Strain Theory

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The strain theory foundation was laid by a well known sociologist Robert Merton. Merton believed that when groups of people do not have access to particular resources within the community, they are faced with the issues of obtaining those achievements and/or resources. Often times the process by which these achievements and/or resources are obtained will lead to criminal action. This places tremendous pressure on individuals which can be described as strain. Merton also refers to the inability to obtain the achievements and/or resources honestly as blocked opportunity structure (Agnew 2006). Over time many studies regarding strain theory have been conducted which has altered the meaning of strain theory. Merton’s foundation of strain theory was built upon by a modern sociologist named Robert Agnew. Agnew took Merton’s strain theory and changed the theory behind which Merton believed that strain led to criminal and deviant behavior. Agnew’s newly defined definition of strain theory including the inability to obtain the achievements and/or resources need; but the loss of property and negative behavior displayed by others created strains (2006). Agnew also provided a structuralized approach to the strain theory by providing categories which the different behaviors can be classified. Agnew’s classification of the various form of strain theory can be determined by the resources available to an individual, behavior of others, and the experiences (both anticipated and unanticipated). Objective strains can be defined as experience that is not approved of by the majority. Subjective strains are defined more on a personal level of objective strains. A person’s personal experience with an objective or subjective strain can be classified as an experience strain. When family and friends experience some form of deviant behavior, it places a vicarious strain on an…...

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