Victims or Victimizers: An Analysis of American Media Perception of Juvenile Delinquency

Lucia Caroline Rose, Hayley Carlisle, Jonathan Ellis


The following research offers a comparative analysis of the perception of U.S. juvenile gang members and the ISIS “Cubs of the Caliphate” in Western media. While extensive research has been compiled regarding the legal culpability of child soldiers through the lens of the law, the use of children by ISIS is a relatively new development and has yet to be thoroughly investigated. However, before academic and governmental reports are completed, common news outlets are the primary source of information and craft the narrative for the American public regarding the “Cubs of the Caliphate.” This study examines an array of articles from reputable Western news providers such as the New York Times and Washington Post that discuss domestic gang or ISIS activities perpetrated by youth. Utilizing a sample of over 50 articles, language was identified that characterizes juveniles as either “victims” or “perpetrators.” Based on this content analysis, it was determined that there is a clear media depiction of ISIS’ “Cubs” as immune from prosecution for their actions within ISIS, while there was a mixed portrayal of culpability for American youth in organized gangs. The study ultimately determines that foreign juvenile delinquents in the Islamic State are portrayed in Western media as less culpable than domestic juvenile delinquents in organized gangs, perhaps due to the influencing legal standard set in Western states.


(child soldiers), gangs, (juvenile delinquency)

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