Differential Coercion and Homelessness: a Criminological Approach to Homeless Street Youth in Mexico
Rojas Gaspar, Christian
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The goal of this research is to explore the relationship between coercion and crime amongst street youths in Mexico. This research relies on Mark Colvin’s (2000) Differential Coercion Theory (DCT). Through semi-structured interviews with street youths in Mexico City, this research explores: (1) the various personal and structural factors that lead youths to the street; (2) the strategies of income generation used by the youths; (3) the youths experiences of victimization, substance use, criminal involvement and institutionalization; and finally, (4) the personal and structural reasons that contribute to youths’ inability to leave the street. Results indicate that in most cases youths experience some form of physical, sexual, verbal, and/or psychological abuse that prompts them to leave home. In other cases, youths simply witnessed the abuse of a significant other or become subject to neglect. Some youths are thrown out of the home due to familial conflict. Results also indicate that on the street, youths are encouraged to display violent behaviours to avoid victimization. Further, youths face a number of needs and are compelled to engage in legitimate or illegitimate sustenance practices. On the street, youths are subject to theft, as well as physical and sexual victimization from peers and police officers. The results also suggest that youths are dependent on various substances as a way to cope with difficult situations. Results also indicate that as a result of crime or drug use, youths are likely to experience institutionalization where physical, verbal, and psychological victimization is experienced. Finally, youths attribute the freedom provided by the street and substance dependency as reasons to stay on the streets. Overall, the results suggest that Mexican street youths experience coercion in various settings. However, to explain the relationship between coercion and crime more research is needed on other explanatory factors.