Dutch-Moroccan teenagers who commit offences turn out to be better integrated into society than their peers who stay out of trouble with the police, research by Utrecht University has found.
Sociologists Gonneke Stevens, Violaine Veen and Wilma Volleberg say in a report that well-integrated Moroccan boys become frustrated because they are often not accepted in Dutch society. The report will be presented in Amsterdam on Tuesday.
The academics' research has also shown that boys of Moroccan immigrant origin break the law more often than their Dutch peers, but that the offences are less serious. Dutch-Moroccan youths are more frequently involved in offences against property, but less so in serious violence and in sex crimes, the researchers say.
The findings appear to contradict the old adage that the more people feel connected with a social group, the less they are inclined to criminal behaviour. Gonneke Stevens thinks that teenagers who focus strongly on the Netherlands culture are more affected by the prevailing negative depiction of Moroccan youths. This creates a frustration that could lead to criminal behaviour, she thinks.
Or could there be another explanation? Do the young Dutch-Moroccans give in to the temptations of money and possessions? This is what Sadik Harchaoui, the director of the multicultural interest organisation Forum, thinks:
"If the core issue is social frustration, as the researchers say, then I would rather expect these teenagers to smash in a telephone booth or to molest a passer-by. But in fact they are focusing on money, because they want to be part of society they try to increase their social status. And they they think they can do so by possessing lots of money and beautiful objects."
What we have, is actually an "integration paradox", Mr Harchaoui says: "The better your socio-cultural integration, the more likely you are to resort to thieving while you have no job."
So find a job or stay at school, appears to be the best approach, given that unemployment among young Dutch-Moroccans is about to reach 30 percent. Many of them leave school prematurely.
Higher social status
The social status of the parents of the Dutch-Moroccan offenders turned out to be higher than that of non-offenders' parents, in terms of income, employment and eductation. Conversely, the parents of Dutch offenders have a lower than average social status.
In the survey, 150 Dutch-Moroccan and 150 Dutch teenage boys between the ages of 12 and 18 held in precautionary detention were compared to 500 non-detainees. The researchers also had access to data supplied by the Justice Ministry, and spoke to the parents of each of the teenagers.
(Interviews by Laurens Nijzink)