The Revival of the Strain Theory

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Researchers are constantly looking for explanations for criminal patterns and crime rates among juveniles. They have presented many theories to serve as such explanations with strain theory being one of them; however, like many other theories, strain theory was pushed aside decades ago. It was not until recently that this theory was given new life by criminologist, Robert Agnew. Robert Agnew introduced this new development as the general strain theory. GST was the first supposition that was not tied to social class or cultural variables as it was in previous implications of Émile Durkheim’s anomie theory. Instead, Agnew’s theory refocused on societal norms that affect juveniles.
Jang and Johnson (2003) noted GST as being “one of the most important theoretical developments in criminology over the past ten years.” In his theory, Agnew (1992) identified three major types of strain: ‘‘strain as the actual or anticipated failure to achieve positively valued goals, strain as the actual or anticipated removal of positively valued stimuli, and strain as the actual or anticipated presentation of negative stimuli” (p. 59). He then specified strain-generated emotions and revealed conditioning factors to explain individual differences in juveniles’ adaptations to strain. GST is set apart from other strain theories through its inclusion of another variable, negative emotion.
The first type of strain, failure to achieve positively valued stimuli, results from an individual’s failure to achieve a valued goal. According to GST, there are three types of goals that members of society strive to accomplish: money, status and respect, and autonomy (Agnew et al., 2002). Strain is elucidated as “negative or aversive relations with others” that gene...

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.... 137-153). New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers.
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Agnew, R. (1992). Foundation for a general strain theory of crime and delinquency. Criminology, 30, 47-87. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1992.tb01093.x
Agnew, R., Brezina, T., Wright, J. P., & Cullen, F. T. (2002). Strain, personality traits, and delinquency: Extending general strain theory. Criminology, 40(1), 44-46. doi: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2002.tb00949.x
Jang, S. J., & Johnson, B. R. (2003). Strain, negative emotions, and deviant coping among African Americans: A test of general strain theory. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 19(1), 81-82. doi: 10.1023/A:1022570729068.
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