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Chapter 2: Moral Panic over Juvenile Delinquency
This chapter addresses the origins and history of the current moral panic over delinquency in the United States. What is this phenomenon? The term moral panic (Cohen, 1980) refers to circumstances in which the perceived threat from some group or situation is greatly exaggerated compared with the actual threat. Thus, in a state moral panic, political and social leaders suddenly define a specific group of people as a major threat to our values and behavioral standards. Put simply, moral crusaders in a society create moral panics to stigmatize as evil the people or actions they find offensive.
I begin this chapter with a brief discussion of the history and development of the current moral panic and then ...