The Riots of 1964 — Chapter 2

Research Director’s Report
Manning Van Nostrand, Director of Research

Theoretical Orientations and Hypotheses:

In the proposal submitted to the President’s Commission on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Development, Dr. William Kvaraceus sketched the following major premises:

  • that there is a sharp parental-authority reduction due to distance and anonymity when large throngs of adolescents and post-adolescents congregate at beach resorts resulting in a tendency to police-attack and violence against property on slight provocation – real or imaginary.
  • that youth are resentful of exploitation by beach operators and town officials who are willing to take their business but who resent their presence and who mount hostility and aggression in protecting property and persons.
  • that beach barricades, street blocks and armed guards represent a fortress to be taken and a challenge to be met by bored and adventurous youth.
  • that youth’s seeking for identify and ownership of a place can be met via the establishment and maintenance of a Youth Pavilion or Youth Centers incorporating a coffee shop, message exchange, telephone service, bulletin boards, newsletter, first aid and other services.
  • that the frustration of being rejected, exploited, disliked, unwanted, attacked and jailed invites a chain of overt aggression.
  • that lack of decent housing, poor working conditions, absence of an appropriate program of youth activities, high beach prices, and harsh (or merely lax) treatment by police all can add up to substantial aggression.
  • that the spectators, young and old, who come “to watch and to see what will happen” actually play a very active roll in beach riot phenomena.
  • that a beach community, including adults and youth, with a minimal outside support can plan, organize and administer a beach program that will diminish destructive activities of youth.
  • that the business community and town officials, through planned discussion, can develop insights and a sense of social responsibility for youth with the aid of a team of behavioral scientists.
  • that the training of policemen and firemen via seminars and discussions will modify the repressive viewpoint and will lessen the danger of police provocation.
  • that a beach-trip tradition found in many high schools in neighboring states can be shifted to form a less dangerous and damaging social institution by early contact with the communities and the formation of area or regional youth groups with specific goals and activities.
  • that the organization of a corporate youth group including native youth, summer residents, summer employers and weekenders can be achieved and can serve as an effective means for communication with the adult community, town officials and police.
  • that a careful analysis of the spectator involvement, the effectiveness of process and program employed, and the backgrounds of beach youth (arrested and rioters and peaceful participants) will offer a base for more effective program planning and intervention not only at Hampton Beach, N.H. but at other resorts reporting similar problems.

With this general kind of guideline, those involved in the research felt that a theoretical orientation should be elaborated together with some hypothetical suggestions on which research and demonstration might be based. This theoretical base incorporates the earlier work of Dr. Kvaraceus. During the first week of May this was done. Here follows that work:

The most obvious theoretical orientation employed seems to be that of the frustration-aggression hypothesis. Throughout the design of the methodology which is to follow, there is suggested that both the youth and the beach business community are exhibiting aggressive reactions as the result of economic and personal frustrations.

The riot represents on the part of the young people a dysfunctional attempt at social change. There is, in addition to the aggressive response to frustration, a rationale embedded in the youthful disturbances. Merton’s schema of latent manifest behavior may be brought to bear at this point to suggest that many features of the behavior involved in the riot are latent in adolescent behavior generally. It would not necessarily be an accurate description of the situation at Hampton Beach to suggest that there was a direct intention on the part of the Hampton Beach business operators or the police to frustrate in specific ways the young people who come to the Beach. Nor, would it be necessarily accurate to say that the aggression displayed by the young people is in specific ways related to the frustrations which they encounter in the resort community. It would be more germane to the situation as a whole if we were to see the situation as symbolic of more deep-seated problems within the adolescent mentality and the practices of the Beach business community as a whole. There are, in other words, those situations on Hampton Beach which act as catalysts which precipitate the aggressive behavior to well up in ways all out of proportion to the reality of the situation. There is then, the inauguration of a frustration-aggression cycle.

A theoretical orientation toward role analysis will also be employed. It is felt that there are many heuristic advantages to this particular theory. One phenomenon to be investigated would involve a role-reversal in leadership functions. That is, out-group youngsters assume leadership positions in situations of violence because they are able more effectively to utilize latent anti-social attitudes in the meeting of a generalized, yet institutionalized expectation of tension-release.

