Robert Merton 's Strain Theory

1299 WordsDec 29, 20156 Pages
I have selected Robert Merton’s Strain theory and Edwin Sutherlands Differential Association theory and their approach to the study of crime for my essay. Robert Merton developed the theory that people engage in deviant behaviour when they can’t achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means. Deviance is a result of the strain an individual feels when they cannot achieve legitimately. Merton uses “The American Dream” to illustrate strain theory. Merton’s explanation is in two pieces; Structural factors – societies’ unequal opportunity structure. Cultural factors- societies’ greater emphasis on success goals over using legitimate means to achieve them. Back to the American Dream association, the American dream emphasises money and being successful. Americans are expected by social norms to pursue this through legitimate means (getting and education, and hard work). However, poverty and discrimination means that opportunities are blocked for some. The resulting strain leads people to resort to illegitimate means instead. The pressure is increased by the culture of success in America-winning is seen as more important than playing by the rules. Responses to Strain: Conformity – individuals accept the culturally approved goals and strive to attain them legitimately. Innovation – culturally approved goals are accepted but individuals use illegitimate means to attain them. Ritualism – individuals give up on attaining widely held goals but carry on following the rules for
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