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• Dr. Robert Agnew’s General Strain
Theory evolved from Merton’s Strain
Theory (Lilly et al.,2011).
• The Strain theory differs from Social
Control theory and the Social Learning
theory on their definition of :
Types of social relationships that
lead to delinquency
Motivation for delinquency
Strain Theory focuses on:
•Negative relationships with
•Delinquency as the result of
pressure by negative states such
as anger and other negative
emotions as a result of negative
The General Strain Theory groups several types of strains
under three main categories. Each category refers to the
type of relationship with others.
1) Strain as the failure to achieve positively valued goals:
A) Difference between the aspirations/expectation and actual
achievements: Influenced by factors such as social class,
intelligence, physical attractiveness, physical ability, etc.
B) Difference between the expectations and the achievements:
These expectations are created by the individual as ideal
goals based on the understanding of what he/she should be
able to achieve
C) Difference between just/fair outcomes and the actual
outcome: This strain is based on the individual’s
understanding of what he/she considers fair (Agnew,1992).
2) Strain as the removal of positively valued stimuli from
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Caused when a positively valued stimuli is removed and the
result is delinquency. This criminal behavior may present itself as
an attempt to prevent the loss of the stimuli, obtain a
replacement for the stimuli or as an act of revenge for the loss
of the stimuli (Agnew,1992). Examples of this strain are the loss
of a close friend, end of a relationship, being laid off from a
job, etc. (Lilly et al.,2011)
3) Strain as the presentation of negative stimuli
It is based on the actual or anticipated
presentation of negative or noxious stimuli .
Examples of negative and/or noxious stimuli are
physical and sexual abuse, child neglect,
domestic violence, dangerous school, etc.
Agnew’s General Strain Theory states that
noxious stimuli could promote aggression and
other negative outcomes .
Agnew explains that noxious stimuli could
cause juveniles to engage in delinquent
behavior as a way to escape or avoid the
negative stimuli, terminate the negative stimuli
or seek revenge against the negative stimuli
Links between strain and delinquency
•Negative affect, especially anger, promotes
the desire to correct a situation, making
delinquency a possible option
•Delinquency may be used to ease strain
caused by the failure to achieve positively
•Delinquency may be used to protect or
retrieve positive stimuli
•Delinquency may be used as a tool to
neutralize negative stimuli
•Delinquency may be used as a tool of revenge
for the inability to achieve, protect or retrieve
positively valued goals (Agnew,1992). NBC33News.com
Agnew, R., Dr. (1992). Foundation for a General Strain Theory of
Crime and Delinquency. Criminology, 30(1), 47-87. Retrieved from
Lilly, J. R., Cullen, F. T., & Ball, R. A. (2011). Criminological Theory,
Context and Consequences (5th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.