Explaining John Dillinger's Criminal Behavior through Agnew's General Strain Theory

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There are many criminological theories that attempt to explain criminal behavior or crime patterns. For instance, Agnew’s General Strain Theory can be applied to explain why the criminal John Dillinger committed various crimes. Agnew’s General Strain Theory assumes that all individuals experience strain, which, in turn, causes negative emotions that can result in legitimate or illegitimate coping, depending on an individual’s constraints or dispositions. Thus, the continuous criminal behavior throughout John Dillinger’s life can be explained using Agnew’s General Strain Theory in relation to strain, negative emotions, and dispositions.
John Dillinger was born on June 22, 1903, in Indianapolis. Three years later his mother died; his father remarried six years afterwards, but Dillinger resented his stepmother. Being raised by a very strict father, who invoked disciplinary extremes, Dillinger became a troublemaker. Dillinger quit school and got a job, but quickly got bored and decided to stay out all night. His father was concerned that city life was corrupting his son, so he decided to move his family to Indiana. However, the move made no difference, since Dillinger began to act the same as he had in the city. After a “break with his father and trouble with the law” Dillinger enlisted in the Navy (“Famous Cases,” n.d). In the Navy, Dillinger got into trouble and decided to leave his ship and move to Indiana, where he married 16-year-old Beryl Hovius in 1924. Both Dillinger and…