Strain Theory

People who go through these stresses get angry and may resort to criminal behavior to cope. The commission of a criminal act may be seen as a means of relieving or escaping stress. People may resort to theft to get the funds they need or may flee abusive households. The criminal activity might be employed to exact vengeance on those responsible for the stress or other associated targets. It is not uncommon for bullied students to resort to physical violence. Negative feelings may also be alleviated by criminal activity; for instance, drug usage is a common method of self-medication. Many questions for criminal behavior rely on strain concepts, and this study argues that certain propositions have had a notably positive effect on anti-crime policies.

What does Strain Theory Explain?

Some pressures, according to strain hypotheses, may trigger criminal behavior. These stresses result from failing to reach one's objectives, losing access to good stimuli, or being exposed to unpleasant ones. People who go through these stresses get angry and may resort to criminal behavior to cope. The commission of a criminal act may be seen as a means of relieving or escaping stress. No strain theory disputes the fact that most people lawfully deal with stress. When faced with financial difficulties, most people resort to measures like reducing spending, taking out loans, or working overtime. So, it is important to shed light on why some people choose illegal behavior as a coping method. Following an introduction to strain theories, this study explains how these ideas were applied to the study of comparison groups, including gender disparities in criminal behavior.

Types of Strain

It includes −

Inability to Achieve Monetary Success

Considering that this concept was conceived during the Economic Crisis, it is no surprise that it centered on the stresses associated with failing to attain financial success. Merton argues that Americans of all socioeconomic backgrounds are taught to value material achievement. However, disadvantaged people are often blocked from using the traditional routes to success. In particular, families from lower socioeconomic backgrounds frequently fail to instill in their children the values and habits essential to academic success. People from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to attend subpar schools and lack the financial resources necessary to continue their education or launch enterprises. As a result, individuals are often frustrated when attempts to pursue their financial objectives via legitimate means prove fruitless. When people cannot progress toward their goals, they often resort to illegal activities to alleviate their dissatisfaction, like stealing, drug dealing, and prostitution.

Nevertheless, Merton stressed why most people do not deal with stress via criminal behavior. While some people learn to deal with the pressure, others learn to live with less, and yet others redirect their energy to something other than financial success. Merton offered explanations for why some people can handle criminal activity while others are unable. One important consideration is whether people blame their lack of financial achievement on themselves or other factors. Accusing someone else makes one more inclined to commit a crime.

Attraction to Crime

The term "strain" describes how people feel when they are subjected to something they do not enjoy. One possible outcome of these situations is being unable to do what one set out to do. Furthermore, as mentioned previously in this work, the strain may entail introducing painful emotions and removing positive ones. Putting it more simply, stress occurs when a person either misses something positive, gets something negative, or cannot achieve the desired outcome. This was the inspiration for Agnew's labeling theory, which is currently the standard framework for understanding strain in the field of criminal justice. Dozens of strains may be categorized underneath the three main strain types in GST. Unfortunately, not every one of these varieties encourages criminal behavior. To provide just one instance, homeless is a stressor that promotes criminal behavior. Time spent in "time out" for misbehavior is a kind of stress that does not encourage criminal behavior.


Investigators looked at how most of these stresses contribute to crime. Their research shows that several of these genotypes have been identified as major contributors to criminality. For instance, research has indicated that parental disapproval, severe punishment, criminal victimization, and homelessness significantly impact offending behavior. Here are two studies done recently that illustrate the topic. This remained true even when they factored in the adolescent's gender, maturity, history of violence, the degree of family oversight, and gang membership. According to Baron's research, kids who describe being homeless for an extended period in the previous year are significantly more likely to commit a criminal offense. This result held even after controlling for various other characteristics, including oneth, ethnicity, and affiliation with other criminals.

Reasons for Strain Theory

For various causes, strains have been linked to increased criminal activity. In particular, they cause unfavorable feelings like rage, disappointment, melancholy, and panic. Tensioned people feel awful and desire to take action to address it because of these feelings. One potential reaction is criminal activity. As was said previously in this article, criminal behavior could serve as a coping mechanism for various reasons, including relief from bad feelings, vengeance against aggressors, and escape from stressful situations. Anger has a unique role in GST since it motivates people to take action, lowers their defenses, and makes them want vengeance.


Upon its conception, the strain concept was put to the test. Most of those studies looked at idealized objectives, such as professional and personal aspirations, that, if not met, would logically result in criminal behavior according to the strain hypothesis. Nevertheless, the vast majority of studies have shown that this is certainly not the case. In 1967, Travis conducted one such research. He examines a mountain of information on juvenile misbehavior in southwestern California and finds that it conflicts with strain theory.