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Chapter 3/4

CRIM 104 Chapter Notes - Chapter 3/4: Juvenile Delinquency, Noxious Stimulus, Social Control Theory

Course Code
CRIM 104

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General strain theory
- criticism of anomie strain theory, status deprivation, illegitimate opportunity structure
o emphasis on lower class drive towards greater status/monetary reward, and no
explanation for middle/upper class crime
o assumption that everyone wants the American Dream
- Robert Agnew
o Created the General Strain Theory
o Psychological and social learning elements with anomie strain elements
o Form of social psychology
o Youth= immediate goals
Youth crime not confined to lower class because upper/middle class youth
are concerned as much as lower class about appearance/popularity/success
in sports
o Added noxious stimuli into reasons on strain
conflict with parents
failure at school
unpopular with peers
pain avoidance behavior frustration and aggression
youth do not have means to escape aversive situations
- general strain suggests individuals run away from undesirable conditions rather than
towards desirable success symbols like anomie strain suggests
A revised Strain Theory of Delinquency
- current strain theories say delinquency caused from blockage of goal seeking behavior
o individuals become frustrated delinquent behavior
- another source of frustration is blockage of pain avoidance behavior
o adolescents are stuck in certain environments (school/family)
o environments become painful, cannot escape legally
o becomes frustrating so turn to illegal ways of escape, or anger based delinquency
- data shows that aversive school/home environments has a direct effect on delinquency and
indirect effects through anger
o hold even after social control/subculture deviance variables are controlled
- strain theory
o delinquency is the result of individuals unable to attain goals legally, so they do so
Critique of Current Strain Theory
- current train theories
o Merton
Inability to achieve economic success
Inability delinquency (looks for alternative ways to achieve goals)
o Cohen
Focus’s on the middle class status
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Delinquency due to goal blockage unlikely unless individual forms/joins
delinquent subculture
o Cloward and Ohlin
Inability to achieve economic success
Delinquency due to goal blockage unlikely unless individual forms/joins
delinquent subculture
- criticism
o aspirations and expectations
would expect delinquency to be high when aspirations are high and
expectations were low
research found that delinquency is highest when aspirations and
expectations are both low
delinquency is lowest when both a and e are high
leads to conformity/conventional order don’t want to risk the commitment
o relationship between social class and delinquency
strain theories suggest delinquency is concentrated in lower class
this is believed to be because they do not have the means to achieve
economic success or middle class status
recent data refutes this, crime in the middle class is common
relationship between class and certain kinds of crime are negligible
o no explanation of why most delinquents abandon crime in late adolescents
o no explanation of why delinquents go long periods without committing crime
o neglect variables strongly related to delinquency (i.e. family)
Revisions in strain theory
general theme for most revisions:
- youth pursue a variety of goals, goal commitment is a variable rather than a given
o this approach can explain middle class crime
middle class has higher aspirations, this offset whatever advantage they have
- youth pursue the achievement of immediate goals rather than long term
(peers, good grades, good in athletics)
o explained by placement of youth in society
helps explain middle class crime, many immediate goals are independent of
social class
- focus on immediate goals help explain disjunction between aspirations and expectations
o if such goals (like future goals) are unimportant to youth then disjunction between
aspirations and expectations would not be related to delinquency
o but the disjunction between immediate goals and achieving them would result in
- view goal commitment as variable and focus on immediate goals
o test have no come back definitive
Strain as the Blockage of Pain Avoidance Behavior
- individuals engage in reward seeking and pain avoidance behavior
o efforts to avoid punishment can be blocked
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o this blockage becomes frustrating, and individual turns to illegal ways to escape the
aversive situation, or demonstrates anger-based delinquency
- distinction between sources of strain
o blockage of goal seeking behavior
individual walking toward goal, path is blocked
o blockage of pain avoidance behavior
individual walking away from aversive behavior and path is blocked
- cues from social environment determine whether they are experienced as pleasant or
o if situation is aversive, they will be frustrated even though achievement of goals isn’t
- pain avoidance lead to frustration/aggression especially if it is felt like it is underserved
o psychological literature
- delinquency is related to aversive stimuli
o sociological literature
- Cohen
o Aversive school experience = delinquency
inability to attain middle class status
- Morris
o Family conflict interferes with ability of females to satisfy relational goals
- both lead to delinquency due to the inability to meet valued goals
- adolescents are powerless, so they cannot escape from aversive situations legally
o turn to delinquency for one of two reasons
means to escape aversive situation
means to escape failed, so they are frustrated, leads to anger related
not instrumental, it is emotional in nature
- factors influencing pain avoidance deviance
o whether youth believes aversion is underserved
o beliefs on delinquency
o presence of delinquent peers
o whether aggression provoking cues are present
o likelihood of punishment
o level of social control
- predict location in aversive environment leads to delinquency, and an indirect effect of
delinquency through anger, aversion causes/correlated with social control and deviant
Data and Methods
- from Youth in Transition survey (Oct.- Nov. 1966)
- multi stage sampling procedure
o selected 2213 boys representing unbiased 10th grade boys in the USA
o included family environments, measures of social control, deviant beliefs,
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