Attribution Theory Juvenile Delinquency and Gangsterism Research Proposal

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Attribution Theory

Juvenile delinquency and gangsterism has been a serious problem, and continues to be so in schools today. It appears that pressures in their social and academic world simply overwhelm some young people, who then succumb to this. Various remedies have been implemented and suggested to mitigate this phenomenon in the world of young people. Some have suggested after-school programs to help young persons use their time constructively, while others believe that more severe treatment, such as juvenile detention facilities, is in order.

Concomitantly, various reasons have been suggested to be at the heart of the Juvenile delinquency issue. Studies appear to suggest a combination of various factors, of which peer pressure is the most significant. In addition, blame for the phenomenon has been laid at the doors of difficult home circumstances, poverty, social instability, academic performance, and even genetic traits. Few studies have however attempted to find the heart of the answer by applying attribution theory.

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Attribution theory is mainly concerned with cause and effect in human behavior. The intention to commit crime is the result of a thought process, which in turn is the result of either external or internal stimuli. The outcome is delinquent behavior. Applying attribution theory to the problem will help to obtain a more global view of the problem from the viewpoint of all the persons involved.

Research Proposal on Attribution Theory Juvenile Delinquency and Gangsterism Has Assignment

It is therefore suggested that the problem be researched by means of questioning those who have been involved in juvenile delinquency, their parents, their friends and teachers. The findings from such questions can then be compared to interviews conducted with those not involved in juvenile delinquency. Such comparative studies will be valuable in obtaining various perceptions of the problem from those experiencing it on both an internal and external level.


While there is not much literature available on juvenile delinquency in combination with attribution theory, the two constructs themselves are thoroughly considered by various authors. In order to form a basis for the study, three works that respectively consider the issues underlying criminal activity, juvenile delinquency, and attribution theory, have been selected to inform the study.

Hannah L. Wiener (2009) for example provides a thorough discussion of how attribution theory applies to criminal activity as well as the perception of liability. According to the author, attribution theory can be viewed in terms of three divisions; locus, stability, and controllability. In addition, she also addresses the issue of emotion, as well as how guilt and anger influence various perceptions of criminal activity and liability.

Specifically, locus is referred to as the first causal dimension, and ascribes behavior to either an internal or external cause (Wiener, 2009, p.5). Although Wiener's writing relates to civil liability, it can also apply to delinquency; when an act of delinquency is perpetrated, the individual may feel a sense of personal accomplishment or indeed shame, according to his or her social connections. These feelings may in turn be externally validated in terms of punishment by guardians or praise by peers. The locus then mainly concerns the consequences of the act, and in many cases the emotions that are related to these consequences.

The second causal dimension is stability. This means that causal ascriptions may be either stable or unstable, which in turn will influence the individual's future expectations an shape his or her behavior accordingly. A positive outcome such as peer group praise as a result of a stable cause such as petty crime will for example encourage similar behavior to perpetuate the pleasant outcome.

The third causal dimension is controllability. This relates to responsibility and free will. Despite peer group pressure and other problems such as difficult personal circumstances, the person engaging in juvenile delinquency has the ability to choose a more constructive path. It is on this basis that many programs and counseling sessions operate. This concept of relative free will is also a cause for volatile emotion such as anger within those who suffered damage at the hands of young individuals. This anger is then a negative and external factor that may or may not influence future behavior, depending upon its severity and the strength of positive outcomes. The author points out that intent forms an important component of controllability (Wiener, 2009, p. 8).

Johnson-Pynn, Fragaszy & Cummins-Sebree (2003) consider attribution theory in terms of comparative study. They for example suggest that the "theory of mind" attributes mental states to others. This concept, in combination to those mentioned above, is very important when applying attribution theory to a study of juvenile delinquency. Specifically, young persons will not only be probed for their perceptions of themselves, but also their perceptions of others. Often, cognitive study tends to focus only on self-perception, while a more balanced view that includes others in the world of the young person is largely discarded as either unimportant or irrelevant. This research will suggest that both the perception of the self and others play a vital role in the study of delinquency.

Also helping to focus the study is Siegel & Welsh's work (2008), which suggests that juvenile delinquency is greatly influenced by external community influences. And indeed, the authors cite research to considerably substantiate this viewpoint (Siegel & Welsh, 2008, p. 350). Specifically, the authors note that the same phenomenon has proved to be present across the world, with studies showing that areas of high social instability tend to house schools with a high delinquency factor. In order to better understand this phenomenon, as mentioned above, it is suggested that individuals and groups be approached to investigate causes, perceptions and motivations on a multi-dimensional scale, as suggested by attribution theory.


Field research will be conducted via interviews and questionnaires. The primary comparative research group will consist of a number of youths incarcerated at a juvenile detention facility, and group of their peers that are not known for delinquency problems. In addition, other influential persons such as parents, teachers and guardians will be approached for interviews.

In order to preserve the quality of the data gathered, young persons will be provided with questionnaires that they are required to fill in anonymously. They will also be ensured of the confidentiality of their data. The questionnaires will consist of simple, multiple choice questions, where respondents simply answer by selecting the choice that applies. The questions will basically concern their perception of delinquency, and their motivation or lack thereof to participate in such activities. In addition, they will be asked how their peers, parents and teachers view them and their involvement in delinquency, as well as what influence these perceptions have on them. Often, the choices allowed will be as simple as "yes" or "no."

Parents and teachers will be approached for interviews. Because they are more mature, and assumed to be interested in helping their children succeed in life, it is assumed that the answers provided during interviews will be more or less accurate and honest. Both parents and teachers will be asked about their experience of the young people in question, as well as their perception of their children's involvement or lack thereof in criminal activities.

Statistical data will then be organized according to the groups interviewed. Specifically, the interview groups will comprise two groups of teenagers and two groups of adults. The first group of teenagers will be those incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility. The researcher will see them only long enough to explain the questionnaire and its purpose. To preserve their anonymity, questions will not be asked about specific crimes or gangs. The point of interest here is the perception of behavior and its intention.

These questionnaires will then be compared with data gathered from a non-delinquent group of teenagers. Both groups will be asked how others perceive them, including their counterparts in the other group as well as… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Attribution Theory Juvenile Delinquency and Gangsterism.  (2009, October 30).  Retrieved October 20, 2020, from

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"Attribution Theory Juvenile Delinquency and Gangsterism."  30 October 2009.  Web.  20 October 2020. <>.

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"Attribution Theory Juvenile Delinquency and Gangsterism."  October 30, 2009.  Accessed October 20, 2020.