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Strain Theories Class Notes

by: Alyssa Zirkman

Strain Theories Class Notes SOC 371

Marketplace > University of Miami > Sociology > SOC 371 > Strain Theories Class Notes
Alyssa Zirkman
GPA 3.8
Intro to Criminology
Olena Antonaccio

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Class lecture notes on Strain Theories
Intro to Criminology
Olena Antonaccio
Class Notes
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This 4 page Class Notes was uploaded by Alyssa Zirkman on Tuesday October 20, 2015. The Class Notes belongs to SOC 371 at University of Miami taught by Olena Antonaccio in Fall 2015. Since its upload, it has received 16 views. For similar materials see Intro to Criminology in Sociology at University of Miami.


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Date Created: 10/20/15
Strain Theories Classic Strain Anomie Theory Merton Reaction Formation Cohen Differential Opportunity Cloward amp Ohlin General Strain Theory Agnew 1 Merton s Classic StrainAnomie Theory Social Structure and Anomie 1938 a Contradictions between cultural values and norms explain societal rates of crime i Two aspects of culture explain a society s crime rate 1 Culturally defined goals eg material wealth a Goals apply to all members b All are expected to strive to achieve 2 Institutionalized means norms for attaining goals a Education good jobs hard work ii Societies characterized by importance of goals means 1 Anomie in society greater emphasis on culturally defined goals and less emphasis on institutionalized means goalsmeans disparity b Merton came from a functionalist background in the 30 s biological theories were still quite popular Merton said other factors are important too i Social culture and social structure make up society society sets acceptable goals and means to achieve those goals cultural goal around that time was to reach financial success in the America American Dream other societies obviously have di erent goals and means the acceptable means at this time was plain hard work ii Sometimes the goals are really emphasized but the means are not as emphasized leads to imbalance anomie B Merton identi ed 5 Modes of Adaptation Models of Cultural Institutionalized Adaptation Goals Means l Conformity H Innovation m Ritualism lV Retrea ism VI Rebellion l l People go about goals and means in different ways on the individual level 2 person endorses it follows it 2 person disagrees with the norm most things that are not conformity can be considered deviance or criminal know examples of each form Conformity example going to school getting a legal job following societal norm Innovation example person going to school to get a job but they are cheating at school deviance rejecting means of studying to get goal of good grades Ritualism people gave up on dream but keep on doing the legal means ie mindless bureaucrat maybe could be considered deviant ie kid sleeping in class Retreatism give up on goal of financial success and do whatever means just to live life ie alcoholics drug addicts vagrants etc no fucks given often times includes criminal behavior but there is no financial profit Rebellion different ambitions goals and different means ie revolution Terrorism sometimes individual but often small groups of people these people think that it s not illegitimate because they think the cultural norms are wrong that s why it s plus and minus in the chart ie heavy metal bands Structural conditions explain differences in crime rates across groups in an anomic society c Some individuals are blocked from achieving culturally defined goals through institutionalized ie legitimate means and experience anomic strainquot i Anomie gt strain gt crime d Some lack access to legitimate means maybe their neighborhood school is really bad they experience anomic strain e Not all feel strain in society from pressure to be successful so they disregard means and commit crime Extensions of Merton s Anomie Theory 2 Reaction Formation a Delinquent Boys Cohen 1955 b According to Cohen working class boys are i Committed to achieving the middleclass goals ii Unable to meet the middleclass standards at school c As a result of this frustration working class boys i Reject middleclass values reaction formation ii Form a delinquent subculture but not necessarily a gang d Goal means gap 9 status frustration 9 crime e Different between this and original strain theory is that this focused on young boys in poorer neighborhoods i Used to explain nonutilitarian crimes 3 Differential Opportunity a b C Delinquency and Opportunity Cloward and Ohlin 1960 Like Merton they i Emphasize access to legitimate means of achieving status ii View delinquent subcultures as collective adaptations to strain iii Need to look at the opportunities people committing crime have Illegitimate opportunity subcultures essential for formation of delinquent subcultures gangs Different delinquent subcultures criminal profession crime neighborhoods con ict neighborhoods with lots of violence and retreatist areas with lots of addicts i There might be a mix of these subcultures but one will always dominate ii You ll likely commit the type of crime you learn from your neighborhood 1 Therefore this is not a pure strain theory because it combines social learning theory as well 4 Main Contributions of Early Strain Theories a d Crime is a natural product of our culture and inequality in the socio economic structure Offer explanations for utilitarian and nonutilitarian crime Delinquent subcultures represent a collective adaptation to a shared problem ie status attainment The lack of legitimate opportunity is not sufficient to produce gangs amp characteristics of communities matter 5 Some Criticisms of Early Strain Theories a b Assume value consensus assume everyone has the same values Do not explain who innovates some people live in a poor neighborhood but don t commit crime Crime is not just limited to lower class strain mostly explains people in low SES 6 General Strain Theory a b C Strain theory fell out of favor but came back in the 90 s as a revised version Three sources of strain i The failure to achieve goals could be financial could be other ii Removal of positive stimuli emotional stressors fighting with friend death divorce iii Presentation of negative stimuli Other factors i Anger negative emotions intervening factors strain can happen but will not lead to crime unless there is anger ii Selfesteem intelligence social control conditioning factors personal characteristics also contribute to likelihood of committing crime when experiencing strain d Problems and Evidence i Anything can be defined as strain ii How do you measure all aspects of strain iii Moderate empirical support 7 Examples of each theory a b Acts of vandalism committed by teenagers reaction formation because nonutilitarian and nonviolent young people Neighborhood gang violence differential opportunity con ictviolence Property offending by adults eg theft burglary anomie strain innovation Embezzlement by highranking corporate officers anomie strain failure to achieve goals A violent shooting rampage by a young man after his break up with a girlfriend GST presence of negative stimuli and anger


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