Robert Agnew's Generalized Strain Theory

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Various theories can be used to explain the causes and explanations for different forms of juvenile delinquency. Agnew’s Generalized Strain Theory and Gottfredson and Hirschi’s Self-Control Theory are used in this paper to analyze the murder of sixteen-year-old Bailey Gwynn. Bailey Gwynn was stabbed to death by fellow sixteen-year-old at Cults Academy, a high performing state school in Aberdeen City, Scotland, on October 28, 2015. The accused allegedly purchased a knife on Amazon and took it to school every day for weeks before the event. He kept it in his blazer and had previously taken it out to show it off to his friends. The two boys were reported to have had a disagreement over a biscuit that escalated to name calling, fighting and…show more content…
General Strain Theory has been used to explain variations in delinquency by examining the effects of strain (Peck, 2011). Originally Agnew’s theory “stated that delinquency results from the blockage of pain-avoidance behavior as well as the blockage of goal-seeking behavior” (Agnew, 2012). Strain is the negative reactions that are the result of striving for an unattainable but culturally mandated goal (Hoffman, 2011). When this strain results in a negative effect such as anger, frustration, guilt and depression it is likely to lead to delinquency (Hoffman, 2011). Agnew identifies four types of strain: objective, subjective, vicarious and anticipatory (Polizzi, 2011). Objective strain is an event that most would perceive as negative but differs depending on subjective interpretation while subjective strain is an event that is disliked by the individual (Polizzi,…show more content…
This strain then causes negative feelings, especially anger towards those they blame for the circumstances, which leads the individual to crime and delinquency (Hoffman, 2011). Strain theory can also be used to explain delinquency for various groups, such as why males are more delinquent than females, as they respond to situations in different ways (Agnew, 2012). Agnew’s strain theory also recommends policy implications to minimize the occurrence of delinquency, mainly by minimizing strain individuals face (Hoffman, 2011). It is, however, a fairly new theory and there lacks empirical evidence that supports or rejects it and does not take into consideration non-social forms of strain (Peck, 2011). It is also a very broad theory, and while it is one of the great advantages of the theory, it also means that it must be broken down, examined and tested piece by piece (Peck,
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