Strain Theories of Criminal Behaviour Essay

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Strain theories of criminal behaviour have been amongst the most important and influential in the field of criminology. Taking a societal approach, strain theories have sought to explain deficiencies in social structure that lead individuals to commit crime (Williams and McShane 2010). Strain theories operate under the premise that there is a societal consensus of values, beliefs, and goals with legitimate methods for achieving success. When individuals are denied access to legitimate methods for achieving success, the result is anomie or social strain. This often leads an individual to resort to deviant or criminal means to obtain the level of success that they are socialized to pursue. This is the basic premise of strain theory. This…show more content…
A significant concept developed by Durkheim is that of anomie, a term used to describe the breakdown of social solidarity and a state of normlessness in which members of society begin to feel alienated. In an anomic society, there is no longer a societal consensus as to what behavior is considered normal or deviant and people no longer know how to react in various social contexts. Durkheim stated that anomie would result for two reasons. The first reason was attributed to the the division of labor in society creating inequality, class conflict, poor social relationships, and a dearth of meaningful roles (Willis, 1982). Durkheim felt that a lack of meaningful roles in particular, caused individuals to accept social status and occupations that were below their level of talent and potential. This created frustration and strain as individuals felt as though they were not given the same opportunity to achieve success as others. The second cause of anomie that Durkheim stated was the disparity between needs and means (Willis, 1982). This meant that in order for happiness to exist within an individual, they must have a realistic chance of achieving their needs based upon the means they have access to. Durkheim felt that a large discrepancy between needs and available means would lead an individual to become hopeless with their situation and contemplate suicide. Durkheim’s work greatly influenced fellow
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