Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: May 28, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963930 | Print ISBN: 9781412941655 | Online ISBN: 9781412963930| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Strain theory states that the experience of strains or stressors increases the likelihood of crime. Strains refer to events and conditions that are disliked by individuals. Examples include the inability to achieve valued goals, such as economic success; breakup with a romantic partner; and verbal and physical abuse. Individuals sometimes turn to crime in an effort to cope with their strains. For example, they sell illicit drugs or engage in prostitution in an effort to achieve their economic goals. Strain theory describes those types of strains most likely to lead to crime, the reasons why strains lead to crime, and the factors that influence the effect of strains on crime. The initial versions of strain theory, such as that of Robert Merton, focused on that type of strain involving the inability to achieve economic success. Merton argued that all people in the United States are encouraged to pursue the goal ...