This description of a poor family in Edinburgh in 1911 is fairly typical of those found in the reports of child welfare agencies, school boards and charity records between the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It illustrates a number of concerns regarding the exact nature of juvenile delinquency and its relationship to the family, pauperism, educational destitution and a social milieu of unplanned urban growth.2 A closer examination of this rhetoric reveals the presence of certain key figures or spectres: the brutal father and the feckless mother, filthy, drunken work-shy beasts who neglect their miserable children if not actually schooling them in vice and crime. Their unmanly sons grew up without “respect for the honour of women” and their immodest daughters were strangers to purity and chastity. Although this population was constructed in a class and “racialized” context, in the sense that they were marked off as a qualitatively distinct social category that inhabited the urban slums, the identities of the children were also gendered and sexualized. Thus in the discourses of juvenile delinquency two additional figures can be found: the “street-corner” boy and the “vicious” girl. For social reformers writing on a range of social problems, including poverty, disease, drunkenness, irreligion, illegitimacy, and especially crime, which they saw as plaguing Scottish cities and towns, the street children became a paradigm for urban decay. They were increasingly concerned about the number of children in the streets who appeared to do nothing to earn their living except beg, busk and steal.3 They did not differentiate between children with jobs and families and the destitute homeless orphan. To the bourgeois observer they were all alike, “drifting about the highways and byways of vice”.4 They were identified,

“racially” and otherwise, as “arabs”, “urchins”, “savages”, and “outcasts” and “as heathen and uncivilized, alien to order and progress”.5 These children were at once in danger and dangerous, to be pitied for their neglect but feared for the crimes they were destined to commit.