Criminological Theory: “Code of the Streets”


Elijah Anderson argues in his book of “Codes of the Streets” that most of the youths act inconsistently to the cultures of the streets where they operate. Street culture or “code” prescribe deviants behaviors such as violence reactions towards impersonal attacks and also portray a lack of respect for other people around. Anderson explanations on his book are commendable because he tried to articulate a lot of issues that relates crime within adolescents (Elijah Anderson, 1999). His work is a seminal piece the study of cultural criminology because street oriented cultural deeds have connections criminal offending. Therefore, this article will some of the predictors of crime among the adolescents and outlay some of the theories that explain these predictors. Finally, policies will be put in place to prevent the miseries of criminal acts.

Predictors of Crime or Delinquent Behavior.

It is important to understand the possible cause of crimes to control its re-occurrences. Some factors have been identified as the predictors of crime or delinquency. Five of the factors that are the predictors include; individual factors, family factors, school factors, peer-related factors and community or neighborhood factors.

Individual factors; some of the factors that cause crime are unique to a person because they are features that are only relating a single person at a time. However, the factors always universal in that people experience them at some point in their lives. For instance, an individual’s medical and factors like pregnancy and delivery in women could cause some complications that could result from the trauma that are is mostly predictive of violence. Another factor like low resting heart rate is also another predictor that usually causes fearless temperament that predisposes someone to aggression and violence. Individual factors are factors that are beyond the control of the person who suffers from them. They are factors that happen through natural means. For example, when an individual is either too tall or too short, they have nothing to do to control their situation even if that could be the possible cause source of the feeling of inferiority that could later cause aggression that turns in violent delinquency.

Family factors; some family traits are hereditary in nature; therefore, it has been proved that at some point, parental criminality can be passed from a parent to the offspring. Therefore, whatever goes on within the families is of great impact on the lives of the kids that are being nurtured as new members of culture. Even if it means to punish the children, the parent should do it with limitation as children brought up by either criminal fathers are more likely to commit some sought of violent acts than the ones with noncriminal parents. Another factor that is family related is child maltreatment. Child maltreatment could be physical abuse, neglect, and even sexual assault. Most children turn violent later in life in case they were either physical abused or neglected. Therefore, some of the miseries that parent subject children to when they are still young could be a huge impact in their entire life. These reactions by the children of turning violent later in life after going through the same violence at their younger age is always a way of showing frustration that they were gone through in trying to accept themselves.

School Factors; there are some aspects that are school related that have some impacts on the behaviorism of the school going youths and kids. School related factors could be academic performances, dropping out of school, truancy and having low interest in education can be possible causes of criminal and violent acts. Poor academic performances always have a possible indication of a later delinquency in life. The relationship that exists between poor performances in schools and later forms of delinquency is believed to be stronger in females than in males. Another factor that is a possible predictor of crime in schools is low or lack of bonding to school. Therefore, bonding to schools would be a good protective measure against crime as those students with the high level of bonding are mostly free from criminal acts.

Peer-Related Factors; one of the peer-related factors that are a predictor of crime is the issue of growing and associating with delinquent siblings. Therefore, the relation between delinquent siblings and the likeliness of being convicted of violence later in life seems to be higher than those children that grew up with non-delinquent siblings. Antisocial siblings could have a stronger negative influence on the behavior of their younger siblings that could be observing and imitating their actions. However, an individual could be having non-delinquent siblings but still relate with criminal peers mostly at the adolescents’ stage. Therefore, when a person at the adolescent stage is delinquent, and his peers disapprove his or her delinquency, could end up transforming and abandoning the criminal acts and that who associates with delinquent peers would also indulge in crimes even when he did not grow up with delinquent siblings. Peers can expect either of positive or negative effects. When an individual joins a wrong peer who is violent, he will also become violent when he decides to maintain the peers and also when someone who is already violent could join a peer that does not approve his character. He will be forced to maintain the peers and reform or move away from them for him to continue with his delinquency acts.

Community-Related Factors; some of the community and neighborhood factors that could be predictors of delinquency are poverty, the availability of firearms and drugs, exposure to violence and social prejudice and small or no neighborhood attachments as well as community disorganizations. There could also be laws and norms that are favorable to violence in a community as well as the frequency at which the media portrays the violence that could contribute a higher likelihood of delinquency.

Being raised within an impoverished community can also contribute the occurrence of criminal acts. Families with low income always report a higher level of teen violence. Lack of proper community organizations and neighborhood attachments have also contributed to the existence of delinquency among youths that reside within such communities. It is community disorganizations that contribute to the existence of crimes, gangs, drug-selling and also the presence of inadequate housing. These components of a disorganized community are entirely possible predictors of criminal acts.

Predictors in the Book, “Code of Street.”

