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His education informs the common mind. Just as the twig is bent the tree's inclined. To get. Screwed. This is serious the tender twigs proposes to bring together those best able to address themselves to the individual and social problems of youth in the twentieth century. It proposes to discuss a few of the most clearly recognized problems of our time. Mental health. Delinquency crime social pressures and human growth. And the practical steps the parent school community and church may take. In order to ensure youth development that is safe. Sane and straight.
The tender twigs is produced and recorded by W. K R radio at Michigan State University under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters. The tender twigs are our youth. The task to help them grow safe sane and straight. The title of this program the style of life makes the man. This program features a single guest. Each week we present a distinguished person who we feel has left a mark on our time by his thought and by his work. As it relates to our youth our guest Dr. Albert Cowen a professor of sociology Indiana University author of the delinquent boys the culture of the gang. Our interview up for the series is Ben Thompson a research sociologist with a Michigan Department of
Corrections. Dr. Cohen we ask first of all those things which you think are most characteristic of delinquency and of the delinquent person of the delinquent. I think it's important to ask this question because if you were to understand the meaning of the behavior for the boy and what function it may perform for him we have to take a straight look at the delinquent act itself. For example it is my impression that most delinquent acts are not committed out of what you might call economic need. Most delinquent acts have what I call a non utilitarian quality even when boys steal and steal things of value. A very large proportion of the time they steal these things not because they need them. This is evidenced by the fact that
afterwards they throw them away. They abandon them. They give them away. They forget what they did with them. And this strongly suggests that the explanation for this behavior is not to be found in the value of the object to the boy. Now so much for stealing this is all the more true that a large category of delinquent behavior that we call vandalism. This includes all sorts of things defacing buildings breaking windows slashing tires. This goes hand in hand with the stealing and obviously will not make sense in ordinary rational utilitarian terms. What we must ask what kind of function does this kind of behavior perform for the kids who do it. That's one characteristic. How about some more as you have seen it
in the developing pattern. Well it seems to have a quality of what you might call malice. I think that this is expressed in the words of the boys and sales. I have heard them say so many times. I guess we was jest Henri or I suppose we did out of just plain Minas. By which the boys themselves are recognizing that. One of the things that made this kind of behavior fun was precisely the fact that it bothered other people. There was an an there's a kind of an intentional malice about the behavior and something else that is very closely related to it is that it seems to have a quality of what you might call negativism that is to say that behavior that they seem to get the
biggest kick out of the behavior that seems to be so full of zest for them is precisely the reverse of the behavior which is conventionally expected. You get the feeling that the kind of behavior that is most real prestige fall in the delinquent gang is precisely the kind of behavior that respectable people most deplore because they deplore it. The kids do it. You say they seem to have fun in baiting the authorities. The school authorities the police all of the solid citizens they seem to get fun out of defying these people and doing the things they're not supposed to do. I wonder if we can get at this another way also. What do all of us do generally. When need groups with whom we associate are not necessarily providing us with the satisfaction that we would like to have. What
are our tendencies or ways. Well broadly speaking if the groups that we participate in do not provide us with the satisfactions that are important to us are not in some ways satisfying the needs that we bring to those groups. We consciously or unconsciously tend to develop some alternative means of finding those same satisfactions. And it would seem to me that if we're concerned with understanding juvenile delinquency the first step is to find out what exactly do they do. What does this behavior mean to the kids and to what kinds of needs or otherwise unsolved problems. Is this behavior a response. I don't see how else we can make sense
out of the behavior. Now our initial tendency is to react simply in terms of indignation and anger because this behavior is offensive and it is quite human. But if we are concerned with understanding the behavior we've got to try to see what kinds of problems or needs this behavior answers to. I think I'm safe in saying that Dr. Cohen has spent a large portion of his adult life actually trying to understand the delinquent and the delinquent subculture. And by this I mean that spending his time each day thinking about the logical kinds of reasons which people develop for themselves for doing things not concentrating so much on what we can do about delinquency but really spending his time trying to help all of us and himself understand
how it comes into being so that then the practitioner or the psychiatrist or a psychiatric caseworker the social social caseworker the sociologist in some cases may do something about what has happened to school person. And we've talked a lot on this program also involved in this. Not to go on. How about this understanding. So you have the what you have called the Working Class and a middle class delinquent or middle class and lower class working class pardon me delinquency. What are its characteristics of the two. That is one of the characteristics that differentiate delinquency as we find it in the working class as we find it in the middle class. The first remark I'd like to make is that these terms themselves are words to
