argument top image

What are theories of deviance and crime?
Back to question

The strain theory of crime

The Strain theory states that crime is committed because of the pressure, or strain, that societal structures and ideals place on individuals. Most of these pressures are related to achieving the "American Dream".

The Argument

The strain theory essentially places the cause of crimes on the strain that societal pressures place on individuals. People may turn to deviant behavior in order to achieve goals that are the norm for general society. For instance, many drug dealers sell drugs in order to gain money, a common social value. In this sense, those who sell drugs are rebelling against one social norm in order to achieve another[1]. Criminologist Albert Cohen observed juvenile offenders and noted that lower class children lacked the economic and social support to be on the same level as the middle class children at school. Because of this lack of support, Cohen believed that these children were more susceptible to failure and often were unable to reach middle class expectations. This inability to succeed legally places a societal strain on these people and because of this, they turn to crime. [2]

Counter arguments

Opponents of this theory argue that the Strain Theory does not explain crimes that are unrelated to gaining material goods. One of these crimes is vandalism. Committing an act of vandalism would bring the criminal no closer to the "American Dream" and would not grant them any material value.[3]



Rejecting the premises


This page was last edited on Monday, 9 Nov 2020 at 07:18 UTC

Explore related arguments