The term "teenager" was rarely used before the 1950s.
During the Eisenhower years, the younger people of the society began classifying themselves as a whole different group from the adults, known as “teenagers”. Adults were worried for they believed the younger adults were attempting to forge their identity.
Before the 1950s, young adults had to work full-time and help support their families. By the 1950s this was less common. Thus creating the idea of teenagers. Young adults who worked part-time or/and received an allowance off their parents. The teenagers felt as though they had less reasonability and more freedom, they became rebellious, they broke rules frequently and took advantage of their separation from the adults.
The adults concerned about their children’s strange and worrying behaviours, which delighted the teenagers. The elder generations began blaming ‘comic books’ for their behaviours.
Immature delinquency did exist. Fights among gang members, vandalism, car theft, and random violence were reported in the newspapers every day. But youth gangs had been around for generations; so too had urban violence.
The growing population of young people received lots of coverage by the media which created a problem far greater than it was. The young people loved the attention. They adopted the fashions of gangs (slang, leather jackets, and haircuts/styles), although most were stylistically rebellious teens, some did not commit crimes, they were just trying to be socially accepted and influenced by the media.
Holden Caulfield is a teenage delinquent because of several reasons. He has an obsession with smoking, which is considered a “rebellious” thing to do as a teenager. He also was expelled from his school “I forgot to tell you about that. They kicked me out. I wasn't supposed to come back after Christmas vacation, on account of I was flunking four subjects and not applying myself and all.” He left his school early to go to New York without telling anyone. He had a contact fight with his roommate. The language he uses. Etc.
J.D. Salinger challenges this cultural assumption throughout the book by expressing his thoughts on school as a teenager of that day and age.
“You ought to go to a boys’ school sometime. Try it sometime, it’s full of phonies, and all you do is study so that you can learn enough to be smart enough to be able to buy a goddam Cadillac some day and you have to keep making believe you give a damn if the football team loses, and all you do is talk about girls and liquor and sex all day, and everybody sticks together in these dirty little goddam cliques”
J.D Salinger suggests that the reason they are rebellious is that school is full of phonies and all you need to do is learn so you can by a Cadillac someday. He says that teenagers are so apathetic towards thinking for themselves that they only care whether they win the football game or not.
J.D Salinger challengers these cultural assumptions of teenage delinquency in the 1950s by showing reflections of himself through Caulfield’s character. For example J.D Salinger was kicked out of his school as a teenager and sent to military school, much like Caulfield’s character.