Strain Theory

The Relation of the Oppressed and Opportunists in Society

  Merton’s theory does not focus on crime, but upon various acts of deviance, which may lead to criminal behavior.   Merton believes that there are certain goals, which are strongly emphasized by a given society.   People in society need means to reach those goals, such as education, and hard work.   However, not everyone has the equal access within legitimate means, to attain those goals, which sets the stage for anomie.   While Cloward and Ohlin’s opportunity theory was built mainly on Merton’s strain theory, they also assumed that the criminal subcultures and gangs are typically found among adolescent males in lower-class areas of large urban centers. They also attempted to account for what makes these subcultures arise and persist.   Beyond these similarities, the Cloward-Ohlin theory has many distinctive features.   In this paper I will elaborate more on Merton’s five adaptations to strain and how Cloward and Ohlin’s subcultures exist.
  Merton’s strain theory, and Cloward and Ohlin’s opportunity theory, were based upon the same concept.   All three agreed that the working class is more likely to deviate, due to the fact that they have less of an opportunity to achieve success through legitimate means. They view the delinquent subculture as a reaction against the lack of opportunity and failure to attain mainstream goals.   Their findings suggest that delinquent criminal behavior is more prevalent in lower class areas and among lower class youths.   As Siegel (2009:182) writes, “According to cultural deviance theory, gangs flourish in an environment where there is strain and social disorganization.”   This is parallel to Merton, Cloward and Ohlin’s findings, where you have strain and social disorganization, there will be the element of unorganized crime.
  Merton’s strain theory identifies five elements for people to achieve goals: conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion. The...