Discovering disorder: young people and delinquency
Discovering disorder: young people and delinquency

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Discovering disorder: young people and delinquency

1 Discovering disorder: young people and delinquency

The problems of social order and disorder appear in many forms – from rudeness to violence; from bullying to civil war. The history of the UK is full of threats and dire warnings that the social order is breaking down – from people stealing the king’s firewood to internet abuse. Order appears to be haunted by the threat of disorder.

In this course, we are going to examine one very visible aspect of the relationship between order and disorder by exploring how social scientists have addressed disorderly behaviour by young people. Of course, social scientists’ interest in youthful misbehaviour reflects anxieties and concerns of the wider society, which as the quotations in Activity 1 suggest, is a recurring concern.

Activity 1

As you read the quotations below, can you tell when and where they were written?

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. Socrates, the Athenian philosopher, writing around 400 BC

  2. The Daily Post on 29 May 2013

  3. Sir Keith Joseph Member of Parliament (MP) in 1977

  4. The Daily Graphic, 25 August 1898

  • a.Yobs destroy children’s scarecrows in ‘mindless wrecking rampage’

  • b.The young people of today … have bad manners, they scoff at authority and lack respect for their elders. Children nowadays are real tyrants … they contradict their parents … they tyrannise their teachers

  • c.A gang of roughs, who were parading along the roadway, shouting obscene language … and pushing respectable people down

  • d.For the first time since … Robert Peel set up the Metropolitan police, areas of our cities are becoming unsafe for peaceful citizens by night, and some even by day

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = b
  • 2 = a
  • 3 = d
  • 4 = c


The first quotation is usually attributed to Socrates, the Athenian philosopher writing around 400 BC. The second quotation is contemporary, from the Daily Post on 29 May 2013 (Williams, 2013). The third quotation is from Sir Keith Joseph Member of Parliament (MP) in 1977 and the fourth quotation is from The Daily Graphic, 25 August 1898 (both are quoted in Pearson, 1983, pp. 4–5). Together they suggest that some of the same concerns about youthful behaviour are evident from the time of the Ancient Greeks to today.


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