A2 SOCIOLOGY ~ MERTON'S STRAIN THEORY IN NOTE FORM ~ CRIME AND DEVIANCE

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  • Created by: AJ
  • Created on: 09-04-13 19:34

MERTON'S STRAIN THEORY

> Strain theories argue that people engage in deviant behaviour when they are unable to achieve socially approved goals by legitimate means.

> The first strain theory was developed by Functionalist Merton, who adapted Durkheim's concept of anomie to explain deviance.

> For Merton, deviance is the result of a strain between two things:

          - The goals that a culture encourages individuals to achieve.

          - What the institutional structure of society allows them to achieve legitimately.

AMERICAN DREAM -

> Americans are expected to pursue this goal by legitimate means: self-discipline, study, educational qualifications, and hard work in a career. The ideology of the 'American Dream' tells Americans that their society is meritocratic one where anyone who makes the effort can get ahead - there are opportunities for all.

> However, the reality is different: many disadvantaged groups are denied opportunities to achieve legitimately.

> The resulting strain between the cultural goal of money success and the lack of legitimate opportunities to achieve it produces frustration, and this in turn creates a pressure to resort to illegitimate means such as crime and deviance. Merton calls this pressure to deviate, 'the strain to anomie'.

> According to Merton, this pressure to deviate is further increased by the fact that American culture puts more emphasis on

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