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Strain Theory Research Papers

Strain theory research papers report that strain theory is somewhat similar to social disorganization theory in that the root of crime is seen as the environment or social class in which individuals reside.  Research papers on strain theory can focus on any aspect of the criminology or sociological concept that has become synonymous with understanding deviance in society.

In American society, people strive for wealth, education, power, personal possessions, and other comforts of life.  Realistically, lower class individuals are unable to obtain these resources through conventional, licit means.  The feeling of frustration associated with this lack of efficacy is referred to as strain.  As a result of their frustration, lower class residents may choose to commit crimes to achieve gain, thus clearly linking poverty and crimeStrain Theory

  • Strain theory looks at the broader influence of economic stress on the behavior of individuals.
  • In many cases, this economic stress is the consequence of not only economic disadvantage but also of social inequality manifested in a specific community or in society as a whole.
  • Strain theory submits that juveniles who are unable to achieve their desired goals through legitimate means because of economic disadvantage or social inequality will turn to offending in order to get “what they want in life”.
The problem with strain theory is that it does not account for the fact that many juveniles who experience the stress associated with economic disadvantage and social inequality do not resort to offending to get what they want in life


Robert Merton (1938) is best known for his work concerning deviance, which is a violation of conformity to the norms of the society. In Merton’s Social Strain Theory research papers, writers present five modes of adapting to strain caused by the restricted access to socially approved goals and means. He did not mean that everyone who is denied access to society's goals became deviant. Instead the response or modes of adaptation depend on the individual's attitudes toward cultural goals and the institutional means to attain them. Another aspect of Merton’s strain theory rests in the glorification of violence and the striving for the glamorous lifestyle that wealth and the association with organized crime constitutes. While Merton contends that strain generally does not provoke such extreme behavior, but instead organized crime and the attention given to public acts of violence can be an invitation to others who are experiencing the effects of strain.

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