Can inner and outer containment counteract pulls and pushes toward delinquency? A test of Walter Reckless’s containment theory

Heleen J. Janssen, Gerben J.N. Bruinsma, Frank M. Weerman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

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Abstract

The aim of the current study is to provide an empirical test of containment theory of Walter Reckless (1899–1988). The theory proposes that outer and inner containment hold adolescents back from delinquency even when external factors pull and push them toward it. This early control theory was ahead of its time, but never received the empirical attention it deserves. This article outlines the core theoretical concepts and the basic propositions in order to empirically examine their validity. We employed hybrid linear regression analysis using longitudinal survey data of 612 adolescents (12–18 years old) in the city of The Hague, the Netherlands. The results indicate that outer and inner containment can be meaningfully distinguished, and that several but not all propositions of the theory are supported. Inner and outer containment function as a buffer against external pulls and are able to counteract the effect of increases in environmental pulls during adolescence. We conclude that containment theory is still a promising interaction theory that can help us understand why adolescents who experience external pulls toward delinquency are able to resist these influences.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages23
JournalEuropean Journal of Criminology
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Keywords

  • Containment theory
  • delinquency
  • inner containment
  • outer containment

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