How Certain Crimes Are Committed in Society: Three Theories

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Strain theory

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Strain theory was developed by Emile Durkheim, and it states that social structures in society may pressure citizens to commit the crime. The strain may be either structural or individual. Structural refers to the various processes at the societal level that affects the way persons perceive their needs, and it is attached with the means and opportunities. Individually refers to the frictions and pains experienced by a person as he or she looks for means and ways to meet his or her needs (Blevins et al, 2010).

Notable from strain theory

General strain theory is the first one and was developed by Robert Agnew to generate the idea that people who experience strain become distressed that may lead to committing of crime so as to cope. The motivator for the crime of the general strain theory is emotion. An example of the general strain theory is where one assaults others to stop them from harassing him or her. Sources of strain may include, inability to achieve desired goal, loss of positive stimuli, and presentation of negative stimuli (Blevins et al, 2010). Another theory is institutional anomie theory that was developed by Steven Messner and Richard Rosenfeld. Institutional anomie theory states that an institutional arrangement with a market that has no restraints from other social intuitions will lead to criminal behavior. The theory mainly focuses on the social institutions as criminal influencers rather than the economic structure (Passas & Agnew, 2008).

Anomie theory

There are some ostensible discrepancies in how anomie is defined and applied in Merton's theoretical writings, but he most unfailingly talks about anomie as a communal milieu in which there is a privation of unanimity vis-a-vis the normative ways of pursuing a customarily cherished goal. Anomie theory focuses on the lack of normal ethical and social standards. According to Durkheim, rules of how individuals interact with each other were disintegrating and thus, people were unable to know ways of interacting with one another (Passas & Agnew, 2008). Anomie being normlessness leads to deviant behaviors and in the long run leads to depression which the catalyst of crime or suicide. In criminology, an individual chooses criminal activity because he or she believes that there is no reason not to. In other words, the person feels alienated, worthless and that anything he or she tries to achieve is in vain thus lack of foreseeable alternative leading to criminal activity (Blevins et al, 2010). For example, let imagine of a poor teen who has no access to job training or school.

Crime becomes the teen's world from birth and all other siblings to the teen were in a group and served in juvenile detention. The parents themselves had a criminal history and were not involved in the life of the teen (Ginsberg, 2012). The teen now being an adult who has no employment or source of daily bread will feel worthless, with no direction or purpose. The only outlet for the teen is the crime because he could not see any other option for survival or try to achieve a higher purpose. In this case, crime is the only option remaining, and the teen has to commit it so as to survive and achieve the desires of life (Ginsberg, 2012).

Crime is indispensable; it aids a purpose in society. Even if it is not desirable, with the development and advancement of modernism and prominence on monetary accomplishment, crime is unavoidable for the reason that a faultlessly steady, unchanging, and able civilization is incredible (Ginsberg, 2012). Being the father of sociology and a functionalist, Durkheim offers a multiplicity of descriptions of civilization's evils, like criminality and nonconformity, and accounts for the penalties and ramifications that follow. He proclaims that man is a product of his societal setting; thus, socialization inaugurates at delivery and endures over and done with language and relations with other folks. The foundation of his philosophy respites on the notion that the "sense of right and wrong of a civilization differs together with the division of labor and how individuals strive in the society (Ginsberg, 2012).


The two theories, strain, and anomie theory are used to describe how certain crimes are committed in society. Some crimes are due to the conditions and the way things are in the individuals life. However, other crimes can be optional and need to be addressed with a quick response.


Blevins, K. R., Listwan, S. J., Cullen, F. T., & Jonson, C. L. (2010). A general strain theory of prison violence and misconduct: An integrated model of inmate behavior. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 26(2), 148-166.

Ginsberg, R. B. (2012). Anomie and aspirations: A reinterpretation of Durkheim's theory. New York: Arno Press.

Passas, N., & Agnew, R. (2008). The future of anomie theory. Boston: Northeastern University Press.

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