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Strain theory (sociology)
In sociology and criminology, strain theory states that social structures within society may pressure citizens to commit crime. Following on the work of Émile Durkheim, Strain Theories have been advanced by Robert King Merton (1957), Albert K. Cohen (1955), Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin (1960), Neil Smelser (1963), Robert Agnew (1992), and Steven Messner and Richard Rosenfeld (1994). Strain may be either:
- Structural: this refers to the processes at the societal level which filter down and affect how the individual perceives his or her needs, i.e. if particular social structures are inherently inadequate or there is inadequate regulation, this may change the individual's perceptions as to means and opportunities; or
- Individual: this refers to the frictions and pains experienced by an individual as he or she looks for ways to satisfy his or her needs, i.e. if the goals of a society become significant to an individual, actually achieving them may become more important than the means adopted.
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