Sociology Subcultural Strain Theories of Crime & Deviance

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  • Subcultural Strain Theories of Crime & Deviance 1
    • Albert K. Cohen (1955): Status Frustration
      • Albert K Cohen agrees with Merton that deviance is largely a lower class phenomenon, however he criticises Merton's explanation on two grounds:
        • Merton sees deviance as an individual response to strain, ignoring the fact that much deviance is committed by groups, especially amongst young people
        • Merton focuses on utilitarian crime committed for material gain, such as theft but ignores non-utilitarian crimes such as assault, which do not have economic motives
      • Cohen focuses on deviance among working class boys
        • Working class boys suffer from cultural deprivation and lack skills to achieve well in schools
          • Boys deemed undesirable by the mainstream school system, boys will lack social status
            • Boys experience status frustration because of their inability to achieve status through legitimate means
              • The boys turn to others in similar position, form delinquent subcultures which invert mainstream values in order to improve their status
    • Subcultural strain theories consider deviance as the product of delinquent subculture, with different values from those of mainstream society
    • Albert K Cohen Evaluation
      • Weakness
        • However, like Merton, Cohen assumes that working class boys start off by sharing middle class goals only to end up rejecting them once they fail to achieve them legitimately and ignores the possibility that the working class boys never shared mainstream values and do not consider themselves a failure
      • Strengths
        • Unlike Merton, Cohen's theory explains deviance as caused by status frustration, value inversion and alternative status hierarchy which help explain non utilitarian deviance e:g vandalism


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