Formation of Youth Subculture and Significance in the Society

Subject: Sociology
Pages: 7
Words: 1968
Reading time:
7 min
Study level: PhD


The youth subculture is basically, the concept of deriving identification from given youth-based subcultures. These subcultures are popular for giving the youth an identity apart from that they get from social institutions such as homes families as well as schools. Different subcultures are distinguished by their unique styles of clothing, hair, dialects, behavior as well as a music genre. Each subculture has its own distinct way and approach to various issues in the social spectrum. It is evident in their use of unique symbols with exceptional meanings that are comprehended by the participants or members of the subculture. Because of the existence of subcultures in our modern society especially among the youth, the young generation continues to struggle to fit themselves into groups from where it is perceived they can be in a position to source their identity. Of keen interest to note is the high degree of loyalty participants of a given culture, award to their respective group, this loyalty is manifested In the unique fashions, beliefs and practices (Brake, 1990).

Questions still linger as to what is the key motivator of the formation of such sub-cultures, why should they be in existence in the first place and what are the factors that have facilitated its constant growth over a period of time that has seen its adoption as well as socialization from generation to generation. The significance of such groups in the society has also been a subject of debate that has elicited diverse reactions from various spheres and schools of thought. However one fact is for sure, all participants of the subcultures have their own reasons that compelled them to ascribe to given subcultures. One major reason that has dominated most debates is the lack of identity, a concept that is also quite questionable since in the modern society there are various avenues from where the youth can source their identity, therefore weakening the grounds on which lack of identity can be a convincing reason (Greenberg, 2007).

The paper will attempt to shed some more light on the topic of discussion in a bid to be clear on the concepts behind the formation of subcultures among the youth and the factors that are key motivators to their participants. In an effort to comprehensively unravel the mysteries that abound in the youth subculture concept, a critical analysis of the topic is put forth, supported by theories that have close ties to the subject. This will ensure that the looming uncertainties on the subject of discussion are cleared beyond any reasonable doubt and the facts and principles behind the concept clearly spelled out. To ensure a broader understanding of the subject, examples that point to the execution of the youth sub-culture concept are also highlighted. The argumentative structure of the paper is keen on ensuring that an objective analysis is made on the topic, before a critical conclusion on the subject is made (Grahan, 2011).

Theoretical perspective of subculture

Marxist theory

According to Marx, the formation of the youth subcultures is a strategic attempt by the capitalists to exercise divide and rule concept, so that they can be able to dominate resources within a given area. The idea here is to encourage the formation of subcultures, and direct a lot of popularity on their side in a bid to induce a perception on the youth that being able to identify with a given subculture is the right thing or rather ‘cool’ thing to do. This leads to a constant increase in participants who are loyal to their groups’ beliefs and practices consequently sustaining the existence of the subcultures. The plan here is to use their loyalty and strong belief in their culture as the right one, to rise against another subculture. This consequently leads to wars between subcultures making the youth concentrate more on the discrepancies between rival subcultures rather than how the ruling class is misusing the resources.

With more attention shifted to the subcultures the ruling class continues to enrich them using public resources since there is lack of the very much need unity to prevent such selfish interests from being secured. The ruling class, who ensures that the cultures do not become distinct, thus funds the activities of the subcultures. As a result, these subcultures are passed from generation to generation, each day enticing the youth to become participants due to their unique mannerism of doing things (Grahan, 2011).

Interaction theory

This theory is of the idea that, subcultures do not just come into being through social forces, since they are not coherent social groupings. The theory blames the mass media for creating an ideological framework from which the youth can be able to spot or rather locate their behavior. They hence assimilate to the group in which they can easily trace their behaviors, believes as well as practices.

Through their interaction with the environment, the youth are continuously exposed to diverse ideologies and they consequently assimilate to the groups into which they share ideologies as well as beliefs. Therefore, an individual personally decides whether to become a participant of a given culture based on his or her personal ideologies and believes in relation to those of a given subculture. From this angle of argument, it is clear that personal decision is also a very crucial factor that contributes to the participation in a given subculture as well as its consequent growth in the long run. However, it is important to note that these decisions are greatly shaped by the mass media though exercised by individuals (Greenberg, 2007).