be used I think with great caution because they don't have any very exact meaning. If you try to divide our population into two classes or four classes or six classes by any criterion whether it be income or education or occupation the groups that you wind up with will still be very heterogeneous groups you'll find all kinds of families in any one grouping. However the fact still remains that as you move from one class to another however you define it you tend to find a somewhat different style of life. You tend to find on the average somewhat different standards you find a different value placed upon different things. Now I am not concerned with passing judgement upon these differences. That is not our concern here. We're concerned with understanding the
behavior of kids who come out of homes in these various social levels and in order to understand them. We have got to try to understand as best we can the kinds of social backgrounds from which they emerge. Now these differences in background are sometimes referred to as cultural differences. So you can speak of a middle class. Culture middle class style of life. Although the families that we call middle class will not all exhibit this you say. And it's the same thing when you talk about working class. They're very crude concepts. Well now you ask if we compare delinquency and these different social levels are they the same thing or are we dealing with a different kind of an animal. This is a question that I cannot answer in any definite way. There hasn't been any very systematic research done on it and certainly many of the specific acts that characterize working class delinquents also characterize
middle class delinquents. My description a few minutes ago was primarily in terms of working class delinquents. I was thinking the most about working class delinquency. When I developed this description but I have more recently become concerned with what we call middle class delinquency. I have a feeling that there are one or two characteristics that stand out and one is it's characterized by a search for kicks. What the kids call a kicks. This seems to be a deliberate seeking out of activities that are dangerous activities that are considered wild and perhaps a little bizarre. The notion this common expression of chicken I think tends to describe the flavor also of this so much of this middle class behavior. The kid is chicken who will not accept a
challenge to do something which is of doubtful moral stature perhaps something which is dangerous. But it seems to be important to the child that he rises to any such challenge and avoids the stigma of being chicken. This seems to be essential somehow to his self-respect and an essential for his standing and his acceptance of his reputation in the particular group that he operates in. I wonder. I think you wrote that one of the major characteristics between the working class delinquent in the middle class to England was that the working class delinquent was working out problems of economic security or economic Presti while the middle class delinquent was working out problems of being a male being a person of male status within his particular group.
Do you still hold to this basic dichotomy. Well my thinking is always in a process of change in these matters. There are most of the things which I said in my book. I think I would still incline to maintain button. I've gotten a lot of new ideas since then. I've got a lot of ideas particularly out of talking with teachers and social workers and police officers. Let me first talk about this working class delinquency. I feel that your reference to it as a response to some kind of economic problem is not quite the sort of thing I had in mind. It's a response to problems that are most common in this
social level and the economically as I said economically deprived level. But they are not has such economic problems. Now let me explain what I mean in our institutions such as the church the school even the social agency in the Settlement House. We judge people by certain standards. The people who operate these institutions many of them dedicated and well-intentioned happen to be generally speaking educated people and people of a certain social level and they are by a larger we call middle class people and they represent a particular kind of value system a particular set of standards by which people including children are judged. And I think it is important for us to enquire into what those standards are
because how children rate with such people depends on how well children conform to the expectations and the demands of such people. And if a child in a settlement house in a school or in some other institution cannot succeed in achieving status in achieving a respectable position in the group in terms of the standards that operate in that particular group then he is confronted with very serious problems problems of holding his head up in this particular group in problems of self-respect problems amounting to something. So I would like to enumerate what seem to me to be the principal standards by which middle class people judge children. We and I say we because I would class myself with most of these people we have a tendency to look with favor
to be fond of. To appreciate children with certain characteristics. Children who are ambitious for example children who have lofty aspirations and not only do they have lofty aspirations but they have the qualities of personality that make for success in trying to realize these aspirations their kids who can keep their eye on the ball who can keep their eye on a task that will take a long time to complete but they can stick with it even if it's not intrinsically enjoyable. They know that there's a time for work. There's a time for play. They. Will stay with an intrinsically unpleasant task even if they don't enjoy it because they feel that they ought to. They have a feeling of responsibility about sticking with the job
they are. Another aspect of their orientation towards the future is that they are interested in saving. They have a great deal of self control and self discipline. They do not yield to the impulses of the moment. If some kid comes by the window and says Come on out and go fishing or play ball or something. And if they have a job to do. Even if it's not much fun they can stick with that job if in school the task of the teachers assigned is not much fun. But this is the assignment they can stick with it instead of fidgeting and squirming and in general making a test of themselves. Right now we like kids like that and I might say I am myself I'm inclined to respond favorably and warmly to such children are they also probably clean neat. Courteous polite spoken the kinds of people
