Self -concept and violent delinquent offenders: An exploratory study of urban African-American adolescent males
African-American adolescent males experience a disproportionate rate of both victimization due to and arrest for violent crime. While legitimate structural correlates of violent behavior have been previously identified, one area that has not been significantly explored involves the mental health status of African-American adolescent males. The research investigates the relationship between positive self-concept---one dimension of mental wellness---and violent delinquency within the group of urban African-American adolescent males. This study addresses two major research questions: (1) How do the major socialization agents (family, peer group, school) influence the formation of either a positive or a negative self-concept of urban African-American male youths? (2) Is there a relationship between the formation of either a positive or a negative self-concept and the commission of violent delinquency by urban African-American male youths? Walter Reckless' (1967) containment theory, which suggests that a positive self-concept will insulate a juvenile from delinquency and crime, serves as the primary theoretical frame of reference to examine the relationship between self-concept and violence in urban African-American adolescent males. A multistage cluster sampling technique was used to select a sample in Washington, D.C., from the public school system, from the juvenile correctional facility, and from a community organization working with "at-risk" youth. The subjects included 155 African-American males aged thirteen to nineteen who completed the Adolescent Life Survey (ALS), developed by the investigator, and the Tennessee Self-Concept Scale (TSCS:2). Quantitative measurements of self-concept, delinquency, and various structural factors have been obtained. In general, the findings fail to support containment theory. However, the study does present new data regarding recidivism as well as serious violent delinquency. Policy implications are discussed.