Formation of youth subculture

Subcultures are often formed to solve a pending need by a certain section of the community, in our case the youth. Here, the youth find some things they would wish to do are not catered for in the larger culture that they would wish to identify with or do. The larger culture however provides the youth with the ability with some sort of things they would which to identify with and thus not forming a counter-culture. Ideas like sense of direction and definition of their goals in life. The youth however use the larger culture to define their success and thus still identify with the larger culture. The aspects of the larger culture which may be lacking that lead the youth to identify with the subculture include aspects such as:


The youth may find it difficult or maybe old-fashioned to use the ordinary language provided for by the larger culture. This then prompts the youth to come up with languages or copy languages from other places that they find attractive or modern. For instance the languages used in movies are often fast adopted by the youth as the youth consider such languages superior to the ones the youths use normally (i.e. the ones provided by the larger culture). Language is an important part of culture and when the youth or any other group tends to identify with a different culture as that of the general culture, they tend to attract more diversions from the general culture to the other aspects of the general culture. Some languages are developed during an occasion, music or even by the combination of two languages to form a word. Another reason that may lead the youth into adapting different types of languages include trying to hide the conversations that they consider private from being understood by their seniors e.g. teachers and their parents (Brake, 1990).

Language may also be a form of identification or subscription to the given culture and hence promoting the spread of the culture.

Dressing code

This forms one of the most visible manners in which the youth tend to form their subcultures. Through dressing code, the youth could communicate messages on which groups they subscribe to and which ideologies they believe in. This is may not, in most cases, arise as a result of the youth not finding satisfaction in the general culture but is in most cases their way of communicating to the public about their subcultures. Their dressing code then has to be different from the one by the general culture in order to fulfill its purpose. The dress code includes T-shirts, shoes, pants, earrings and jewelers in general. Different youth cultures are known to have developed different dressing codes or even dress in particular colors to communicate to the public about the ideas they believe in (Greenberg, 2007).

Other factors include the music they listen to, the cars they drive and the way they walk amongst others.

Factors that lead to an increase in youth subcultures

The society size

The bigger the society the more the subcultures are likely to emerge from it. For instance take America, America has literally thousands of subcultures that are majorly composed by and run by the youth. This may be because of the many diverse ideas that are likely to arise from a larger society than a smaller considering the difference in size of the population which represents a more diverse society.

Rate of change in society

High rates of change in society are likely to lead to more subcultures. This is because of the difference in the transition process from childhood to adulthood. The youths tend to view former generation as of beliefs past with the today’s events. This leads to the youth coming up with different ways with which to reach the adulthood stage. The adults that the youth mold of themselves are very different from that of the past generation and this causes the difference in their perspectives on life (Grahan, 2011).


Technology is serving to flatten the world and by this it flattens a lot of other things in the world, among them is culture. The youth are much interested in technology and this technology serves them with the other forms of culture from the different parts of the world. The youth then tend to take to the cultures they view as superior or are attracted to them. Here, the concept of unity and fragmentation comes to play.

Position of the youth in the society

The position of the youth in the society is very important in determining whether the youths will have a likelihood of rebelling with the general culture or will take to it. When the society marginalizes the youths, they tend to take to rebel against the general culture hence leading to their identification with the smaller cultures (the subcultures).

Features of the youth subculture

Most of the features of the youth subculture emanate from aspects of culture itself. Culture’s components are what the youth rebel against to form their own. They include music, dressing, language, styles, gender, and class e.t.c.

Description of the youth class interaction may take the following angle:

  • Class subcultures and the youth

Varied socio-economic groups show varied traits anchored on varied factors. Among the working community or low class, the youths gain a propensity to have lots of contact with their parents thus a less likely to rebel against their parents as compared to those in the middle and/or the upper classes. The youths in the working class tend to have their rebellion centered in gangs while those in the, middle and the upper classes develop rebellion due to interests e.g. sports (Brake, 1990).

  • Family and youth subcultures

As discussed before, youths from the working class tend to have less rebellion hence fewer subcultures due to the closeness of the youth to their parents. The youth then end up with the thought to become like their parents. This is unlike the upper class where they are given more disposable income which they use in other activities leading to a divergence in interests and therefore a high likelihood to develop more subcultures than the working class (Greenberg, 2007).

Examples of youth subcultures include Indie, Emo, Goths, Punks, Ravers among others.


Brake, M. (1990). The sociology of the youth culture and youth subcultures: sex and drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Alberta: Routledge.

Grahan, J. (2011). Youth Subcutures. Australian and New Zealand journal of sociology , 34-38.

Greenberg, A. (2007). Youth subcultures: exploring underground America. New York: Pearson Longman.