Pressured Into Crime: An Overview of General Strain Theory by Robert Agnew provides an overview of general strain theory, one of the leading explanations of crime and delinquency, developed by author Robert Agnew. Merton’s Strain Theory quickly became one of the more popular Crime and Deviance positions. Building on the foundation of general strain theory: Specifying the types of strain most likely to lead to crime and delinquency. One could also frame the Black Lives Matter movement and protests against police violence as examples of strain-induced rebellion. Strain theory was created from the work of Durkheim and Merton and derived from the theory of anomie. And they involve exposure to others who reinforce crime, model crime and/or teach beliefs favorable to crime (e.g., peer abuse). Both dimensions are necessary to differentiate strain theory from control and differential association/social learning theory. Robert Agnew, Reflection on “A Revised Strain Theory of Delinquency”, Social Forces, Volume 91, Issue 1, September 2012, Pages 33–38, https://doi.org/10.1093/sf/sos117. For example, they may become frustrated and resort to criminal means of getting what they want, or lash out at others in anger, or 537: 1999: General strain theory: Current status and directions for further research. Limited evidence suggests that strains may also increase crime by reducing social control, increasing association with criminal peers, fostering beliefs favorable to crime, contributing to criminogenic traits (e.g., negative emotionality) and prompting the view that crime is a cost-effective response (Agnew 2007). Demonstrators celebrate the verdict in the murder trial of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke on October 5, 2018. The persuasion of crime is a war that has affected many generations of juvenile delinquency. "What Are the Strengths and Weaknesses of Merton's Strain Theory in Understanding Crime" paper focuses on the social strain theory. Strain theory explains deviant behavior as an inevitable outcome of the distress individuals experience when they're deprived of ways to achieve culturally valued goals. An adequate assessment of strain theory's utility is complicated further by the methodological limitations of existing studies. Merton’s Strain Theory quickly became one of the more popular Crime and Deviance positions. Although the theory has been examined by many and enjoys empirical support, some limitations of previous studies need to be addressed. Search for other works by this author on: A Longitudinal Test of the Revised Strain Theory, Foundation for a General Strain Theory of Crime and Delinquency, A General Strain Theory of Community Differences in Crime Rates, Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Building on the Foundation of General Strain Theory: Specifying the Types of Strain Most Likely to Lead to Crime and Delinquency. Social Strain Theory: Five types of deviance. The first type involves the inability to achieve one's goals. Taking stock: The status of criminological theory 15, 101-123, 2006. Presented in this article is a comprehensive and parsimonious theory explaining the socio-psychological mechanism prior to suicidal behavior. Strain theory, in chemistry, a proposal made in 1885 by the German chemist Adolf von Baeyer that the stability of carbocyclic compounds (i.e., those of which the molecular structure includes one or more rings of carbon atoms) depends on the amount by which the angles between the chemical bonds deviate from the value (109°28′) observed in compounds not containing such rings. When an individual in a society cannot achieve culturally approved goal via culturally approved ways, it can be stressful for him and may leads to deviant behavior. Oxford University Press is a department of the University of Oxford. In his discussion of deviance Merton proposed a typology of deviant behavior that illustrated the possible discrepancies between culturally defined goals and the institutionalized means available to achieve these goals. They are associated with low social control. The article had some success, laying the groundwork for my “general strain theory,” now one of the leading explanations of crime and delinquency (Agnew 1992, 2007). General strain theory (GST) (Agnew, 1992, 2001, 2006a) is an established criminological theory. Strain theories assume people will commit crime because of strain, stress, or pressure. The strain theory of suicide (STS) is an emerging approach to look into the etiology of suicide beyond psychiatry, as well as genetics and/or epigenetics, although these non-social features are also often discussed as risk factors. The Theory. Strain theories also assume that human beings are naturally good; bad things … Merton’s strain theory is an important contribution to the study of crime and deviance – in the 1940s it helped to explain why crime continued to exist in countries, such as America, which were experiencing increasing economic growth and wealth. Strain theory is a sociology and criminology theory developed in 1938 by Robert K. Merton. The Continuing Relevance of Strain Theory . Crime and deviance especially in juvenile delinquents will always be prevalent in today’s society. Group and community/societal differences in crime are explained in terms of differences in the extent of strain, the types of strain and/or the factors that condition the response to strains. