Give a Brief Description of Strain Theory

Give a Brief Description of Strain Theory.


What is Strain Theory?

Strain theory was proposed by Robert Merton, an American sociologist who is too well-known for his works on the functionalist theory. Information technology is an attribute of functionalism, which in itself is a constructivist theory.  Strain theory attempts to explain conflict or deviance via the four functions of deviance.

Merton’due south archetype definition: “Strain theory has been defined as an approach to deviance which regards deviance every bit a product of the bereft adaptation of the social system to the moral expectations of its members.”

The Strain Theory Overview

Merton offered 4 definitions in his works on strain theory, which can be summarized as follows:


Information technology involves a conflict between culturally prescribed goals and the institutionalized means of achieving them. Anomie is the breakup of social norms and values. It results in a pervasive sense of demoralization and normlessness which affects the full general public, causing them to lose their respect for social institutions.

Mertonian norm

It refers to the conflict arising when there is a discrepancy between cultural goals and means to achieve them, and other social control mechanisms fail to resolve this. The Mertonian norm is a set of values and goals widely shared by members of the guild in question. It was used conceptually to explain deviance, crime, and juvenile delinquency.

The theory focuses on anomie as a factor of social control and its role in shaping social values and norms. Mertonian Antinorm refers to a prepare of cultural goals that deviate from society’southward “desired” norms.

The term was coined by Weber and was used to describe the cultural goals present in any social club. It is a culturally divers set of goals, which deviates from the full general societal norm. For example, in a homogeneous order, drinking is considered normal and normative. Yet, in a heterogeneous society, drinking is considered an anti-norm and deviant beliefs.


Ambivalence is the realization that cultural goals are unattainable. Information technology refers to the conflict when a person is enlightened that he cannot attain his cultural goals and societal norms.


Innovation refers to the evolution of new ways of achieving culturally prescribed goals. Social groups may endeavor out new ways of achieving their goals to resolve the tension caused by cultural goals and societal norms.

This resolution tin exist fabricated in several ways, including forming new social groups with similar goals and devising ways to attain those goals.

Strain can be either individual or structural.

Individual strain

Individual strain refers to the painful psychological land when an individual possesses characteristics that conflict with cultural values.

Examples of individual strain sources :

  • Low self-esteem causing the individual to value characteristics that are not valued by society
  • Bewitchery leading to vanity
  • A person lives in an economically disadvantaged expanse, causing the individual to value textile possessions, like a large car or jewelry, higher up society’s value.

Structural strain

A structural strain involves social change as a cause of conflict, i.e., a mismatch between the cultural goals and institutionalized means to achieve them. It is the change that generates conflict.

This type of strain is specially common in societies experiencing major change, e.chiliad., industrialization and urbanization.

Examples of structural strain sources could include:

  • Immigrants who find the requirements of living in a large city difficult to digest.
  • A ascent of commercialism into the public loonshit.
  • Increased consumerism and its subsequent consequence on human values and desires.

Why is Strain Theory Important?

Information technology gives an insight into the source of crime. Strain theory suggests that when people cannot achieve their goals, they feel strained—this strain leads them to commit crimes to reduce that strain.

An individual will feel strained when:

  • The institutionalized means of achieving a goal is blocked
  • The chief socialization has not succeeded in providing the individual with acceptable means of achieving goals

Information technology is important to clarify that strain theory does not imply that people who take been socialized into criminal offence are ‘innately criminal’ or that everyone who experiences strain will plough to crime. Robert 1000. Merton proposed two versions of strain theory, ‘weak’ and ‘stiff.’

The Weak Strain Theory

The weak form of strain theory suggests that people who are blocked from legitimate means to achieve goals volition simply accept their state of affairs and not commit crimes.

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Strong Strain Theory

Robert One thousand. Merton (1957) outlined a strong strain theory. The theory proposes that an individual volition exhibit criminal behavior if they endure from blocked opportunities and cannot achieve legitimate goals through legitimate ways.

For Merton, the conclusion to commit a criminal offence is a rational ane based on cultural goals and societal expectations. His theory assumes that an private experiences strain when culturally prescribed ways to achieve goals are blocked and therefore uses illegitimate means to attain a goal. Both culturally prescribed goals and institutionalized ways are concepts that originate in the work of Émile Durkheim.

Merton developed a typology to help explain how strain theory works in do. Five types of deviant behavior deed as coping mechanisms: Conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism, and rebellion.

