Strain Theory on Victimization and Crime


The theoretical framework integrates interdisciplinary notions and theories that illustrate how unfavorable interactions between staff and work environments may contribute to their intention to commit abusive protective behaviors. According to strain theories, some strains or pressures enhance the chance of crime. These tensions cause unpleasant feelings like frustration and wrath. These feelings pressure people to take action, and committing a crime is one option. Crime can be employed to relieve or escape stress, exact vengeance on the cause of stress or connected targets, or alleviate bad feelings. The primary variations of strain theory address the specific strains likely to result in crime, why some strains enhance crime, and the elements that contribute to or discourage people from reacting to strains through crime.

Emile Durkheim created the first contemporary strain theory of deviance and crime. However, Merton’s strain theory and its subsets began to take over criminology in the middle of the twentieth century. The classic strain concept emphasizes strains affecting the inability to attain financial success or the slightly broader objective of a middle-class position. Classic strain theory went out of favor in the 1970s and 1980s, partially because studies appeared to contradict it (Aktualisiert, 2022). Numerous attempts have been made to update strain theory, with the majority maintaining that crime may originate from the incapacity to attain various goals. All strain hypotheses agree that only a small percentage of strained people turn to crime (Aktualisiert, 2022). This essay analyzes the application of the strain theory by the government, punishment institutions, and society in combating crime. The latter parts offer criticisms of the theory alongside an overview of its applicability globally.


Strain Theory is highly likely to contribute to delinquency for those who lack traditional social support. Society frequently assists people in coping with their issues by offering guidance, direct aid, and emotional support. As a result, it reduces the chance of a criminal response (Cho & Galehan, 2020). According to the theory, society exerts pressure on people to reach socially accepted objectives like the American dream, even if they lack the resources to do so. It causes stress that may lead to people committing crimes such as drug dealing or prostitution to attain financial stability.

The effective societal intervention that can apply the strain theory to minimize the incidence of crime is ensuring that the youth do not feel excess pressure to achieve certain heights. The various social structures including the family and other institutions such as schools, churches, and mosques are integral. These are essential instruments of instruction that can be used to educate people against pushing the youth excessively. Additionally, the youth can be cautioned against letting the urge to achieve certain milestones drive them into crime. The youths can therefore make gradual steps towards attaining their goals in life without the need to achieve everything at once. This is likely to reduce the incidence of crimes such as drug dealing and prostitution. A society-based application of the strain theory is also likely to promote contentment, and general goodwill amongst members of the community.


Punishment involves painful consequences for people involved in various crimes. Punishing people for their crimes can take various means, with the most popular being the imprisonment of the culprits (Plum, 2022). The strain theory offers limits within such an intervention resides to ensure it achieves the purpose of reforming the criminals. The role of punishment should be limited to preventing the development of vengeful tendencies within the criminals. This ensures reform is achieved through the constraints prescribed by the strain theory.


The formulation of laws to govern various aspects of society can benefit from the strain theory. Rules within a society should not hinder the ability of people to meet basic needs, driving them to crime. This includes punitive laws on taxation that cause difficulties for people within the poor strata. Through the study of strain theory, legislators can understand the extent of their regulations and the means of execution (Scott & Mikell, 2019. This is instrumental in promoting adherence to these laws and minimizing descent within society.


Troubleshooting within a legal context involves evaluating various parameters to identify potential causes of challenges. Identifying the cause of crime involves an acute examination of the strain theory and applying it within the context of a particular community (Skoczylis & Andrews, 2022). The understanding of unique challenges is indispensable in the implementation of a necessary intervention to achieve success. Troubleshooting within the context of strain theory involves identifying the specific pressures that drive members of a community to commit crimes and disregard the law.

Government Intervention

Terrorism can result from a cumulative strain within a discernible group, typically based on religious beliefs, politics, or culture, whose perpetrators may face criminal charges from government intervention. Terrorist acts are done over more extended periods and are expected to persist. These strained behaviors intentionally breach contemporary political and social conventions (Plum, 2022). Social and political standards of the world may challenge and strain-specific communities’ present way of existence.

To the degree that stress leads to crime, it could be feasible to prevent or minimize crime by reducing stressors that promote criminal conduct. It is accomplished by either providing people with the knowledge necessary to avoid such pressures or decreasing the possibility that people will handle strain in a correctional setting. The government can also regulate the strains responsible for the occurrence of crime within society through legislation. This involves imposing various checks and balances that abolish rules that no longer bear significance within this age.

