DevianceandControl - 1. Mertons Strain Theory provides an...

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1. Merton’s Strain Theory provides an excellent explanation of youth violence and deviance in our society. It states that every society has goals, and means to reach those goals, and blames the social structure of society for crime. Merton’s strain theory begins with the observation that while wealth is a widespread American goal, society does not provide everyone sufficient opportunity to achieve that goal. While success, ideally, is gained through education and hard work, success gained through illegitimate means violates the social norms. Merton explains that all members of American society are socialized to want to attain monetary success, but those that are denied access to legitimate means of attaining it experience strain. This inconsistency results in anomie, a social condition where bonds to conventional society, are absent, weak or in conflict. An individual suffering from anomie would strive to attain the common goals of a society yet would not be able to reach these goals legitimately because of structural limitations or barriers in society. When someone can no longer handle trying to achieve a seemingly unachievable goal they may turn to crime as an alternative. Crime is sometimes a result of the conflict between the goals people have and the means they can use to legally obtain them. For youth experiencing anomie, the social reinforcement provided by the delinquent peer group or gangs increases the likelihood of delinquent behavior. Also, without strong ties to family, it may be hard for youth to stay away from a gang pulling them in. They may feel like this is the only family they can be a part of. While goals are the same for all, the ability to obtain these goals is class dependant. This is especially true among the youth in lower class society who experience strain in the form of anger, frustration and resentment. Strain is limited in the upper classes because educational and vocational opportunities are available. If a family is not well off, or a child feels that they do not have enough money or material things to be where they want or to achieve society’s ascribed goals, they may look to gangs for solutions to these barriers. Merton further explains how innovation, the attempt to achieve culturally approved goals using unconventional means, results from the strain experienced when the significance placed on success exceeds the means to achieve success. Gangs are good examples of innovators who accept the cultural goals of society, and yet reject the cultural means of achieving those goals. Through innovation, gang members decide crime and violence is the best option because they do not think there is any other
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This note was uploaded on 03/23/2012 for the course SOC 101 taught by Professor Moore during the Summer '11 term at Santa Barbara City.

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DevianceandControl - 1. Mertons Strain Theory provides an...

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