The five types are explained below:

– in this case, a person is blocked from achieving culturally canonical goals. They may feel strain but volition not commit a criminal offense to achieve culturally prescribed goals through illegitimate means

– Bobo’s parents desire him to become a md. They cannot afford to put him through medical schoolhouse, so Bobo chooses to apply for a scholarship to pay his tuition fees.

is a blazon of deviance that occurs when an private experiences strain and rejects culturally accepted cultural goals. Withal, they follow a routinized means of attaining the goals

– Bobo’s parents want him to become a physician, only Bobo doesn’t want to become a doctor. Bobo reads just enough to pass exams and stay in schoolhouse to achieve his parents’ American dream.

Retreatism– this type of deviance occurs when an private rejects cultural goals and the legitimate means to achieve them.

In Bobo’southward case, he may chose to stay at habitation and alive off the parent’southward meager earnings.

Rebellion-This occurs when an individual rejects both cultural goals and legitimate ways to achieve them, and also tries to supplant the cultural goals and legitimate ways of achieving them.

– Bobo’s parents want him to become a physician. Bobo refuses to get to college and spends all of his time in the pub gambling.

Innovation-This occurs when a person accepts a cultural goal but finds an illegitimate way of achieving it, due to strain. In Bobo’southward instance, it may be cheating to pass exams.


The Strain Theory Expansion

In a 1972 article, Merton expanded on strain theory. He stated that the deviant human action is an adaptation to certain kinds of strain. Our society places a great emphasis on success equally we are often told that we volition be more than satisfied if we are rich, successful, and powerful. All the same, the reality is that not anybody who wants to succeed in lodge can do so.

In some cases, individuals exercise not have the opportunity to reach legitimate goals by legitimate means. This could be for various reasons, but
the outcome is that many individuals can become stuck
in a sure part of society.

  1. One example could be a depression-level part employee who performs all the tasks that his position requires dependably and reliably. This is what society expects him to practise in his position.

Yet, he does non show any interest or enthusiasm for the job and could be bored. This is a strenuous state of affairs for him, as he cannot reach the culturally canonical goal of becoming successful because information technology is impossible.

  1. Another example is a young boy who enjoys skateboarding, only his parents desire him to become a medico. This force per unit area may lead to deviant beliefs.
  2. Information technology is non always the case that an private volition experience strain and therefore commit a offense. Sometimes, they will turn down society’s goals, but they go through legitimate channels to attain this.
  1. A third example could be a young girl, who wants to become the president of her visitor, just she does not possess whatever managerial skills. Instead of learning these skills, she finds a man in the company willing to marry her and help her go to where she wants to be.
  2. A pupil whose parents value education and success above all else will probably experience strain if they choose to drop out of school. It is not that dropping out is inherently wrong, but the parent’s cultural goals are probable to create a great deal of strain for the student.
  3. Some other illustration could exist an private who rejected cultural goals just also goes through legitimate channels. In this case, someone skips school to work as a full-time task and pay their bills. Their parents might exist very disappointed, merely they are as well in a position where they can empathize the decision that has been made.
  4. An individual may cull to work total-time instead of going to university. This may atomic number 82 to groovy strain as they take rejected cultural goals and legitimate means to accomplish those goals. Withal, if he finds a chore that his parents respect and appreciate, the strain is reduced.
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Other Theories Derived from Merton’s Theory

The Robert Agnew General Strain Theory


Robert Agnew’s strain theory identifies social frustration as the main crusade of deviance. Social frustration is when an individual experiences force per unit area to reach culturally approved goals but cannot achieve these goals because of institutionalized barriers. This will cause an private to become socially isolated, and as a result, they will exist more than probable to commit a crime.

The master argument that Robert Agnew makes is that deviance can be explained past social circumstances rather than an individual’s characteristics. Agnew believed that most people commit crimes out of social isolation and frustration caused by their disadvantaged state of affairs in gild.

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Labelling Theory

This theory is based on two assumptions:

  • A person who commits an act of deviance is seen as deviant by lodge.
  • In one case a deviant label has been given to someone, they will exist treated differently from other individuals in social club.

The theory explains the procedure of deviance in 3 stages:

  1. First, a person or grouping is labeled as deviant by others in society.
  2. Second, the characterization is practical to this individual past a large number of people.
  3. Tertiary, negative treatment and discrimination are applied to this individual.

Co-ordinate to labeling theory, deviance occurs when a label has been fastened to someone, leading them to be seen as deviant. As a result of this, the deviant person will have a difficult time in society and may even go involved with other deviants

The Institutional Anomie Theory

This theory concerns itself with the actions of employees who piece of work in an institution. If these employees do not meet certain expectations, it could lead to criminal activities.

An instance of this could exist an individual who works in a bank and expects to become wealthy through hard work and diligence. However, they realize that it volition not happen at a certain stage of their career and become disappointed. Equally a outcome, if this persists over time, they may be more likely to embezzle money to achieve what they believe is impossible.