The actors, or incumbents of role positions, seen in this study include: youth, a generalized position which may break down into segmented roles upon further analysis; business people on the beach; business people in the community apart from the beach; residents of the beach; residents of the community apart from the beach; law enforcement officials; local and state politicians; and change agents, or those occupying a ‘middle’ or mediating position and not principally occupying any particular role mentioned above.

Role theory suggests that cross-currents of expectation, obligation, attitude perception and sanctions flow between the incumbents of the various roles. From the standpoint of theory what we are after is some kind of consensus regarding the patterns of expectation, obligation, attitudes and sanctions.

There may occur some differentiation of situational specificity in which certain patterns of behavior will be sanctioned in one time, but not in another. For example, certain recreational activities may be sanctioned at one time and not at another. Another example may occur to be that participants in the riot may not be expressing typical behavior and that the riot situation “permits” the display of certain latent feelings and attitudes.

If there is a model of what we are doing, it might be seen approximated in labor-management arbitration. This arbitration, however, might be coupled with reinforcement learning theory. It goes something like this: through an arbitrator the adult and/or youth discovers a need and experiences from the other a limitation in the meeting of that need; this need and limitation is communicated to the respective group; the resulting change in behavior is communicated to other members of the group; the desirability of change and movement toward the other group is reinforced by reward in the meeting of need. A new climate of opinion is created; a riot is not “needed”. More functional methods and rational attitudes have been employed to deal with a situation and have replaced the dysfunctional, latent methods and attitudes.

Let us now see what was proposed in May in terms of assumptions, hypotheses and methodology.

Assumption: there exists between the older and younger generation an almost complete breakdown in communication.
Assumption: one of the key factors in the riot is this exaggerated separation of the generations. It leads to a compulsive fixation on authoritarian figures.
Assumption: the generally disturbing factors perceived by the adolescent in society as a whole have precipitating counterparts in Hampton Beach. For example, if there is a general break-down in communication between the generations, it is somehow exaggerated in the situation of Hampton Beach.

HYPOTHESIS: If through peer group intervention the values of humanness, rationality, responsibility can be communicated to all groups involved in the Hampton Beach riot, the intensity of the riot will be diminished.

“communicated to” implies not only a communication of value through verbal means, but a replacement of existing modes of behavior, i.e., punitive, alienation, acquisitiveness.

“values” will imply not only concepts, but action responses.

“peer group intervention” implies, in this particular situation, a new kind of social control. While this intervention will be done in the context of a more ordered, and hopefully humane system of law enforcement, the emphasis will be on reward and will be directed toward the goal of changing the environmental situation to the point where riotous behavior will be inappropriate.

METHOD: Various seminars with business people, youth, residents of the community, law enforcement officials will be used to communicate and reinforce more helpful attitudes and behavior patterns. Continual analysis of the group process occurring in these group seminars will constitute both a means of research and a means of social control.

HYPOTHESIS: That social control related to adolescent delinquent behavior will involve efforts toward giving symbolic and concrete affirmations of identity and belonging of the young themselves.

METHOD: To involve young people in the planning and execution of various programs on the Beach that will “concretize their belong” to the Beach community. This will, in all probability, take the form of a Youth Center on the Beach, a newspaper for youth, “Coffee House” programs conducted in business establishments of the beach, and the process of involving them in discussion with the adult community. The various effects of this may be measured by repeated resting with the “Annoyance Scale” and in the charting of the group process in the various seminars.

HYPOTHESIS: That youth are resentful of exploitation by beach operators and town officials who are willing to take their business but who resent their presence and who mount hostility and aggression in protecting their property and persons.

METHOD: The investigation of the dynamics of resentment will be conducted by two basic methods: the questionnaire and interview, and the already mentioned seminar. There will be an instrument to measure annoyance which will be given to youth, business people and residents. This annoyance scale will measure the undesirability of several modes of conduct and will measure the degree of punishment felt appropriate to each mode of conduct. This annoyance scale will be given in three waves through the summer to measure changing attitudes.

