skip navigation


Register for Latest Research

Stay Informed
Register with NCJRS to receive NCJRS's biweekly e-newsletter JUSTINFO and additional periodic emails from NCJRS and the NCJRS federal sponsors that highlight the latest research published or sponsored by the Office of Justice Programs.

NCJRS Abstract

The document referenced below is part of the NCJRS Virtual Library collection. To conduct further searches of the collection, visit the Virtual Library. See the Obtain Documents page for direction on how to access resources online, via mail, through interlibrary loans, or in a local library.


NCJ Number: 201861 Add to Shopping cart Find in a Library
Title: Code Switching and Inverse Imitation Among Marijuana-Using Crack Sellers
Journal: British Journal of Criminology  Volume:43  Issue:3  Dated:Summer 2003  Pages:506-525
Author(s): Ellen Benoit; Doris Randolph; Eloise Dunlap; Bruce Johnson
Date Published: 2003
Page Count: 20
Sponsoring Agency: National Institute on Drug Abuse
Bethesda, MD 20892-9561
Grant Number: 1R01DA09056-04; 1R01DA05126-08; 1R03DA06413-01; 5T32DA07233-09
Type: Report (Study/Research)
Format: Article
Language: English
Country: United Kingdom
Annotation: Using social-learning theory and Anderson's (1999) model of "street/decent" code switching, this study examined the extent to which three young African-American men who were socialized into "street" culture ncorporated "decent" values into their lifestyles.
Abstract: All three of the young men were born in Harlem after 1970 into families in which drug use or abuse was prominent among significant household members. As children, they were exposed to neglect and violence. They and their families participated in a longitudinal, ethnographic study of intergenerational aggression and violence (Dunlap et al., 1994 and 2001). Although initially socialized into distressed households, or what Anderson (1999) calls "street" families, as young adults they avoided hard drugs and violence, although they were using marijuana and alcohol and were involved with illegal drug sales to varying degrees. All three had been arrested or had contact with the law, but none had ever been a gang member, and only one had spent any time in prison. Although all three of the men had difficulty obtaining financially rewarding legal employment, one of them avoided selling drugs or engaging in other illegal economic activity. Inner-city lifestyles, according to Anderson (1999), consist of varying combinations of the "street" and "decent" codes of conduct into which poor, urban children are socialized. The labels of "street" and "decent" are used by residents of inner-city communities to characterize themselves and one another. Under Anderson's formulation, "street" families are often characterized by a lack of consideration for other people and a superficial sense of family and community. "Decent" families, in contrast, are more future-oriented, emphasize hard work, education, and saving money for material things. Their identification with mainstream values makes "decent" families more likely than "street" families to get involved with jobs, schools, churches, and other institutions. The key to Anderson's approach is the concept that inner-city residents can "code switch." Code switching is usually used by "decent" people, especially young people, who know that espousing mainstream values is of little use within the street culture. They therefore learn behavior that will protect them, such as becoming aggressive when they feel threatened. The "decent/street" codes delineated by Anderson are integrated into the behavior patterns of inner-city children through processes of social learning in both their households and neighborhoods. This article examines both the usefulness and the problems that may arise in using Anderson's model to interpret the behaviors of inner-city youth. The authors argue that what is needed is less dichotomization of values among inner-city youth and a better understanding of the extent to which "street" culture shares the norms of "decent" culture. 49 references
Main Term(s): Criminology
Index Term(s): Behavior patterns; Behavior typologies; Black/African Americans; Drug law offenses; Juvenile drug use; Moral development; Social conditions; Urban criminality; Youth development
To cite this abstract, use the following link:

*A link to the full-text document is provided whenever possible. For documents not available online, a link to the publisher's website is provided. Tell us how you use the NCJRS Library and Abstracts Database - send us your feedback.