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Examine the similarities and differences between the sub cultural theories and the strain theory as an explanation for criminal and deviant behaviour.

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Examine the similarities and differences between the sub cultural theories and the strain theory as an explanation for criminal and deviant behaviour. There are many explanations for criminal and deviant behaviour which differ according to theoretical background. Sub cultural theories, and Merton in his strain theory, attempt to explain its existence and in doing so they make certain similarities and differences. A sub-culture is a group which shares some of the norms and values of mainstream culture, but which distorts those values in order to show their rejection of mainstream values and norms. Groups will develop sub-cultures as a collective response to the problems which they experience. Example of a subculture can be an 'ethnic minority' subculture. This concept has been used by functionalists in the USA, Marxists in Britain and New Left Realism. In the 1930's, Robert Merton tried to locate deviance within a functionalist framework. For Merton, crime and deviance were evidence of a poor fit (or a strain) between socially accepted goals of society and the socially approved means of obtaining those desired goals. The resulting strain led to deviance. Merton argued that all societies set their members certain goals, and at the same time they also provide socially approved ways of achieving these goals. ...read more.


They argued that Merton had failed to appreciate that there was a parallel opportunity structure to the legal one called the illegitimate opportunity structure. By this they meant that for some subcultures in society a regular illegal career was available, with recognised illegal means of obtaining society's goals. A good contemporary example of this is given in Hobbs book Bad Business. Hobbs interviews successful professional criminals and demonstrates how it is possible to have a career in crime, given the right connections and 'qualities'. According to Cloward and Ohlin, the illegal opportunity structure had three possible adaptations or subcultures. The first was Criminal; this adaptation is where there is a thriving local criminal subculture, with successful role-models. Young offenders can 'work their way up the ladder' in the criminal hierarchy. Secondly was Conflict; here there is no local criminal subculture to provide a career opportunity. Groups brought up in this sort of environment are likely to turn to violence usually against other similar groups. Thirdly was Retreatist; this tends to be a more individual response and occurs where the individual has no opportunity or ability to engage in either of the other two subcultures. The result is a retreat into alcohol or drugs. Cloward and Ohlin's work has been criticised as it also fails to discuss females. ...read more.


Both Merton and Cloward and Ohlin attempt to explain crime and deviance by using sub categories. Cloward and Ohlin and Marxist sub cultural approach and Merton all define crime as a response to the gap between the goals society has set and our opportunities to achieve them. There are various differences between the sub cultural theories. According to Merton we respond individually to the goals that society has set, while Cloward and Ohlin believe that we respond collectively in 'subcultures' or 'groups'. Merton Bases his explanation of crime and deviance on economic motivation, while Cohen offers a different explanation that suggests status is more important for many young criminals. Merton states that we all share common goals of society, while Miller states that lower classes have their own norms and values that are very different from others. This includes 'toughness' and need for excitement. Merton does not explain where the goals in society that we strive to achieve have came from, while the Marxist sub cultural approach points to the existence of capitalism as the root cause. Merton's strain theory shares many similarities with some of the sub cultural approaches as those such as Cloward and Ohlin have used his work as a starting point for their own theory on crime and deviance. However, with these similarities come many differences on the definition of crime and its application in society, including the motivation for criminal and deviant activity. ?? ?? ?? ?? Stephen McTeggart 1 ...read more.

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