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Containment Theory

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Reckless (1961) developed containment theory by focusing on a youth's self-conception or self-image of being a good person as an insulator against peer pressure to engage in delinquency.

  • inner containment = positive sense of self;
  • outer containment = supervision and discipline.

This inner containment through self-images is developed within the family and is essentially formed by about the age of twelve. Outer containment was a reflection of strong social relationships with teachers and other sources of conventional socialization within the neighborhood. The basic proposition is there are "pushes" and "pulls" that will produce delinquent behavior unless they are counteracted by containment. The motivations to deviate as pushes are:

  • discontent with living conditions and family conflicts;
  • aggressiveness and hostility, perhaps due to biological factors; and
  • frustration and boredom, say arising from membership of a minority group or through lack of opportunities to advance in school or find employment;

and the pulls are:

  • delinquent peers, and
  • delinquent subcultures.


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