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com. For full access to this pdf, sign in to an existing account, or purchase an annual subscription. In postulating why certain Strains, particularly major strains that are seen as unjust, are likely to make individuals angry. These theories focus on the goal of monetary success or the somewhat broader goal of middle-class status (Merton 1938; Cloward and Ohlin 1960; Cohen 1955). Most strain theories state that delinquency results when individuals are unable to achieve their goals through legitimate channels. Lastly, rebellion applies to people who reject and replace culturally valued goals and the socially sanctioned ways of achieving them. The Continuing Relevance of Strain Theory . GST also focuses on other negative emotions and certain recent research is exploring the idea that different types of strain lead to different negative emotions (e.g., anger versus fear), and that different emotions are conducive to different types of crime (e.g., anger to violence, depression to drug use; e.g., Ganem 2010). Gender differences in crime are not due to differences in the level of strain; females, in fact, may experience higher levels of strain than males. Merton asserted that societies are composed of two core aspects: culture and social structure. However, as Besnard 1987 demonstrates, its meaning has taken many forms from the conventional normlessness or lawlessness to other closely related uses like meaninglessness, as well as to a sense of “derangement.” For the interested reader, Orrù 1987 … They are easily resolved through crime (e.g., a desperate need for money). In the U.S., many people strive for economic success, considered the key to having a positive identity in a capitalist and consumerist society. Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder and 16 counts of aggravated battery in the shooting death of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide, This PDF is available to Subscribers Only. This argument was said to be especially relevant to the explanation of delinquency because juveniles are “compelled to live with their family in a certain neighborhood; to go to a certain school; and, within limits, to interact with the same group of peers and neighbors” (Agnew 1985:156). GST argues that strain occurs when others (1) prevent or threaten to prevent you from achieving positively valued goals, (2) remove or threaten to remove positively valued stimuli that you possess, or (3) present or threaten to present you with noxious or negatively valued stimuli. GST list several specific strains with these characteristics: parental rejection; harsh, erratic, and/or excessive discipline; child abuse and neglect; negative secondary school experiences (e.g., low grades, negative relations with teachers); peer abuse; work in the secondary labor market; chronic unemployment; certain marital problems, such as verbal and physical abuse and frequent conflicts; criminal victimization; homelessness; discrimination; and residence in severely deprived communities. General Strain Theory of Criminology. Although crime rates have significantly reduced over the decade, there are still significant crime rates and sharp increases in individual years (Bureau of … Merton noted that the deviant response to strain was one of five responses he observed in society. This form of crime refers to the misdeeds of the economically privileged, such as a corporate executive committing fraud or engaging in insider trading on the stock market. Most recently, GST has been used to suggest crime-control policies, most of which focus on reducing exposure to criminogenic strains and the likelihood of criminal coping (Agnew 2010). In his discussion of deviance Merton proposed a typology of deviant behavior that illustrated the possible discrepancies between culturally defined goals and the institutionalized means available to achieve these goals. Merton thinks that the sense of strain that men feel is an accumulation of frustration, despair and injustice (Cohen 1966). A one‐sided focus on Merton's strain theory in the secondary literature has unnecessarily restricted the power and effectiveness of Merton's anomie theory. Agnew, Robert ( 2006 b) ‘General Strain Theory: Current Status and Directions for Further Research’, in Francis T. Cullen , John Paul Wright , and Michelle Coleman (eds) Taking Stock: The Status of Criminological Theory, Advances in Criminological Theory, Vol. Using a purposive sample of college students, we tested the hypothesis that individuals with self-reported symptoms of ADHD were more likely to participate in criminal behaviors when experiencing strain. The General Strain Theory And Juvenile Delinquency 1715 Words | 7 Pages. Merton's macro-level theory of “social structure and anomie” has evolved into an individual-level “strain theory” that roots crime in the experience of blocked access to desired success goals. I argued