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This was giving a clear account of what actually took place in the Liverpool slums, rather then relying on the media or stereotypical views that were bought about the ‘rough’ area from where the boy’s were from. Parker showed that there was an understanding in the neighbourhood and there was tolerance to some activities. For example, if the boy’s stole something the neighbours wouldn’t be offended as long as it wasn’t from any members of the estate. This allowed there to be a very stable, solid community orientated approach to family life.

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By focusing on the working class males of Liverpool, not only did Parker study their behaviour but it could also be seen that he saw that their norms and values were completely different from the upper and middle classes. This came as a disadvantage to the boy’s as it was the upper and middle class that determined what was to be seen as criminal behaviour as they weren’t used to the lifestyle of the boy’s and they did, to some extent have control over the making and defining of new legislations that were to be passed on anti-social behaviours.

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This can be seen in a more contemporary example of delinquent sub-cultural theory as it was believed4 could be seen through Parkers study on the boys. They looked at the boys and drew the conclusion that the boy’s, ‘… work hard to maintain some freedom in their daily lives… they are fatalistic about their lives in general and especially the economic and political influences on them (fate), over which they believed they have no control. ‘

When Parker started his study he could have been criticised as he could have simply believed the labels that the boy’s were given as criminals and trouble makers. However, Parker started afresh and chose to ignore the labels given to the boy’s and judged them for what they were as individuals, ignoring any external thoughts on the boy’s and their behaviour. This could be seen as an advantage because Parker didn’t start the study biased and was purely looking at the boy’s everyday lives rather then judging them for their actions.

This did raise some ethical issues as Parker was constantly criticised because he hid his real identity from the boy’s and engaged in some criminal behaviour although it was recognised that Parker himself did try to avoid the criminal behaviour as best as he could without arousing any suspicions. He argued that, he had to keep his identity hidden to see the ‘real’ everyday lives of the boys. If the boy’s knew that he was studying them they might not have accepted them as part of their group and certainly wouldn’t have included Parker in their criminal activities as they wouldn’t feel that they could trust him.

Parker participating in the boy’s activities did bring about many sociological research problems as it was debated that he affected the boy’s behaviour by stopping them from committing crimes and by helping them when they were caught. This raised an issue to see whether the study was genuine after all. Howard Becker, (1963) supported Parker by claiming that the researcher will be blamed regardless of which side they decide to take.

So if the Parker was to take side’s he would be accused of one-sided or even a distorted view of the argument, whilst at the same time it is difficult to see the situation from both sides simultaneously. The fact that Parker was involved in the boy’s activities and couldn’t make notes on what was happening the moment it happened was hugely criticised. This brought about a problem of reliability and whether he had actually put in the information as it was or if he was biased because he now knew the boy’s and would feel empathy for them and probably even understand why they did what they did.

Alternatively, Parker debated that he was actually right in carrying out the study without allowing his true identity to be known as he received loyalty from the gang and managed to retrieve a rich source of high-quality information which wouldn’t have been possible had the gang not trusted him or knew his identity as a researcher. By participating in the activities that took place whilst he was studying the boy’s he was at first hand experiencing all the social pressures that the boys felt and could see what they were influenced by and why.

This gave Parker an insight to the gang and their individual behaviours and helped him to develop a formulate hypothesis that explained why the gang behaved as they did. An article was written on the crimes committed by youth and looked at explaining the difference between a group of youths and a gang of youths. This also looked at an area which Parker had not looked into: ethnic minorities committing crimes. ‘Visible minority youths face discrimination in many areas of their lives and as a result, experience blocked opportunities in the areas of schooling and employments.

In the face of this, gangs have more appeal. 5’ Although Parker didn’t look at the ethnic minorities and only focused on white working class boys, it is possible by looking at this article that despite the race of the youths, the reason why they turn to crime would be due to schooling. Due to the flexible approach of a covert participation observation research it can be difficult for the researcher to foresee any problems that might occur once in the study. So the researcher of such a study would have to react to events and follow leads that they might not have though of beforehand.

This did happen to Parker many times as he was put in awkward situations where the boy’s wanted to engage in criminal behaviour and wanted him to participate. On the other hand, the fact that the researcher has to participate in events that were unforeseen to them before the study could be a help to them as they could redefine potential personal pre-conceptions through experiencing things with the group under study. This way the researcher could produce a detailed of comprehensive information about the group that could be vital to understand their behaviour.

Due to Parker being committed to the study and his willingness to put in the long hours that were required he was able to look at the details of the group in great length. Nevertheless, this point could be used to criticise Parker as he spent a large amount of time with only one particular deviant group so it would be impossible to replicate his study. Also, it would be hard to generalise the information to one study from the nest as not all areas were similar to the Roundhouse where working class communities accepted that the younger generation had turned to crime.

Overall, looking at Parkers study it is possible to see that he was successful in the sense that observed in great detail the lives of boy’s from a deviant sub-culture. The study looked at the lifestyle of the gang and the study was very influential as it focused on what led the boy’s to turn to criminal activities and therefore helped the government to introduce new policies that helped juvenile delinquency and council housing.

The study helped to look at the social benefits that could be achieved in areas such as the Roundhouse, and also changes were made to try and decrease crime by enforcing anti-social behaviour laws on areas. The criminal justice system looked at and understood the reasons that the boy’s behaved the way that they did and tried to resolve these problems. Parker, although criticised for the study did manage to defend his position as a covert participant observer by fitting in with the gang that he would have not been able to do had he told them his real identity.

The study helped to look at working class males in a new light as their actions and behaviours were explained by Parker. Additionally the study looked at participation observation and it was debatable whether it should have been used as it was against ethics. The study allowed a closer and more analytic look at the reasons for and against participation observation. However, as Parker argued, it would have been impossible to carry out the study in any other circumstance.


Hendrey and Moore, (1982). ‘Teach Yourself Sociology. ‘ Work of Howard Parker, quote used. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthropology

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