Strain Theories argue people engage in deviant behaviour when they are unable to achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means
Often malicious and not linked to material or financial gains
Merton focuses on crime for material gain (theft, fraud). He ignores crimes such as assault and vandalism which have no economic motive
and replacing them with an alternative set that they can achieve within a delinquent subculture in which they can achieve status & prestige. It’s a collective response to the problems of working class teenagers.
Subculture offers an illegitimate opportunity structure for boys who have failed to achieve legitimately The subculture provides an alternative status hierarchy where they can win status through delinquent actions Its values are spite, malice, hostility and contempt for those outside it. The subculture inverts mainstream values. What society praises, it condemns e.g. society respects property, whereas the boys gain status from vandalising it Joy riding and vandalism will mean a boy gains status amongst his peers
Subcultural strain theorists l1
Subcultural Strain Theorists
Lesson Objectives• Introduce sub cultural explanations of crime (why young WC people commit crime)• Understand the concept of Status Frustration as suggested by Albert Cohen• Evaluate these explanations
Last Lesson Recap1. What is the strain theory?2. How does it link to Materialism and The American Dream?3. What does Merton suggest the five responses to the Strain Theory are?4. What are some of the evaluation points of Merton’s theory?
According to the Ministry of Justice, in April2009 there were 2,126 15-17 year olds and9,497 18-20 year olds held in custody inEngland and Wales. These are down 12%and 1% respectively year-on-year. According to the Prison Reform Trust, over two-thirds are expected to re- offend within two years of release, with over 40% returning to prison. With men, the reconviction rate rises to 82%.
Poor attainment at Peer school, truancy and Drug or alcohol group school exclusion. pressure. misuse and mental No responsibilities illness. Bullying and so focused on self- gratification. alienation. Lack of discipline at Hyperactivity. home and in school. Reasons why young Troubled home people are morelife: violence and/or likely to be involved bad communication in criminal activity… Learning problems.between parents and teenagers. Money Deprivation such problems. Potentially as poor housing dodgier lifestyle. or homelessness.
What do you think the goals of the crimes of the young people are?
• Subcultural Strain Theorists see deviance as a product of a delinquent subculture with different values from those of mainstream society.• They see subculture as providing an alternative structure for those who are denied the chance to achieve by legitimate means- W/C• They criticise Merton’s theory (delinquency caused by strain between cultural goals and means of achieving them) and seek to build on it
A.K. Cohen: Status Frustration• Cohen agrees that deviance results from the lower classes inability to achieve mainstream success goals by legitimate means such as education. However criticises Mertons explanation:1. Merton sees Deviance as an individual response to strain, ignoring that a lot of deviance is committed by groups e.g. youth
2. Cohen argues Merton doesn’t discuss non-utilitarian crimesuch as joy riding and vandalism so he sets out to explain thistype of crime. Why do I like to just ruin things for no money?• Utilitarian crime: Crime that produces monetary reward e.g. Theft and fraud• Non- Utilitarian crime is therefore the opposite
According to Cohen, working class boys aspire to the culturalgoals of mainstream society. However they have anomiebecause they are culturally deprived and lack skills to achieve.Cohen suggests WC boys are denied status at school, as theirparents have failed to equip them with the skills they need Hated school, failed everything, no job, can’t live a normal life. For me, crime pays.
They experience low self esteem, resulting in status frustrationbecause they are stuck at the bottom of the stratification systemwith most avenues to success blocked. I sit around all day wi’ nowt to do, no money and no dignity. I’ve nothing to loose.
They resolve their status frustration by rejecting the successgoals of mainstream culture and turn instead to others in thesame situation forming a subculture So we get wasted in the stairwell of our council flat block, We haven’t got a instead. chance in hell of being invited to a cocktail party...
Summarise it…..in 150 words How does Alternative Status Hierarchyexplain the pictures below and how does it link to Status Frustration?
SUMMARY: He argues that delinquency is a collective ratherthan an individual response to status frustration and theirposition in the class structure. These guys give me the only chance of excitement and status.
Albert Cohen Summary The Process W.C children cant W.C taught M.C W.C suffer achieve M.C NormsNorms and Values. Status Frustration and Values. This offers an Delinquent W.C then rejectalternative route Subcultures Form M.C Norms and to gain status. (alternative status hierarchy) Values. These subculture commit non- financial and malicious crimes.
Evaluation Offers a non-utilitarian explanation of deviance. It helps to explain delinquency such as vandalism, fighting and truancy.Like Merton Cohen assumes that WC boys start off sharing MC success goals only to reject them when they fail. He ignores the possibility that they didn’t share the goals in the first place and so never saw themselves as failures
Most W/C boys do conform despite educational failureThere are other explanations for W/C crime Cohen ignores W/C female delinquency He neglects the role of agencies of social control in the social construction of delinquency e.g. police stereotyping of W/C youths might mean they are more likely to be stopped and searched.
RecapSummarise what you have just learnt using the key word below: KEY CONCEPT: non-utilitarian crime; cultural deprivation; status frustration; delinquent subculture.
Discussion Points• What are two key strengths of Cohen’s approach to Crime and Deviance?• What are two key weaknesses?• Can this theory help us to understand contemporary forms of crime and deviance such as “Happy Slapping”?• On a scale of 1 – 10 how do you rate this theory?