that the inability to achieve ideal goals may not prompt much frustration and that goal blockage is better measured in terms of the disjunction between actual achievements and expected goals. Often, though, people lack the means to achieve culturally valued goals, leading them to feel strain and possibly engage in deviant behavior. General strain theory (GST) provides a unique explanation of crime and delinquency. These sources suggest that painful events and conditions generate negative emotions and sometimes prompt criminal coping, even when legal escape is possible. His strain theory led to other important theories such anomie and the self fulfilling prophecy. Strain theory has changed and evolved significantly since its early beginnings in 1938 with Robert Merton and the classical tradition. Lower class individuals are said to have special trouble achieving these goals because they are less well prepared for school, attend inferior schools and lack the means for advanced educations. People marginalized by racism and classism are most likely to experience strain because they have the same goals as their fellow Americans but find their opportunities limited in a society rife with systemic inequalities. Journal of research in crime and delinquency 36 (2), 123-155, 1999. This paper tests Agnew's (1992) general strain theory (GST) of crime and delinquency. Strain theory was developed by Robert king Merton in 1957, which states that, social structure of society compel an individual to commit crime. Previous Next. At the same time, GST does state that criminal coping is more likely when individuals lack the skills and resources to cope in a legal manner (more below). The article had some success, laying the groundwork for my “general strain theory,” now one of the leading explanations of crime and delinquency (Agnew 1992, 2007). For example, that strain involving parental rejection is associated with weak bonds to parents and poor supervision. Crime and deviance especially in juvenile delinquents will always be prevalent in today’s society. … GST also builds on the revised theory by better describing why strains increase the likelihood of crime. 101-23. Further, certain qualitative and recent quantitative research suggest that the types of goal blockage I identified do increase crime (Agnew 2007). Words: 1832 Length: 5 Pages Document Type: Term Paper Paper #: 65075439. Agnew argues that experiences of strain, which include an array of negative life events, produce a negative emotional response which creates pressure for corrective action. We found that ADHD symptoms conditioned the effect of strain on crime. The strain theory of suicide (STS) is an emerging approach to look into the etiology of suicide beyond psychiatry, as well as genetics and/or epigenetics, although these non-social features are also often discussed as risk factors. Sociological Explanations of Deviant Behavior, How Psychology Defines and Explains Deviant Behavior, Why Some Biological Explanations for Deviancy Have Been Discredited, What Is Multiculturalism? R Agnew. R Agnew. In a series of articles, Agnew 1985, Agnew 1989, Agnew 1992 developed a foundation for a “general strain theory” (GST) of crime and delinquency. Emigration and Electoral Outcomes in Mexico: Democratic Diffusion, Clientelism, and Disengagement, Review of Patchwork Leviathan: Pockets of Bureaucratic Effectiveness in Developing States, Receive exclusive offers and updates from Oxford Academic, Copyright © 2020 University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. These emotions create pressure for corrective action, and crime is one possible response (Agnew 1992). Strain theory, then, is distinguished by its focus on negative relationships with others and its insistence that such relationships lead to delinquency through the negative affect-specially anger-they sometimes engender. The premise of strain theory is that a something or someone in a person’s life is causing the strain that leads them to commit a crime in order to alleviate that strain (Agnew, 2001). For example, researchers usually consider one conditioning variable at a time, with other conditioning variables controlled. Also, research using self-report measures of crime revealed that the relationship between social class and delinquency is weaker than previously thought, with some studies finding little or no relationship (Agnew 1985). Also, the inability to achieve educational or occupational goals is not conducive to crime, because those with high educational/occupational goals have some commitment to conventional society. GST attempted to merge the revised theory with prior strain theories, and it drew heavily on the stress, emotions and justice literatures. Pressured Into Crime: An Overview of General Strain Theory. American sociologist Robert K. Merton developed strain theory, a concept connected to both the functionalist perspective on deviance and Émile Durkheim's theory of anomie. Share This Amazing Location! The strain theory of suicide postulates that suicide is usually preceded by psychological strains. Anomie can be split into two separate levels. 