The text “Code of Street” addresses a study that Prof. Elijah Anderson conducted to examine the impacts that the neighborhood street cultures would have on the violent youths that showed violent delinquency. After studying while using the data of 700 African American adolescents, he examined whether there was a capability that the neighborhood street culture could predict the violent actions of the youths (Elijah Anderson, 1999). There was a study on whether there was any form of moderation by the street culture on the individual’s level of the street code values among the adolescents’ delinquency. Concerning Anderson’s hypotheses, there was a possibility that the neighborhood street culture could significantly predict some of the violent delinquency separate from individual-level street code effects. Therefore, neighborhood street culture could moderate the individual-level street code values in delinquent neighborhoods when the street culture is widespread particularly, the impact of the street code values on the violent individuals is facilitated in communities that have widely endorsed the street culture.

Elijah Anderson’s book, the “Code of the Street” also talked of possible indicators of crimes with youths. Anderson who was a professor of Yale University discussed many explanations for the high rate of violence witnessed among African-American adolescents. Anderson observed Philadelphia African-American neighborhoods and realized that were sought of economic disadvantages, racial discrimination and separation from the mainstream society lead to antisocial attitudes among adolescents that later turned into violent behaviors.

The results of Anderson’s study supports his original observations where he stated that the stress that is associated with living in a poor and violent surrounding can always be a possible cause of the violent nature of street lifestyle (Elijah Anderson, 1999). Therefore, just like neighborhood factors as a predictor of delinquency, a violent environment which is still part of an individual’s community. Anderson used more than 700 African American adolescents to examine the presents the street culture and values could be a possible cause or predictors of youths’ violence and also whether the neighborhood street cultures moderated individuals’ levels of the street code. Therefore, with Anderson’s findings, neighborhood street cultures were also possible predictors of violent delinquency among youths at the individual level of the street code. The predictors of crimes and delinquency are examined and proven to be among the youths of African American adolescents who were the subject of Anderson’s study.

Theoretical Analysis of Indicators of Crime

Some theories could be attached the study of crime or delinquency among the youths and adolescents. The theories could either be focused in macro-levels of the study that focuses on the society as a whole or a micro-level that concentrates on a particular individual case alone. In this instance, therefore, social learning theory will be used to explain the nature of the relations between the adolescents’ criminal delinquencies and their environments.

Social Learning Theory:

Social Learning Theory has attributed the scholar Bandura. The theory posits that individual learns various actions from one another that operate within the same environment through observation, modeling, and imitations (Bandura, 1978). Social learning theory is a bridge between the theory of behaviorism and cognitive learning as it takes into consideration all the motivations, memory, and attention of an individual. Code of the Streets would be explained by the use of a macro-level social learning because we expect individuals’ actions to be affected by various factors which their social environment. Social learning expects that children or young siblings will always observe the people around them perform some actions then they later imitate and try to do the same things that they saw.

The individuals that are being observed by the younger kids are known as the models, therefore, in society, children are always surrounded by many models taking into consideration that the theory is applied at a macro-level of the community. The models within a society include; characters on the children TV, parents, friends or peers and even their teachers in schools. The models are the providers of the examples of the actions or behaviors that the kids imitate such as feminine, masculinity and pro and anti-socials.

During the learning process, children always pay attention to the models as they encode their actions and at a later time, they may also imitate the behavior that they had observed from their seniors. Children mimic the actions regardless of the actions were appropriate or unappropriated. Therefore, when the models were delinquent in their actions, the chances are that the kid that was observing them will also imitate that delinquent act and later on become violent in his or her actions.

Social learning theory recognizes the existence of both the direct effects and the reciprocal within the same context. Association always comes before the deviant behavior which is consistent with the social learning theory. There are a strong connection peer associations, and self-reported delinquency is due to the fact the delinquency is determined by the rate of an individual’s reports on the occurrences of the delinquencies actions. Individual’s delinquency and the delinquency of his peers are always different. According to the empirical support of social learning theory, there are strong supports of the variables of social learning and criminal behavior. For instance, social learning mechanisms in parents and child interactions are one of the strong predictors of a deviant or criminal actions. The children always become perverted when their models train them to be deviant because when a child associated with a conforming model the chances are that even he will also be a conformist.

The social learning theory argues that certain groups within a society promote values that are conducive to crimes. And in the Code of Streets, it is clear that the culture in the streets looks conducive to crime there resulting in high crime rates in such areas. The Code of Street presented a contemporary subculture where violence is the order of the day. The code seems to pressure the African American to respond to the kind of pressure and disrespect they receive by being violent.

Conflict Theory

Another theory that explains the nature of crimes and delinquency in the Code of Street is conflict theory. For example, Elijah Anderson writes that the inner-city residents felt that the police were only representing the white society that was seen as the dominant group (Anderson, pg. 172). Therefore, there had to be a conflict between the dominant white people and the African American adolescents who felt that the white people were oppressing them. Conflict theory is the assumption that people will always engage in some kinds of deviant behavior while responding to the inequalities in a community or a system (Hirshleifer, 2001). Therefore, this theory also works at a macro-level of the larger society.

