Deterrence and amplification of juvenile delinquency by police contact: The importance of gender and risk-orientation

Carl Keane*, A. R. Gillis, John Hagan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations


This research examines the relationship between deviance and control. Deterrence theory suggests that the relationship is negative, but societal reaction arguments view it as positive, since control may amplify rather than deter deviance. We suggest that both viewpoints are credible. Females may be more susceptible to deterrence because of a tendency to be risk aversive, while amplification effects are more likely with males, because they are more inclined to take risks.The analysis focuses on contact with the police as a measure of control and marijuana use as an indicator of deviance among a sample of 835 adolescents from four high schools in the Toronto area, using LISREL to analyse their responses to a structured questionnaire. The data show that among females, marijuana use is a direct predictor of contact with the police, and that contact with the police is a negative predictor of marijuana use, supporting a deterrence argument. For males, the feedback effect of police contact on marijuana use is positive, supporting the amplification argument. Controlling for taste for risk largely eliminates these gender differences, suggesting that the former intervenes between gender and its impact on the effect of contact with the police.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)336-352
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Law


Dive into the research topics of 'Deterrence and amplification of juvenile delinquency by police contact: The importance of gender and risk-orientation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this