101-23. Definition, Theories, and Examples, What Is the Common Good in Political Science? Durkheim concentrated on the reduction of societal control and the strain that was caused at the individual level, and Merton analyzed the cultural connection that is present between the individual and the standards of society. Indeed, academic search engines are teeming with reports, studies and summaries of strain theory in all of its forms, functions and offshoots. Strain theories were attacked for several reasons (Agnew 1985). This stems from such things as gender differences in traits such as self-control and empathy, in levels of supervision and in association with delinquent peers. Education and hard work may help Americans to achieve middle- or upper-class status, but not everyone has access to quality schools or employment. American sociologist Robert K. Merton developed strain theory, a concept connected to both the functionalist perspective on deviance and Émile Durkheim's theory of anomie.Merton asserted that societies are composed of two core aspects: culture and social structure.Our values, beliefs, goals, and identities are developed in the cultural realm. For example, some studies find that individuals with criminal peers are more likely to cope with strains through crime, while other studies do not. For example, Western society places value on economic success, even though wealth is accessible to just a small percentage of people. Social Strain Theory: Five types of deviance. Durkheim’s Anomie. We attempt to identify issues that might allow for a more systematic test of strain theory, and we encourage criminologists to broaden their research agenda to explore the potentially criminogeists effects of a wide range of strainful life circumstances. GST has also been used to explain group differences in crime, including, gender, age, race/ethnic and class differences (e.g., Agnew 2007; Broidy and Agnew 1997; Kaufman et al. Conformity describes the people who pursue culturally valued goals through legitimate means, and ritualism refers to the individuals who set more realistic goals for themselves. I briefly noted, however, that several factors influence whether juveniles respond to the blockage of pain-avoidance behavior with delinquency, including their beliefs regarding delinquency, their level of association with delinquent peers, the likelihood of sanction and the perceived injustice of the aversive treatment. Among other things, these studies focused on educational and occupational goals, and they measured goal blockage in terms of the disjunction between expectations and aspirations or ideal goals. There will always be low income communities that breed out drug dealers for the streets. This article and the original article reflected upon are available for free at oxford.ly/sfanniversary. Google Scholar This is an attempt to introduce ADHD, a psychological disorder, into the framework of general strain theory. Strain, resulting from conflicting and competing pressures in an individual’s life, is hypothesized to precede suicide. Given this, critics of strain theory argue that characterizing crimes of acquisition as deviant may lead to policies that seek to control people rather than make society more equitable. R Agnew. A range of factors are said to be relevant here, including coping skills and resources (e.g., problem-solving skills, financial resources, self-efficacy), levels of conventional and criminal social support, social control, association with criminal others, beliefs regarding crime and exposure to situations where the costs of crime are low and the benefits high (Agnew 2007). This anger creates pressure for corrective action, interferes with the use of certain legitimate coping strategies, such as negotiation, reduces concern for the consequences of one's behavior, and creates a desire for revenge. A general strain theory of community differences in crime rates. Class, race, gender, sexual orientation, and cultural capital influence a person's likelihood of climbing the socioeconomic ladder. Controlling Crime: Recommendations from General Strain Theory, Criminology and Public Policy: Putting Theory to Work, Gender and Crime: A General Strain Theory Perspective, Gender and General Strain Theory: The Gendering of Emotional Experiences and Expressions, The Role of Negative Emotion in General Strain Theory, A General Strain Theory of Racial Differences in Criminal Offending, The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, General Strain Theory and Delinquency: An Alternative Examination of Conditioning Influences, General Strain Theory and Continuity in Offending Over Time: Assessing and Extending GST Explanations of Persistence. They form in response to existing social structures that ideally provide the means for the public to achieve their goals and live out positive identities. By using ThoughtCo, you accept our, Applying Strain Theory to the United States. In this regard, many find Merton's theory valuable and useful. A one‐sided focus on Merton's strain theory in the secondary literature has unnecessarily restricted the power and effectiveness of Merton's anomie theory. Agnew, Robert ( 2006 b) ‘General Strain Theory: Current Status