The subculture of violence and delinquency: Individual vs. school context effects

Richard B. Felson, Allen E. Liska, Scott J. South, Thomas L. Mc Nulty

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176 Scopus citations


This article examines the subculture of violence thesis using data on young males (N = 2, 213) across 87 high schools. Aggregate analyses show that values reflecting a subculture of violence have substantial effects on the level of interpersonal violence among high school boys. Contextual analyses suggest that the school subculture of violence operates through a social control process. A contextual measure of school values regarding violence has a direct effect on interpersonal violence, controlling for individuals’ commitment to these values. These results contradict the usual explanation of how the subculture of violence affects violent behavior. Further, evidence implying that values regarding violence predict other forms of delinquency suggests that the results may reflect a subculture of delinquency rather than a subculture of violence. Finally, young males are most likely to engage in delinquency when they go to schools where academics are valued, controlling for their own academic values.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-173
Number of pages19
JournalSocial Forces
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 1994

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History
  • Anthropology
  • Sociology and Political Science


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