The Strain Theory in Criminology and Sociology Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1693 Words
Date:  2022-02-17

Theories in criminology provide a conducive platform to explain why different individuals involve themselves in diverse criminal activities (Jaggers et al. 2016). Through the investigation and exploration of the causes of diverse delinquency, the theories provide fundamental insights and facilitate explanation and interpretation of the manifested behaviours of individual criminals or offenders. Many experts in biology, psychology and sociology have established the importance and the vital role of criminal theories in propelling understanding of the multidimensional aspects of the criminal offenders (Jaggers et al. 2016). Although the isolated and independent theories strive to provide empirical evidence to explain typical behaviours that violate the codified laws and legislation of the society and numerous factors for delinquency, no single theory explains all the criminal activities hence need for integration of assorted approaches. Varied arguments tend to explain unique crimes. For instance, strain theory focuses on the socio-cultural and economic repression as a significant factor and drive for violating the codifies laws and legislation while other theories like the rational-choice theory ascertain that people act in their self-interest and break the laws after weighing the potential risks against the expected rewards (Antonaccio et al. 2015). Therefore, the investigation focuses of the conceptual analysis of the strain theory, its strengths and weaknesses and prevalent policies and application to the contemporary society.

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The strain theory is a criminology and sociology theory that was established by a renown American sociologist Robert King Merton. Merton argued that the socio-cultural setup of many communities and societies significantly influence and drive individuals towards defiant behaviours (Antonaccio et al. 2015). The socially accepted goals and objectives set by the different communities places pressure on many people as they struggle to attain such purposes, which sometimes forces them to seek available alternatives to enable them to level-up and conform appropriately. Merton established that the elusive determination of Americans to achieve the American dreams in their diverse perspective ranging from educational success to socio-economic success was significantly limited by the socially acceptable means to achieve such objectives (Cudmore et al. 2017). The strain theory affirms that the limited resources majorly contribute the high level of defiant behaviour and numerous disadvantages that deter people from achieving their goals. For instance, after evaluating the American society, Merton affirmed that despite the greater desire among many Americans to attain monetary success, an aspect in the American Dream philosophy, they are blocked by the social constrictions (Agnew, 2018). The theory ascertained that due to the numerous barriers and social doctrines limiting people from achieving their goals, they facilitate a conducive platform for developing new and alternative strategies. The involvement of criminal activities to achieve the socially acceptable goals is significantly dictated by the depressing socially acceptable means

Further, the theory viewed that since most individuals substantially value the result rather than the process, it promoted the urge to commit a crime, for instance, Merton added that the American society in the 1930s respected and praised the college-educated worker but also admired a successful robber (Cudmore et al. 2017). It indicated the high-value success is accorded rather than the means. Moreover, despite American attitude towards the end-result contributing to deliquescent conduct, the socio-economic oppression also have massively propelled the defiant behaviours (Agnew, 2018). Through Merton's analysis and evaluation, he established that the constant manipulation, discrimination, prejudice and abuse of the minority community forces them to involve themselves in violation of laws and legislation. The adequate marginalization that deters individuals from the minority community significantly encourage them to commit a crime to attain the culturally acceptable goals. For instance, despite the determination to achieve education to get a good life, many African Americans are frequently discriminated, marginalized and are unable to get a quality education or good paying jobs (Antonaccio et al. 2015). The socio-economic frustration and obstruction motivate such African American citizen to engage in drug trafficking, robbery and human trafficking to enable them to attain their ultimate goal of success. The strain theory exposes the constant contradiction between socially acceptable goals and objectives, and the culturally acceptable means and strategies of achieving such objectives. It states that society provides a platform that majorly benefits the upper class and the economically stable groups while repressing the economically challenged groups. Therefore, the defiant behaviours of people should be directed to the strict, rigid and repressive socio-cultural and economic doctrines of the society.

Additionally, strain theory acknowledges that due to the limitations of the society since it provides same success goals for every individual but different conventional means to achieve the objectives, it forces people to either work and survive within the repressive system or subscribe to the membership of the defiant subculture to enable them to achieve the stipulated goals (Agnew, 2018). Due to the gap between goals and means with causes strain, people frequently respond through conformity, which articulates pursuing the goals using the socially approved means, innovation, utilizing socially unacceptable means to achieve culturally approved goals, and ritualism, which involves utilizing approved means to attain less elusive objectives (Cudmore et al. 2017). Also, it indicates that people respond through retreatism, which involves rejecting both the means and the goals and devising ways to escape from the dictation and finally, people also respond through rebellion, which encompasses rejecting and alienating all the social goals and means of obtaining them and developing strategies of changing and replacing them (Antonaccio et al. 2015). Therefore, the strain theory propels an understanding of the human desire to achieve financial and monetary success irrespective of the diverse violation of law that such decisions may involve. The exposes the rigid and oppressive socio-cultural system that many individuals strive to transcend above.

