Sociology Index


Subcultural transmission is a part of a wider theory that behavior is learned through socialization into the norms and values of the society. This is taken further to argue that some groups have values which are supportive of illegal behaviour. Those exposed to this subculture are more likely to exhibit deviant behavior or criminal behaviour. Transmission of subcultural norms draws heavily on social learning theory, strain theory, and theories regarding identity formation. Subcultural transmission model suggests that subcultures display distinctive health lifestyles, with specific beliefs, knowledge, and attitudes conditioning risk-taking behavior and health (Fitzpatrick and Lagory 2000)."In some insulated and deprived places, where long-term poverty, low labor force participation, outside-marriage childbearing, school drop-outs, welfare dependency, and other social problems prevail, deviant role models emerge and encourage health-destructive behaviors such as use of illegal drugs and violence" (Wilson 1987; Wilson 1996).

"The culture-of-poverty perspective postulates that the poor who reside in areas plagued by poverty and social problems, by virtue of their exclusion from the mainstream societies and social isolation from positive role models, develop a lifestyle that is by nature different from that of the middle-class societies in which they live and assumes a life of its own and passed across generations through cultural transmission (Steinberg 1989; Wilson 1987). A common theme that emanates from subcultural transmission model is that community economic deprivation is complexly intertwined with social disorganizations and physical disorders; and, the combined social-structural distress nurtures deviant cultural characteristics that inevitably expose the inhabitants to health-detrimental psychosocial hazards.

Subcultural Theory emerged from the work of the Chicago School on gangs and developed through the Symbolic Interactionism School into a set of theories arguing that certain groups or subcultures in society have values and attitudes that are conducive to crime and violence.

A subculture is a distinctive culture within a culture, so its norms and values differ from the majority culture but do not necessarily represent a culture deemed deviant by the majority. A subculture is distinguished from a counterculture which operates in direct opposition to the majority culture. Cultural Transmission Theory and Social Disorganisation Theory posit that, in the poorest zones of a city, certain forms of behaviour become the cultural norm transmitted from one generation to the next, as part of the normal socialisation process. Successful criminals are role models for the young, demonstrating both the possibilities of success through crime, and its normality.