Contemporary Issues in Juvenile Justice


This qualitative descriptive study used Agnew's general strain theory of crime and delinquency as lens through which to interpret the recent developments of juvenile gangs and gang-related activities in Houston, Texas. Agnew strain theory's main prepositions describe: 1) an inability to achieve goals that are valued positively, 2) an absence of positive goals, and 3) a presence of negativity or crime. These were assessed in terms of applicability to joining gangs in Houston. Data were collected by unstructured interviews of city employees who respond to Houston's gangs (e.g., Mayor' Anti-Gang Office staff and Houston Police Department officers), area observations, and a review of city and police documents regarding gang activity in Houston. There appeared to be support for Agnew's assertion that strain precedes much juvenile delinquency.