and Directions for Further Research’, in Francis T. Cullen , John Paul Wright , and Michelle Coleman (eds) Taking Stock: The Status of Criminological Theory, Advances in Criminological Theory, Vol. A one-sided focus on Merton's strain theory in the secondary literature has unnecessarily restricted the power and effectiveness of Merton's anomie theory. These individuals may, therefore, be more likely to turn to unsanctioned methods to achieve economic success, though plenty of so-called "white-collar crime" routinely takes place in the U.S. too. And data suggest that anger, particularly state anger, partly explains the effect of strains on crime (Agnew 2007). The Strain Theory, developed by Robert Merton, suggests that people who find their way blocked and do not experience equal opportunity are more likely to follow a deviant path (Henslin, 229).They will easily find problems in the system and have a hard time accepting cultural norms. Download [4.43 MB] By Riya Agnihotri | 2017-07-12T16:53:32+00:00 May 9th, 2017 | CRIME & DEVIANCE | Comments Off on Functionalism Strain Theory. Robert Agnew developed the general strain theory, sometimes referred to as GST, in 1992. It can also explain middle-class delinquency, since middle-class adolescents also encounter aversive situations from which they cannot legally escape. Robert Agnew developed the general strain theory, sometimes referred to as GST, in 1992. 15, pp. This reflection describes how the article revised strain theory, how I built on the article, and the research inspired by the article. The research here has produced mixed results. Sociologists have used strain theory to explain deviant behaviors related to acquisition and to support research that links social-structural conditions to culturally valued goals. 1382: 2007 : A revised strain theory of delinquency. Like the revised theory, GST emphasizes the key role played by anger. He found that people from lower socioeconomic classes were more likely to commit crimes that involve acquisition (stealing in one form or another). Strain theory is a sociology and criminology theory developed in 1938 by Robert K. Merton. Those who engage in illicit behavior to obtain economic success may simply be partaking in normal behaviors for individuals in their circumstances. The findings showed that measures of strain such as monetary dissatisfaction, and more consistently relative deprivation, were significant predictors of crime. Title: General Strain Theory, Race, and Delinquency Created Date: 9/29/2015 4:51:45 PM These strains involve the inability to achieve one’s goals (e.g., monetary or status goals), the loss of positive stimuli (e.g., the death of a friend, the loss of valued possessions), or the presentation of negative stimuli (e.g., verbal and physical abuse). Strain Theory The subject of strain theory is a very hot topic in the public, psychology and otherwise scholarly spheres. Merton’s Strain theory grew in prominence at a time when Sociologists were attempting to explain why crime tends to increase at times of economic growth. Well, in a nutshell, they experience certain strains or stressors, they become upset, and they may cope through violence. The most prominent attack, however, was based on the assertion that strain theories predict that crime should be highest among those who do not expect to achieve their educational and occupational aspirations. Researchers have also begun to explore additional mediating mechanisms between strains and crime. Cloward and Ohlin's (1961) theory of differential opportunity built upon Merton's strain theory, underscoring the fact that those involved in illegitimate means of opportunity require a set of learned skills as do those involved in legitimate means. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It is always a cause for concern when statistics estimate an increase in crime rates. For although structural strain is one way to explain why deviance occurs in the context of anomie, it is not the only way. Merton’s strain theory is an important contribution to the study of crime and deviance – in the 1940s it helped to explain why crime continued to exist in countries, such as America, which were experiencing increasing economic growth and wealth. Finally, GST has been applied to range of issues beyond the explanation of why some individuals have higher levels of crime than others – the focus of the revised strain theory. Gallery . The cultural value of economic success looms so large that some people are willing to acquire wealth, or its trappings, by any means necessary. When an individual in a society cannot achieve culturally approved goal via culturally approved ways, it can be stressful for him and may leads to deviant behavior. My 1985 article revised strain theory by arguing that crime is caused not so much by the inability to achieve positively valued goals, but by the inability to escape from painful or aversive conditions. I came to believe that the studies challenging the role of goal blockage were flawed. According to Deflem 2015, the word anomie is of Greek origin and means lack of (“a”) law (“nom”). 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