Criticism of the Strain Theory

The Strain theory is not wholesomely applicable to all the groups within a community. It only holds for members of the lower socioeconomic strata who suffer from a lack of opportunities to achieve personal advancement (Teijón-Alcalá & Birkbeck, 2019). Wealthy members of society do not indulge in crime due to the strains available to them because they can meet most of their needs comfortably. The eventual involvement of people within the white collar sector in crime is therefore not adequately explained by the strain theory. These individuals are capable of meeting their most basic needs and extravagancies to fulfill certain urges. The strain theory does not, therefore, suggest any reasons for the greed displayed by wealthy people.

The affluent people additionally have legal mechanisms to cause sway within the laws and author rules that favor their endeavors. There are no explanations within the strain theory for such extreme actions amongst these people (Skoczylis & Andrews, 2022). Crimes of gender inequality are not explained by the strains theory which focuses on socioeconomic aspects of the people (Teijón-Alcalá & Birkbeck, 2019). The intra-personal and interpersonal aspects of crime are neglected by the strain theory of crime as it focuses on socioeconomic pressures.

Applicability to the US or Entire World

The strain theory can be used as a feasible explainer of crime across the world, including in the United States. The strain hypothesis enjoys widespread acceptance outside of the United States and has positioned itself as one of the prominent crime hypotheses. The theory makes sense because it states that inevitable stress enhances the chance of crime. These tensions cause unpleasant feelings like frustration and wrath. These feelings pressure people to take action, and violence is one option (Alcala & Birkbeck, 2019). This is due to the occurrence of people living within the lower socio-economic class in every nation, providing strains that make life difficult. When applied to various nations, the strain theory must be analyzed in the context of the country in question. This is because the levels of poverty vary, with different needs being manifested by the struggling class in various countries.

Individuals may be compelled to commit crimes by societal systems, which differ across the globe. There is ample proof that the strains defined by the theory influence crime, partly through unpleasant emotions. That is the only serious crime theory that emphasizes the importance of negative feelings in the genesis of offending (Scott & Mikell, 2019). It offers a distinctive explanation of criminality and focuses clearly on unfavorable treatment by others.


In summary, the strain theory suggests societal pressures as reasons for involvement in crime. People indulge in crime due to the various needs they may have, and the contradictory legal measures that hamper their indulgences. The strain theory is a crucial component of criminal law and has been evolving over the years, with different interpretations being made. Understanding strains is a vital prerequisite to handling crime through the various mechanisms available. Society can make interventions based on this knowledge, alongside the government through legislation. The institutions beholding punishment measures can also achieve maximum effectiveness if this theory is well executed. The strain theory has a few weaknesses as it fails to explain crime amongst the affluent who face minimal pressure. This theory is applicable on the global scale and has been instrumental in combating and preventing crime, whenever applied.


Aktualisiert, Z. (2022). Anomie theory (Merton). Soztheo. Web.

Alcala, T. & Birkbeck, C. (2019). Victimization, crime propensity, and deviance: a multinational test of general strain theory. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 35(4), 410-430.

Cho, S., & Galehan, J. (2020). Stressful Life events and negative emotions on delinquency among Korean youth: An empirical test of General Strain Theory assessing longitudinal mediation analysis. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 64(1): 38–62.

Plum, C. (2022). Criticism of Merton’s strain theory: a sociological critique and how it fits with the functionalist theory of deviance. Owlcation. Web.

Scott, D. & Mikell, T. (2019). ‘Gender’ and general strain theory: investigating the impact of gender socialization on young women’s criminal outcomes. Journal of Crime and Justice, 42(4), 393–413. Web.

Skoczylis, J. & Andrews, S. (2022). Strain theory, resilience, and far-right extremism: the impact of gender, life experiences and the internet. Critical Studies on Terrorism, 15(1), 143-168. Web.

Teijón-Alcalá, M., & Birkbeck, C. (2019). Victimization, Crime Propensity, and Deviance: A Multinational Test of General Strain Theory. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 35(4), 104398621987094.

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LawBirdie. "Strain Theory on Victimization and Crime." August 5, 2023.