General Strain Theory

General Strain Theory

Crime Causation: General Strain Theory

Ever since the beginning of law and order there has been crime. And along with crime, comes a highly debated question that is still puzzling criminologists today. What actually causes a person to commit a crime? What is the pattern? Is there even a trend involved? Over time, many well-known sociologists have come up with hundreds of crime causation theories to try and help provide and answer to those exact questions. One of the more popular theories in the Social and Cultural Structure category is the General Strain Theory. This particular theory places its primary focus on the reasons why individuals who feel strain are more likely to commit crimes.

Established by sociologist Robert Agnew in 1992, the General Strain theory is developed on the same foundation as Emile Durkheim’s 19th century Anomie Theory. However, rather than linking the cause of crime back to one’s social class, Agnew proposes that crime is essentially caused by negative social relationships and experiences in a person’s life. These negative influences create negative emotions, which he suggests eventually turn into negative actions, or criminal behavior. Within his General Strain Theory, Agnew also offers these four types of strain that would more commonly affect most individuals: (1) the failure to achieve positive goals, (2) the disjunction of expectations, (3) the removal of previous achievements, and (4) over-exposure to negative stimuli. He also suggests that the loss of a positive influence, such as a mentor, parent, or guardian, may cause a blow to one’s emotions, causing him or her to be sent into a depressive state, which Agnew categorizes as inner-strain.

In conclusion, the General Strain Theory, the hypothesis put together in 1992 by Robert Agnew, is one of the more popular theories composed that offers us a fairly reasonable explanation as to why crime is committed. It steps away from the traditional idea that crimes...

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