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Discussion: Strain Theory
Strain Theory
Arrest.Palestine.State.WDC.5apr02 by Elvert Barnes, on Flickr
Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License by Elvert Barnes
How would a strain theorist explain economic criminality such as white collar crime or larceny? How do general societal goals and expectations relate to the strain theory (particularly in the United States)? How can society lessen the impact or address the implications of the strain theory?
Discussion Tips:
Participate in this discussion by first posting a logical and thoughtful response to the questions posed by your instructor during the first week of this module. After posting your discussion to this topic during the first week of the module, you should return to this discussion area and post at least two responses to posts made by your fellow classmates during the remaining week(s) of the module.
A posting of at least 125-words is usually sufficient.
You should post fresh ideas that are thoughtful and well written while being sure to use correct spelling and grammar. Be sure to cite sources when putting forth opinions and facts of others.
Commentary – Social Structural Theories
It’s the Environment: Social Structural Theories
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The by-products of urbanization brought forth observable problems of certain areas of poverty which appeared to flourish with many social problems. These issues inspired the concepts of social structural theories. The heart of social structural theory is human ecology. Similar with the science of ecology, it is believed that humans are greatly influenced by their physical environment. In their physical environment, individuals continually adapt and are forced to compete in order to survive. Through competition and adaptation in their surrounding environment, people form functional niches in society. According to this perspective, if you change the environment, you can change the behavior. For example, if you have a violent individual living in a disadvantaged area filled with opportunity to commit and learn crime and move the person to a stable community, the person will change behavior in order to adapt to the non-criminal surroundings.
Many different perspectives fall under the category of social structural theory. The first subcategory of social structure is strain theory, which focuses upon how people adapt, or cope, to their environment. When the conditions of their environment or community become frustrating or stressful, this puts certain people under strain. When they are under strain or stress, they may feel certain pressures to adapt in acceptable or unacceptable ways. Merton’s theory concerns people not achieving the materialistic desires of the American Dream. Building upon Merton’s theory, Agnew describes other responses to loss of dreams, such as the loss of positively valued stimuli, the presentation of negative stimuli and how one copes. Lastly, Messner and Rosenfeld further explain that society has become normless (lacking morals) due to the culture’s stress upon economic success despite the methods utilized to get there.
Shaw and Mckay observed that certain areas, especially disadvantaged ones, seemed to have patterns of high crime and delinquency. These areas physically expressed that the people in the community do not care through physical (signs of neglect and unchecked decay, abandoned buildings, broken streetlights, trash filled lots, expressions of ongoing conditions) and social (public drinking, prostitution, homelessness, episodic events) incivilities that increase fear. Disorder results in feelings of anger and demoralization and the feeling that “no one cares”. For instance, a kid urinating on old lady in front of another neighbor will produce this emotion if nothing is done. Moral reliability is lost when individuals are not sure that the behavior of their neighbors will conform to what in the past were uniformly acceptable standards. As a product of the environment, the people living in these areas build tolerances to deviance. These tolerances to deviance manifest themselves as a pseudo culture or cultural deviance. Within these subcultures, violence seems to be a daily form of life and is accepted.
– Overview and Reading Assignment
Topic Overview
In this module the student will be asked to explore how the environment in which one lives may influence the way one behaves. In the first discussion the students will explore environmental factors influencing behavior and continue to read the Criminological Theory text. The second discussion will focus on the strain theory and the implication that the “American Dream” engenders unintended consequences of economic crime. Finally, incorporating the first discussion and related text reading with research, the student is required to complete a written assignment.
Criminological Theory: Chapters 3-4 and 12


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