‘Street Code’ Study Sees Youth Violence Link


A new government-funded study, “The Code of the Street and African-American Adolescent Violence,” indicates that economic disadvantage, separation from mainstream society and racial discrimination encountered by some young blacks may lead to anti-social attitudes and to violent behavior. The research for the federal Office of Justice Programs was conducted in Philadelphia by Elijah Anderson. (The weblink connects with a pdf version of the research.)

Anderson said his “code of the street” theory involves an unending cycle of gaining and losing respect and reputation. The research integrates the environmental and cultural factors examined in many previous studies of urban violence. Anderson said the stress of living in a poor and violent environment can cause young people to adopt the code of the street as a lifestyle guide. This, in turn, is a powerful predictor of violent conduct, amplified by the effects of negative neighborhood characteristics.

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