• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Examine strain theories as an explanation of crime and deviance in contemporary society

Extracts from this document...


Examine strain theories as an explanation of crime and deviance in contemporary society. Within sociology, there are many theories to why people commit crimes or deviance acts, and many have fallen out of favour as society has adapted, and more research has been done on the subject. One theory is Strain Theory, developed by Merton in the 1930s which suggests that people commit crime because they become disillusioned by society and its approved set goals which they cannot achieve through legitimate means, so they to turn to illegitimate means. There are five different forms of behaviour that Merton pointed out was a strain between goals and means, conformity, where people adhere to both goals and means, innovation, where the goals are accepted but a different way is used to achieve them, ritualism, ...read more.


By this they meant that for some subcultures in society, a regular illegal career was available. For example, Dick Hobbs' after interviewing many successful professional criminals and demonstrated how it was possible to have a career in crime given the right connections and qualities. Adding to this is the information in item A by Bourgois which describes how inner city youths were drawn to crime due to their belief in the American dream and the booming, multibillion dollar drug economy. Cloward and Ohlin described the three subcultures present in the illegal opportunity structure, criminal which is where young offenders work their way up the hierarchy, conflict where groups are brought up and turn to violence in this environment, and retreatist where the individual has no opportunity to engage in either of the other two. ...read more.


This led to status frustration, a sense of personal failure and inadequacy, and in an attempt to gain status; they invert traditional middle class values by behaving badly and engaging in a variety of antisocial behaviours. However, Cohen was also criticised often due to it being suggested that lower class children wouldn't know what middle class values were, let alone know how to invert them, as well as failing to prove that school was the key place to achieve success and failure is demonstrated. In conclusion, strain theory to some extent is still apparent in society, although it has been watered down due to the criticisms that have occurred over time. Bourgois' description of subcultures in item A show that the writings of Merton, Cloward and Ohlin are not outdated and that in some circumstances the proof of strain theory is still very obvious. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Crime & Deviance section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Crime & Deviance essays

  1. Free essay

    local trends in crime in Britain

    * Quota sampling - allows the researcher to categorise the participants with particular characteristics so that the overall sample is representative of the population as a whole. * Multi-stage sampling - involves selecting a sample from another sample. * Non-representative sampling - This means the experimenter tries to disprove the hypothesis by looking for untypical examples of a phenomenon.

  2. Sociological Theories on Crime and Deviance

    manner but believe that they make their choice from among socially prestructured options. The emphasis in functionalist theory is on social structure, not individual action. In this sense, functionalist theory is highly sociological. Functionalists also point out that what appears to be dysfunctional behaviour may actually be functional for the society.

  1. Assess the usefulness of consensus theories for an understanding of crime and deviance in ...

    Strain in the lower classes happens more frequently than in middle to upper classes according to Merton. Frustration with the systems of society, or possibly economic need, is the probable main cause of strain driving these people to criminality in order to achieve their goals.

  2. Examine the similarities and differences between the sub cultural theories and the strain theory ...

    Cohen fails to prove that school really is the key place where success and failure are demonstrated. The idea of strain between goals and means was a relatively minor influence on Cohen, but it did have a very significant impact on the writings of Cloward and Ohlin, who owed much to the ideas of Merton.

  1. To what extent is Robert Merton's theory of 'anomie' helpful in understanding crime in ...

    employs this functionalist idea of social norms and values and suggests that people become deviant when they cannot fulfil societies 'expected' of success through the 'normal', accepted, legal channels such as education, talent and hard work. Being an American sociologist, Merton utilized the idea of the idea of the American dream to illustrate his theory.

  2. The Sociology of Crime and Deviance

    However, quite often those activists that once were considered deviant, are reconsidered and become part of the norms, simply because they gained support by a large portion of the society. In sum, deviance can help a society to rethink its boundaries, and move toward social change, hopefully for the greater benefit of the group.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work