  • 1:58 Environmental Factors
  • 2:31 Social Prediction Table
  • 3:32 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Vericia Miller
In this lesson, you'll learn about the Gluecks' theory of juvenile delinquency. We'll discuss their groundbreaking study and which factors can best predict juvenile delinquency.

Juvenile Delinquency: Theories

There are many theories out there that attempt to explain juvenile delinquency and help us make sense of what would otherwise be complex behavior. Sociologists, psychologists, doctors, social workers, and others often use theories in order to be more effective professionals in addressing social problems.

Gluecks' Theory

Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck, a husband and wife team, were Harvard University professors and researchers who spent over 30 years researching criminal behavior among adults and youth. Over their 30-year tenure as criminologists, they studied hundreds of youth to determine the causes of delinquent behaviors. According to the Gluecks, there were several biological and environmental factors that contribute to delinquent behavior. However, the Gluecks wanted to dispel certain beliefs associated with biological and environmental theories by honing in on the importance of taking both into account.

Biological Factors

During the early to mid-20th century, biological theories about juvenile delinquency predominated and emphasized that genetics and heredity played the largest role in criminal behavior. Genetically inherited traits can include both personality and physical characteristics. Proponents of biological theories believe that people with certain body types or physical characteristics are more likely to be aggressive criminals.

For example, a mesomorph is a lean person with a muscular, strong build, while an endomorph is a large person with more body fat than muscle. Based on their research, the Gluecks believed that mesomorphs were more likely to engage in crime than endomorphs.

However, they did not limit their explanations of juvenile delinquency to biological factors. The best way to determine delinquency is to study both biological and environmental factors. And, it's important to note that biological theories began to lose favor in the mid-20th century due to their racial undertones.

Environmental Factors

Based on the Gluecks' theory, juvenile delinquents can be genetically predisposed to certain behaviors, but their environments can trigger these behaviors. For example, a young boy may have a short temper just like his father, but that doesn't necessarily mean he'll ever be charged with assault. But if this same young boy regularly witnesses his father beating his mother, the likelihood is much greater. Not only does the boy have a bad temper, but is also more likely to follow his father's example of solving problems with violence.

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