Merton and Agnew Strain Theory

The strain theory takes a look at what causes a person to commit a crime. There are various strains, also known as stressors, which lead to negative behavior patterns. Stress, anger and frustration are common emotions people feel and they may encourage someone to do something they should not in order to get relief or a solution to their problem. Merton’s strain theory was acknowledged during the middle of the 20th century and during the 1990s, Agnew developed a strain that seemed more fitting for current times.

Strains that possibly lead to crime were reviewed by Merton and later challenged by Agnew. Early research looked into strains or stressors that lead to criminal activity. Such strains had connections to negative emotions such as anger. They created pressure points within a person that lead to them thinking a negative action would help solve the problem. Or, it was more of a reaction to a negative thought or emotion. Merton’s strain theory looked into several factors such as certain strains leading to crime, why they made criminal activity increase and how people would get discouraged from reacting with crime.

Merton had a classic strain theory that was derived from an earlier research. It later became an important part of criminology during mid-20th century. One of the main concepts behind the strain was reviewing actions related to someone with an inability to achieve monetary success. An example would be someone that is unemployed and they decide to rob a bank, sell drugs or get back at their employer that let them go. The strain was studied within the middle-class group but more evidence would turn up that challenged Merton’s theory. By the 1970s and 1980s Merton’s theory was not as transparent as many thought. Later, Agnew presented his strain with more solid information.

Agnew’s strain is known as GST or general strain theory. His strain has become the main concept behind various theories of crimes committed. Other elements such as goal achievement, loss of valuable possessions and poor treatment from others help make reasons for criminal activity more solid. Agnew’s theory has helped review activity completed between different races, genders, and ethnic groups to gain further understanding of how and why crimes are committed. Social differences have also become an issue while it helps determine crime rates for different groups and populations.