Due to the disparity that already exists between the African American Adolescents and the dominant white people. The members of the African American youths got angry and responded to the situation by engaging themselves in violent or some form of crimes in the street. In the article of the Code of Street, Anderson also emphasized on the fact that the street people, who were the poor black people, were discriminated based on their races and this made them got lesser opportunities in life such as occupations that would come with adequate wages. Therefore, the youths engaged in a lot of criminal activities due to lack of patience and high levels of hatred that already existed the blacks and the whites. Additionally, the kind of delinquency could be spread by the youths to their offspring and even younger siblings who could be cultured to the system as new members of the oppressed class and hence they will also grow up adapting to the tendency of indulging in criminal activities while addressing issues that they feel to affect their community. The delinquency levels will always be high because the oppressed always gang up as a team since they ever feel that the issues affecting them are communal and not individual which make them operate as a unit.

Policies to prevent Delinquent Behavior:

Social learning theory concepts can be used in addressing and preventing any future re-occurrence of criminal behaviors. Given that kids learn from their models that operate within their environment, the models should be encouraged to act in a positive manner that when the kids imitate them, they copy actions that conform to the values and expectations of the society. Therefore, there is a need to govern some proper compartments and ways to respond when challenged and not to become violent as seen by the African American youths that opted for violent actions in response to disrespect they got from their peers. There is a need for the use of multicomponent interventions that would identify some of the predictors that are shared and the constellations of the risk factors that associated with such predictors would be more efficient in preventing the occurrence of the violence than targeting a single risk factor.

Everyone should have the code to negotiate while operating in the inner city environment because there is no need to engage in violence in response to the mistreatments gotten from the surroundings. A decent family should represent two poles of value orientations and teach their children to respect the authority, have morals, and be considerate. Macro-level social learning suggests that most of the social sectors in society do condemn crimes. The only differences are the degree at which delinquency is condemned by specific sector or group and the extent to which they hold their values that are conducive to crime. Therefore, every individual should realize that they need to stop compromising any value that allows the existence of offenses.

The government can also come in and address the issues of crime in disorganized communities by carrying out civic education on the possible side effects of crimes. Some of the disorganized communities are affected by the presence of illegal aspects such as firearms, and drugs. The government of a country can conduct an operation to arrest those doing such illegal business and take them to court. By so doing, other individuals within the same society who intended or secretly conducted the businesses will be forced to stop for fear of being reprimanded.


A series of factors always cause most of the criminal behaviors taking place within a society. These factors range from family, school, peer-related and community-based factors. However, more research is needed on the youth violence actions that would involve studies that would be contrasting violent offenders and nonviolent offenders. There is also a gap that needs to be addressed about the protective factors that mitigate the effects of exposure of an individual to a violent environment. This is because people only become violent after being exposed to the violent environment.

Like in Code of Street, Elijah Anderson (1999) discussed a multilevel process that macro-structural patterns of the disadvantaged individuals foster the street culture that seems conducive to crime. In particular, there was a suggestion by Anderson that multilevel structural patterns contributed to the creation of a sense of helplessness as well as the cynicism of the rules of the society and their uses. The sense of helplessness led to the formation of the street culture that undermined the mainstream system. Neighborhood contextual characteristics of the street culture were as an institutional feature of the disadvantaged neighborhood street life as it also appeared to structure the public interaction within the streets through violence.

Most of the predictors of delinquency are only predictors of other problems that are already existing like substance abuse and family maltreatments. Therefore, the bigger the number of risks that an individual is exposed to, the more significant the possibility that they will engage in criminal activities. Going by this observation, there is a need for the responsible authorities to ensure that they limit the chances of having kids exposed to any form of violent actions that would transform into them being violent as well.

The study and results of the Code of Street, some limitations can be seen. First, the study only focused on a single race of the African Americans. Therefore, it could not generalize that the neighborhood street culture could have the same effects on other adolescents of different races. Therefore, the study is limited in that they cannot infer its report on the entire population. There is a need for future research that could conduct a study on whether ethnic and racial variances is uniform across populations about crime and neighborhood street culture. The only focused much on a non-lethal form of violence as it has not captured any lethal valence like homicide. Therefore, it remains unclear whether neighborhood street culture has any impacts on deadly violence.

The code of street also appeared limited to attitudinal and belief aspects. Therefore, it proofs difficult the study did not omit some of the impacts of non-attitudinal variables. The outcome of the research supports Anderson’s (1999) views of an ethnographic

Multilevel code of the street on the violence of the adolescents.   We hope that our findings help shed light on a complex issue. Besides, we hope that the current study will encourage future investigations into the various ways that the structure and culture of neighborhoods affect adolescent violence in African American communities.

Get a 10 % discount on an order above $ 100
Use the following coupon code :