Skip to main content
Kent Academic Repository

Labelling Theory, The Police, and Juvenile Delinquency

Bennett, T. H (1977) Labelling Theory, The Police, and Juvenile Delinquency. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86360) (KAR id:86360)


Labelling theory has not only fired the imagination of innumerable writers on deviance over the last decade or so at various theoretical and philosophic levels, but has inspired an expansion of empirical research directly or indirectly related to its principles. The present thesis is concerned with investigating both these areas of interest as they apply to criminal deviance. During the 1960's labelling theory emerged from the combined contribution of a number' of American publications J the substance of which seemed primarily to be focused on two major concerns. The first of these, referred to in the text as labelling as a 'dependent' variable, considers 'social labelling' as problematic and is directed towards the distribution of deviant/criminal labels. The second area of the approach, referred to as labelling as an 'independent' variable, considers the 'consequences of social labelling as problematic, and is concerned with the specific effects of labelling, and whether this might lead to deviant/criminal recidivism. Chapter One extracts, dissects, and rebuilds the details of these themes of the labelling theory literature, and attempts to formulate a number of testable propositions which might be used to direct the of the research to the dual issues of : “who gets labelled?', and the consequences of labelling . From this point the thesis is organised around the problem of how far contemporary research, and my own research, may offer some support or reject these propositions, and, in this operationa1 sense, examine the credibility of the basic assumption of labelling theory.

Chapter 2 analyses recent research relating to labelling as a dependent variable and considers the results of both official data and observation studies with respect to the official labelling of adult and juvenile offenders. Chapter Three examines the epidemiology of juvenile crime through self-report investigations as a comparison to the results of Chapter Two, and as an alternative methodological approach to the problem of the social distribution of juvenile offenders. Chapter Four discusses the operation of the Metropolitan Juvenile Bureaux, the location for my own research, and Chapter Five examines the distribution of police disposition decisions for different types of offender processed by the Bureau. Chapter Six considers recent research relating to the consequences of official labelling for offender recidivism, and Chapter Seven compares this result to the Juvenile Bureau research data on multiple offenders. The final chapter, Chapter Eight, reconsiders the status of labelling theory in the light of recent criticism and research results, and questions the validity of various research methodologies for an examination of this kind.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86360
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Uncontrolled keywords: Law; juvenile offenders
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare > HV9069 Juvenile delinquency
K Law > KD England and Wales
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:54 UTC
Last Modified: 21 Feb 2022 16:32 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

  • Depositors only (login required):

Total unique views for this document in KAR since July 2020. For more details click on the image.