A comprehensive interview schedule will be drawn up, pretested, and given to those individuals who were apprehended in the riot last year. This interview schedule seeks to ascertain: social class position, aspiration, perceptions about self, perceptions of the riot and particularly the leadership of the riot, perceptions of the adult and adolescent world, and a general structure of values.

It is hoped that this interview will give clues not only to resentments, but also provide helpful suggestions for containing and modifying resentments.

Assumption: There are more young people amenable to suggestions of responsible behavior than there are youngsters who will not be deterred from destructive behavior.

Assumption: Law enforcement techniques are unable to deal with the entire problem, are unable to deal with “troublemakers” when such individuals are shielded by throngs of their peers who find vicarious release of tension by a relatively passive participation in the riot. Some means other than law enforcement must be found to deal with the problem.

Assumption: A faddish institution such as the Hampton Beach riot will continue to attract a certain element determined to cause trouble.

HYPOTHESIS: That law enforcement agencies can more effectively deal with those determined to cause trouble if the majority of young people can be diverted from participation in the riot or have their needs met in more responsible ways.

METHOD: Obviously, this hypothesis can only be studied in terms of effectively meeting the other hypotheses. This hypothesis suggests a complementary aspect of the first-mentioned hypothesis. The hypothesis can only be studied in the field so to speak, by the analysis of the events of the Labor Day Weekend, 1965. there will be, however, a retesting utilizing the interview schedule of those apprehended in any disturbance then. Analysis and comparison of results will be done to determine any significant shifts in attitude and value structure.

Assumption: Those apprehended in the ’64 riot represent a spectrum of class position ranging from upper-middle class through lower class.

Assumption: The nearer a young person approximates middle class social position the more he will be appealed to by the values of rationality, responsibility and humaneness.

HYPOTHESIS: That there will be a downward shift in aspiration level and social class position of those apprehended in any disturbance in a Labor Day, 1965 disturbance in comparison with those apprehended in ’64.

Several exceptions to the methodology to be employed must be noted immediately. In the rough and tumble of the actual project it was nearly impossible to perform an accurate and scientific appraisal of the group process that was mentioned in the research outline. Such recording will be found in its detail, insofar as we have it, in the report of Mr. Estaver. It is hoped that this report might make some summary remarks regarding an overview of work done on the project in the perspective of the process of arbitration.

One rather crucial limitation of the research was the fact that the Project as it progressed through the summer was, at best, an effort parallel to a strong program of law enforcement. Communication between the law enforcement agencies and the Project Officials was limited. It would, therefore, be difficult to work out with substantial accuracy what effect the Project had in and of itself. Particularly is this true with regard to the fact that there was no riotous disturbance over Labor Day, 1965. Because there was such a strong program of law enforcement, and because there was, in fact, no riot on Labor Day Weekend of 1965, it is difficult to know what precisely the research is trying to do. If it should be that significant changes in attitude structure emerge through the summer in the adult and/or the youth communities apart from the perceptions of law enforcement programs, we might then conclude that something other than a law enforcement program was responsible for the fact there was no disturbance this year. It might be that CAVE could take a share of that credit. It is more probably that the effect of CAVE on Hampton Beach during the summer simply is not measurable. The visible symbol of a community’s attempt to cope with the needs of young people might have a significant effect on the perceptions of these young people. Given such an effect, the cumulative result might represent significant shifts in attitude among the transient population.

What we can say in conclusion regarding the theoretical aspects of the Beach Project is that: 1. much of the action program was never carried out, nor could it have been under the existing circumstances which followed, with the result that the research may be somewhat misleading as to what effect the program could have had; * 2. we are dealing with an extremely mobile population; 3. that which is to be researched is particularly difficult to ascertain in any quantifiable way, 4. the research was not designed to uncover the latent stresses and strains in the adolescent community so that many of the significant questions which might be asked will never be answered from the research work done on this Project.

* One is reminded of experiments in industrial psychology where it was finally determined that the significant variable in affecting worker attitudes was not music, lighting, etc., but that somewhere someone was paying attention to the needs of the workers.