Youth and Crime in a Welfare State. Trends, Inequalities and Societal Response

  • Felipe EstradaEmail author
Part of the Young People and Learning Processes in School and Everyday Life book series (YPLP, volume 2)


The causes of youth crime, its levels and trends are important for social policy. The debate in Europe often present descriptions of constantly rising youth crime and demands that society should be tougher on juvenile delinquents. This chapter addresses a number of issues that should be regarded as central to all those who are interested in the life conditions of young people; how has the nature of youth crime changed? Why do some groups of young people commit more offences than others? How does a welfare society deal with juveniles who engage in offending? Sweden has more high-quality data sources than most other countries, which makes it a valuable case for discussing youth crime on the basis of different indicators. The analysis on crime statistics, questionnaire surveys and medical data does not support the view that youth crime is on the rise on the contrary. Interestingly, the declines are most marked among boys and young men. This also has a clear impact on the narrowing of the gender gap in crime.


  1. Adler, F. (1975). Sisters in crime: The rise of the new female criminal. New York: McGraw-Hill.Google Scholar
  2. Aftonbladet. (2000). Fler tonårstjejer misshandlar (More assaults from young women).Google Scholar
  3. Bäckman, O., & Nilsson, A. (2010). Pathways to social exclusion – A life-course study. European Sociological Review, 27(1), 107–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bäckman, O., & Nilsson, A. (2016). Long-term consequences of being not in employment, education or training as a young adult. Stability and change in three Swedish birth cohorts. European Societies, 18(2), 136–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bäckman, O., Estrada, F., Nilsson, A., & Shannon, D. (2014). The life course of young male and female offenders: Stability or change between different birth cohorts? British Journal of Criminology, 54(3), 393–410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Beckett, K. (1999). Making crime pay: Law and order in contemporary American politics. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Beerthuizen, M. G., Weijters, G., & van der Laan, A. M. (2017). The release of Grand Theft Auto V and registered juvenile crime in the Netherlands. European Journal of Criminology, 14(6), 751–765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bowling, B., & Phillips, C. (2007). Disproportionate and discriminatory: Reviewing the evidence on police stop and search. The Modern Law Review, 70(6), 936–961.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brå. (2016). Skolundersökningen om brott 2015 (The school survey on crime). Stockholm: Brottsförebyggande rådet.Google Scholar
  10. Estrada, F. (1999). Juvenile crime trends in post-war Europe. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 7(1), 23–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Estrada, F. (2001). Juvenile violence as a social problem. Trends, media attention and societal response. British Journal of Criminology, 41(4), 639–655.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Estrada, F. (2004). The transformation of the politics of crime in high crime societies. European Journal of Criminology, 1(4), 419–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Estrada, F. (2006). Trends in violence in Scandinavia according to different indicators: An exemplification of the value of Swedish hospital data. British Journal of Criminology, 46(3), 486–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Estrada, F., Bäckman, O., & Nilsson, A. (2016). The darker side of equality? The declining gender gap in crime. British Journal of Criminology, 56(6), 1272–1290.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Hagan, J. (2012). Who are the criminals? The politics of crime policy from the age of Roosevelt to the age of Reagan. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Hällsten, M., Szulkin, R., & Sarnecki, J. (2013). Crime as a price of inequality? The gap in registered crime between childhood immigrants, children of immigrants and children of native Swedes. British Journal of Criminology, 53(3), 456–481.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Jerre, K. (2013). The public’s sense of justice in Sweden – A smorgasbord of opinions. Diss. Stockholm: Kriminologiska institutionen, Stockholms universitet.Google Scholar
  18. Larsen, B. Ø. (2017). Youth crime, sanctions, and education: Four empirical essays. Doctoral dissertation, Aalborg Universitetsforlag.Google Scholar
  19. Larsson, J., Löfdahl, A., & Pérez Prieto, H. (2010). Rerouting: Discipline, assessment and performativity in contemporary Swedish educational discourse. Education Inquiry, 1(3), 177–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Laub, J. H., & Sampson, R. J. (2003). Shared beginnings, divergent lives: Delinquent boys to age 70. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  21. Lunneblad, J., Johansson, T., & Odenbring, Y. (2018). Violence in urban schools: School professionals’ categorizations and explanations of violence among students in two different demographic areas. International Studies in Sociology of Education. Scholar
  22. McAra, L., & McVie, S. (2007). Youth justice? The impact of system contact on patterns of desistance from offending. European Journal of Criminology, 4(3), 315–345.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Muncie, J. (2014). Youth and crime. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  24. Murray, J., Janson, C.-G., & Farrington, D. P. (2007). Crime in adult offspring of prisoners. A cross-national comparison of two longitudinal samples. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 34(1), 133–149.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Nilsson, A., Estrada, F., & Bäckman, O. (2017). The unequal crime drop: Changes over time in the distribution of crime among individuals from different socioeconomic backgrounds. European Journal of Criminology, 14(5), 586–605.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Pratt, J. (2008). Scandinavian exceptionalism in an era of penal excess. Part I: The nature and roots of Scandinavian exceptionalism. British Journal of Criminology, 48(2), 119–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Rydgren, J. (2018). The Oxford handbook of the radical right. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Sampson, R. (2012). Great American City. Chicago and the enduring neighbourhood effect. Chicago: Chicago University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Shaw, C. R., & McKay, H. D. (1942). Juvenile delinquency and urban areas. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  30. Skardhamar, T., Aaltonen, M., & Lehti, M. (2014). Immigrant crime in Norway and Finland. Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention, 15(2), 107–127.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Smith, P. S., & Ugelvik, T. (2017). Introduction: Punishment, welfare and prison history in Scandinavia. In Scandinavian penal history, culture and prison practice (pp. 3–31). London: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Swedish Ministry of Justice. (2017). Skärpta regler för lagöverträdare 18-20 år. Dir. 2017:122.Google Scholar
  33. Tham, H. (2001). Law and order as a leftist project? The case of Sweden. Punishment and Society, 3(3), 409–426.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Tiratelli, M., Quinton, P., & Bradford, B. (2018). Does stop and search deter crime? Evidence from ten years of London-wide data. British Journal of Criminology, 58(5), 1212–1231. Scholar
  35. Vainik, A. L., & Kassman, A. (2018). Police-reported school violence among children below the age of criminal responsibility in Sweden–signs of increased sensitivity and segregation? Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention, 19(1), 61–77.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Vinnerljung, B., & Sallnäs, M. (2008). Into adulthood: A follow-up study of 718 young people who were placed in out-of-home care during their teens. Child and Family Social Work, 13, 144–155.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Wikström, P.-O., & Loeber, R. (2000). Do disadvantaged neighborhoods cause well-adjusted children to become adolescent delinquents? A study of male juvenile serious offending, individual risk and protective factors, and neighborhood context. Criminology, 38(4), 1109–1142.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of CriminologyStockholm UniversityStockholmSweden

Personalised recommendations