well if we do these things to add very commonly these things are coming in one package you say. And one reason is that there are certain types of homes in which these standards prevail and in which the parents strive in a very conscious way very purposive way to inculpate in their children. The high aspirations to encourage and to reward in their children the skills which they value to encourage and to reward habits of peer severe NS and promptness. A good sense of time. Not only a time for work and a time for play but the idea of being on time. Neatness. What we call loosely personality in the sense of the kind of a personality that helps to make friends and influence people and someone these
things will stand the child in good stead in the job of getting ahead. And so parents in certain homes work very hard at equipping the child with these characteristics. Now when such a child moves out of the home into a world which is generally dominated by other middle class people this kind of a child finds it relatively easy to meet their expectations. He shines. He is acceptable and life is not to one place and for him is it safe to say perhaps too that there is a relationship between conformity and spontaneity. With spontaneity being more a part of the well my last one I think I see what you mean. The middle class child is trained to be sensitive to other people's
expectations and other people's feelings. Part of the job of getting ahead is involves not antagonizing other people. Keeping them on your side so to speak making friends now you can do this. If at the same time you're a person who has emotions so to speak are always right on the surface. If when you get mad you explode. If when you don't like somebody you lemme know. And conversely if you like somebody you let him know. If you're bored you manifest that you're bored and so on. Now people who have these this kind of spontaneous emotional character are much more likely to antagonize individuals. The middle class child is trained in controlling and disciplining his emotions and in exhibiting the
behavior that will not rub other people the wrong way. And this also you see helps him in his justing to situations like the school or the Boy Scout troop or the various other little worlds in which the child moves. Now when I speak of the working class child on the other hand remembering always the reservation that what we call working class is a very heterogeneous kind of a collection of families. We are somewhat more likely considerably more likely to find. Families which don't place the same kind of stress or emphasis on these characteristics. They don't reject these characteristics but they don't feel that they're that important as they are in the middle class. They're more concerned with having a healthy child a child who has fun a child who. Is doesn't make
trouble either for himself or for others. They are somewhat more likely to react to the child in terms of what he is like right now rather than in terms of what he may become five years or 10 years from now that they're there. The parents reactions tend to be much more spontaneous to me whereas the reactions of the middle class parent to their child are less spontaneous. That is in responding to their child. They are much more concerned with the question What is the effect of what I am doing or saying now upon the kind of a boy that this child will become and that sort of thing. Now in the middle class and the working class home then the child is likely to be given a good deal more freedom for example to move about his own initiative to have fun
to run with the other kids if he feels like it. To erupt if he wishes with his own emotions there isn't the same emphasis placed upon concealing how you feel and getting along with people you don't like and so on. Now and also there's less emphasis on this business of sticking with a task and the other qualities that make for getting ahead and I might mention one more thing that working class home is on the home. On the whole a home in which the parents are less well educated and they themselves are less well trained in middle class niceties of manner and speech and so on. And therefore they. Well the way the parents talk and their manners become those of the child whereas in the middle class home
the manners and the speech of the parents are also the manners and speech of the school. Now the upshot of this whole thing is that in the school situation in the Boy Scout Troop even at the Settlement House at the gym any place where middle class people are in charge. You find that children who come out of these different social backgrounds are differently he quipped for meeting the expectations and the standards that the people in charge are judging them by. Our guest has been Dr. Albert Cohen professor of sociology at Indiana University author of delinquent boys the culture of the gang. Next week and eye for an eye our guest will be Dr. Gareth Hines director of institutions by the state of Washington. You have been listening to the tender twigs a series devoted to ensuring youth
development but a safe sane and straight. We invite you to join us next week at this time for the tended to A. You're. Our interviewer was Ben Thompson Research sociologist by the state of Michigan was Department of Corrections. The tender twigs was produced and recorded by Wayne C. Wayne for WKRN radio at Michigan State University under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center. And is being distributed by the National Association of educational broadcasters.
This is the end E.B. Radio Network.
Tender twigs
"Style of life" makes a man
Producing Organization
Michigan State University
WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
Dr. Albert Cohen, author, "Delinquent Boys - The Culture of the Gang," examines delinquency and crime as results of subcultural groupings within modern society.
Series Description
This series discusses problems affecting today's youth, such as mental health, delinquency, crime, social pressures. It also considers solutions for parents and youths to employ.
Broadcast Date
Social Issues
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: Cohen, Albert Kircidel
Interviewer: Thompson, Ben
Producer: Wayne, Wayne C.
Producing Organization: Michigan State University
Producing Organization: WKAR (Radio/television station : East Lansing, Mich.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-43-8 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:27:26
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Chicago: “Tender twigs; "Style of life" makes a man,” 1958-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 16, 2024,
MLA: “Tender twigs; "Style of life" makes a man.” 1958-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 16, 2024. <>.
APA: Tender twigs; "Style of life" makes a man. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from