Strengths and weaknesses

The strain theory depicts multidimensional strengths as it provides a platform for understanding the adaptation of individuals within a specific society. It provides a comprehensive understanding between macro social structure and crime or defiance to the legal system legislation (Agnew, 2018). The evaluation of the stain theory ascertains that individuals commit themselves to violate the fundamental regulation to achieve their socio-economic goals. The drive for monetary desires encourages innovation among many people to transcend beyond the social constrictions and barriers. The theory portrays strength in its affirmation of that the less privileged in the society is frequently prevalent to committing or violating the laws. For instance, the lower class individuals despite having the same social goals as the high-class people often face challenges of attaining such goals (Cudmore et al. 2017). The unavailability of resources and deprivation of the basic needs propel the lower class groups like the peasants to engage in defiant activities. Inadequate schools to provide quality education or lack of funds to facilitate the quality education frequently oppress and frustrate individuals as the social restriction and disadvantages blocks them from attaining the goals (Antonaccio et al. 2015). Hence, it results in socially and culturally unacceptable behaviours such as crime, prostitution, human trafficking or forgery as people strive to rise above the social limitation to achieve the objectives of useful life and the ultimate American dream.

Additionally, the strain theory explains why working crimes are significantly increasing not only in America but also across the globe. As affirmed by Merton, the limited resources and inadequate manpower causes people to scramble for every minute chance to attain success. It establishes that while all individuals are dictated to achieve the same goal of financial freedom, only the rich and the first class citizens have the privileges to attain such objectives, which contribute to conflict within work offices as the less privileged engage in white crimes within the work environment to reach the same status as their privileged counterparts of colleagues (Cudmore et al. 2017). For instance, in an organization with different employees from diverse socio-economic background and class is often characterized by competition and discrimination as the employees from the high-class prejudices individuals from the low category. The constant frustration within such working environment forces the discriminated employees to commit white crimes such as forging invoices to facilitate economic gain or committing complex insider trading with investors to split the profit (Antonaccio et al. 2015). Further, it helps in explaining the fundamental strategies how normal and defiant individuals can arise even in a unified ethical community. Therefore, it portrays numerous advantages for the comprehending the social structure.

Nevertheless, the strain theory depicts many weaknesses that make it vulnerable to extreme criticism. For instance, according to Robert Agnew, an American sociologist, the strain theory developed by Merton was too vague, ambiguous and indefinite as it only focuses on the monetary gain and did not account for the criminal activities and defiance that did not involve the monetary of financial gain (Cudmore et al. 2017). He ascertains that developing a theory that only focuses on utilitarianism while neglecting the other reasons for non- utilitarian crime should not be upheld to explain the occurrences of the defiant behaviours and delinquency. Agnew viewed the social depression and oppression as a critical motivation towards criminal activity but not the principal drive (Agnew, 2018). He developed the general theory to conceptualize that human engages in defiant behaviours to gain status, meet expectations and class rather than focusing solely on economic and monetary gains. For instance, Agnew stated that there are many youths who abuse narcotic drugs to feel good, smoke illegal marijuana to feel better or assaulting people due to predetermined psychological torment (Agnew, 2018). The theory also ignores inter and intra-personal aspects of crime that motivate deliquescent behaviours. Therefore, Agnew established that such weaknesses make the Merton's strain theory unsuitable and vulnerable at it alienate vital aspects of the criminal and delinquency drive.

Also, it majorly focuses on individualistic crimes and neglecting group crime such as bank robbery involving a group of individuals with diverse opportunities for achieving the objectives through legitimate means. It constant ignorance to the illegitimate and illegal dealing among the ruling class despite the enforcement of laws. For instance, not all crimes are committed by individuals from the lower class in the economic tyranny, but some politicians and national leaders also engage in criminal activities despite having numerous opportunities and meals for facilitating legitimate success (Antonaccio et al. 2015). Stating that social frustration due to unavailable or limited cultural opportunity to assist in the attainment of goals and objectives ignores other extreme attributes suc...

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