The anomie theory may also apply to a law officeholder who believes the justice organization tin can be used to achieve what his colleagues call success. If he encounters problems, however, he may become frustrated and commit a crime.

The institutional anomie theory is based on the post-obit assumptions:

  • People who work in an institution (police force strength, regular army, the medical profession, etc.) accept certain occupation expectations. This is what society expects of them.
  • If these expectations are not met, information technology may atomic number 82 to deviance in the form of crime considering institutions cannot offering the type of job reward they had expected.

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The Role Strain Theory

This theory also focuses on how cultural values can have an impact on behavior. The basic argument is that if a person feels they are being forced to play a role that is not in line with their social form, they may engage in criminal activity.

An analogy of the office strain theory is an individual born into a wealthy family but wants to become a doc. His parents, however, want him to follow in the footsteps of his father and take over the family business.

This theory may also utilize to a wealthy private who is bored with his life and decides to engage in criminal activity. He feels that he must do what he wants rather than follow cultural norms.

The office strain theory is based on the post-obit assumptions:

  • A person feels a stiff sense of social responsibility.  The longer the individual is exposed to this, the more probable he is to commit a crime.
  • The individual feels they cannot achieve their goals but are forced to play a role that does not encounter their values.
  • The individual is blamed for the strain and sees no chance of achieving their goals so that they may carry out a criminal human activity
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Routine Activeness Theory

This theory thrives on the supposition that crime is inevitable. In one case criminals detect a style to realize their goals, they will proceed to re-offend in the same manner.

Although information technology is piece of cake to predict the pattern of this crime, at that place’s great difficulty in preventing or stopping it. The routine activity theory applies to crimes that have a pattern.

Another case of routine action theory could exist an individual who commits a crime near his dwelling on the same twenty-four hour period of every month. Although law enforcement officers know nigh this, it is impossible to prevent the crime from taking place.

The Illegitimate Opportunities Theory

Illegitimate opportunities theory emphasizes that increased crime is because illegitimate opportunities are more than than legitimate ones.

For case, an private may come across that his neighbour is not at dwelling and decides to interruption into his house one day. The opportunity was there for the taking, so he took it.

As well, an private may be walking on the street and see a wallet lying there. He feels he has no mode of knowing who it belongs to, so he takes the opportunity and keeps the wallet. This is called an illegitimate opportunity. Most crimes are committed in this manner rather than calculated.

The illegitimate opportunity theory works on the post-obit assumptions:

  • Criminal behavior occurs when individuals have the gamble to do so and are non interrupted.
  • When individuals who are not criminals accept the opportunity to commit a criminal offence but do not, nosotros say they cull not to because of social controls such as guilt.
  • Whenever a criminal has the take a chance to commit a criminal offense simply doesn’t do then, we say that they didn’t commit the criminal offence because they were interrupted.
  • When individuals feel that a given opportunity is legitimate or illegitimate, information technology becomes easier to predict if their beliefs is criminal.

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The Control Strain Theory

Control theory is based on the assumption that people do not engage in crimes because they want to. Criminals accept very piddling control over their actions.

According to command theory, in that location are several bones motives for committing crimes:

  • To encounter personal needs, such as food and shelter
  • As a means of gaining status or respect in society
  • As a means of gaining pleasure
  • To gain revenge

If whatsoever of these basic needs are non existence met, criminals volition take action to fulfill them.

The Suicide Strain Theory of Crime

This theory states that all crime is the act of an individual who wishes to commit suicide.

An example of this would be an individual who is very unhappy with their life. He decides to rob a bank and shoots a bank teller, killing himself in the process. In this instance, the suicide strain theory can exist applied.

The Suicide Strain Theory of Criminal offence is based on  the post-obit assumptions:

  • All crime is committed considering of psychological strain and problems in the offender’south life.
  • Crimes are often carried out in the heat of the moment.
  • Many criminals commit suicide because they have no mode out or solution to their issues and life stresses.
  • Suicidal strain theory also says that when a person feels suicidal, they will commit crimes to make the world adapt to their ideal standards.
  • Crimes are not premeditated out of rational thought, but they occur impulsively and in the spur of the moment when a person feels very stressed and has no fashion out.

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 Take Abroad

The strain theory is a framework for understanding how people react to the challenges and pressures of everyday life. With this knowledge, you can ameliorate empathise why your customers behave in certain ways—responding or not responding as expected.

It would exist best if y’all learned about these theories. This manner, y’all will be more than enlightened of what might trigger people’s beliefs and make changes accordingly.

Cheers for reaching this far. In case you need assist with your sociology assignment, click the green push button below and our height writers will be glad to help!

Give a Brief Description of Strain Theory


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