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Strain theories

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Summary of Strain Theories from Vold's Theoretical Criminology

Summary of Strain Theories from Vold's Theoretical Criminology

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  • 1. CJUS 411 Strain Theories
  • 2. Strain Theory
    • Robert Merton
      • The role of culture, versus social structure
      • Uses the example of striving for wealth in the U.S.
        • It’s okay to not achieve, but everyone should try
      • The culture also determines the norms
        • Middle Class Values
        • Protestant Work Ethic
  • 3. Strain Theory
      • Not everyone can achieve, so it’s important to have standards … shows that those who don’t achieve still have value
        • It’s not how you win, it’s how you play the game
      • But also, there has to be something for those who do not achieve to value, to strive for
  • 4. Strain Theory
    • What’s the problem?
    • A strain occurs when
      • The culture places a disproportionate emphasis on the achievement of the goal of accumulated wealth and maintains that this goal is applicable to ALL persons; and
      • The social structure effectively limits the possibilities of individuals within these groups to achieve this goal through the use of institutionalized means (pg 156).
    • ANOMIE
    • What’s this all mean?
  • 5. Strain Theory
    • Merton used this strain to explain the high concentration of crime within low income communities
    • He focused on social structure, rather than culture
      • Fewer legitimate opportunities to obtain wealth for the lower class
      • What can be done?
      • Adaptations: Conformity, Innovation, Ritualism, Retreatism, and Rebellion
  • 6. Strain Theory
    • Conformity: Most people conform
    • Innovation: Much of crime is a result of innovation. Still hold to the same goals, but have to think of new ways of obtaining this wealth
      • What examples did the book have?
  • 7. Strain Theory
    • Ritualism: Rejecting idea that you’ll ever be wealthy, but still believe in hard work, honest, etc.
    • Retreatism: Dropping out.
      • Who are these people?
    • Rebellion: Replace societal values with new ones.
    • These are NOT personality types. They’re fluid and can be consistent with each other.
      • What example does the book give?
  • 8. Strain Theory
    • Merton said his theory was not to account for all deviant behavior; rather to look at “the acute pressure created by the discrepancy between culturally induced goals and socially structured opportunities.” (pg 159)
  • 9. Strain Theory
    • Strain Theory and Gangs
      • Juvenile gangs don’t appear to commit crimes because of the social strain. They often steal things they don’t want or need. Cohen believed this was because the juveniles were attempting to gain status among their peers.
        • What do you think? Where’s the strain?
      • Success as a youth has to do with school. What happens when these youth do not achieve the “norm” of succeeding in school?
  • 10. Strain Theory
    • In contrast to Merton, Cohen wanted to explain the non-utilitarian portion of delinquency. The part that doesn’t make sense.
      • Rebellion against “middle class values”
      • Choosing to rebel is linked to the choices of the other members of the gang
  • 11. Strain Theory
    • Cloward & Ohlin
      • Agreed with Cohen to an extent, but felt that more serious delinquents were looking for monetary gain
          • These are the youth you see most often in the research (literature) on juvenile delinquency
          • They are not attached to middle class values
        • Even if legitimate opportunities are presented, these youth would first form criminal enterprises
        • If neither legitimate nor illegitimate opportunities are available, the strain is heightened
        • Often a sign of “social disorganization,” which means there will be fewer controls over the youth.
        • Subculture of violent (conflict) gangs
        • Subculture of retreat
  • 12. Strain Theory
    • Decline and Resurgence of Strain Theories
      • Kornhauser (1978) examined the central element of the theory (Frustration) by looking at the gap of what was wanted (aspirations) and what was expected to be obtained (expectations)
        • She found that there was more of a correlation between low aspirations and low expectations .
        • Surprising?
  • 13. Strain Theory
    • Cullen said that Merton’s theory was actually two theories:
      • Individual: agreed with Kornhauser that people in these situations would feel frustrated
      • Aggregate: Not frustrated, but more guided by a cost-benefit analysis … Personal advantage and fear of punishment are the only regulators
    • So, what does Cullen say about strain?
  • 14. Strain Theory
    • Individuals
    • Agnew – General strain theory – negative relationships explain juvenile delinquency and drug use
      • Noxious relationships?
      • Produce negative emotions: Disappointment, Depression, Anger, Fear…
      • Delinquency and drug use are coping mechanisms
        • What is Agnew talking about? (pg 165)
  • 15. Strain Theory
    • Four Studies of Agnew’s Theory (pg 165)
      • What do you think?
    • Agnew expanded his theory to not only include Direct Strain , but also Vicarious Strain , and Anticipated Strain
      • Found that all three types influence delinquency
      • Neighborhoods with high proportions of individuals experiencing strain will have high crime rates
  • 16. Strain Theory
    • What Strains are likely to result in delinquency and crime? (pg 166)
      • Unjust or intentionally caused by others
      • High in magnitude (severity, duration, recency, and certainty)
      • Associated with or caused by low social control
      • Create pressures or incentives to rely on illegitimate coping strategies
  • 17. Strain Theory
    • Two Master Traits --- to complete this theory
      • High overall negative emotions
      • Lack of constraint
      • What do you think this means?
      • What are storylines? (pg 167)
  • 18. Strain Theory
    • Strain in Society
    • Messner & Rosenfeld – “Institutional anomie” (pg 168)
      • The cultural pressures for monetary success, that everyone is supposed to buy into (like Merton), but the American Dream does NOT prohibit this from being obtained legitimately
        • Redistributing opportunities might actually INCREASE pressures toward criminality
        • Influence of economic, rather than social institutions, on American society
          • What does this mean? What policies did they suggest?
  • 19. Strain Theory
    • What do you think of strain theories?
    • How applicable are they to the U.S. in this down economy?