Mean Streets: The Theoretical Significance of Situational Delinquency Among Homeless Youths

by Bill McCarthy, John Hagan
American Journal of Sociology ()


Contemporary sociological theories of delinquency emphasize background and developmental factors while neglecting adverse situational conditions. This study uses data from youths on the street and in school to test an integration of strain and control theories that spans background and situational factors. After background and street exposure variables are controlled for and after school and street samples are combined, there is consistent evidence of the effects of adverse situational conditions: hunger causes theft of food, problems of hunger and shelter lead to serious theft, and problems with unemployment and shelter produce prostitution. These findings broaden and increas theoretical understandings of street life and crime.

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