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The stress and suffering of poverty is one of the most specific ways that adolescents are pushed into a life of crime. Desperation, hunger, fractured family and community and being surrounded by despair are common themes in neighborhoods filled with gang activity and crime. "As fear increases, quality of life deteriorates" (Seigel and Welsh, 2016, pp. 103) The chaotic nature of a deteriorating community and desperate people can make living 'by the rules' seem pointless. I had the privilege of meeting some amazing people doing work in the worst parts of inner-city Chicago in recent years. Cru Inner City has partnered with local churches and professionals to make safe places for children to participate in after-school programs, and run day-care centers for young teen mothers while they finish highschool and college(, 2022). These are things that bring hope back to youth, and make a place for them to experience safety from the constant stress of living in unsafe places. 

 Merton's general strain theory presents the idea that strain creates hoplessness in youth. This hopelessness can be seen in inner-city turmoil, as well as in presentation of negative stimuli like internet bullying, child abuse or other victimization(Seigel and Welsh, 2016). The anticipation of strain on youth is also believed to contribute to anti-social ways of coping, and one study suggests that long term fear of victimization and rejection through bullying will push adolescents towards delinquency. However, this same information also shows that social support can weaken the link between adolescent  strain and delinquency. (Stubbs-Richardson and May, 2021) If social and economic support could be offered to youth living under strain, we might see a positive shift downwards in delinquency trends. 


Cru: Inner City Chicago. 2022.

Siegel, L. J., & Welsh, B.C. (2016). Juvenile delinquency: The core. Wadsworth Publishing. 

Stubbs-Richardson, M., & May, D. C. (2021). Social contagion in bullying: An examination of strains and types of bullying victimization in peer networks. American Journal of Criminal Justice : AJCJ, 46(5), 748-769. doi:

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