These theories both took into account the society within which the deviant/criminal lives, but Strain theory focused on the negative aspects of this influence. Strain theory said that “all Americans have the same cultural goals linked to both material achievement and social status, but not all Americans have the equal means to achieve these goals” (notes). According to this theory, there are “institutional arrangements that provide for success”, and they include family, religion, economy, education and politics (notes). This theory viewed America as a highly competitive society in which the less fortunate are left behind. Strain is felt because they lack equal opportunity and so they adapt to this reality in illegal ways, such as drug dealing, stealing and gangs. These individuals felt pressure from their society to conform to certain ideals and that is what drove them to become criminals. A big pressure discussed by the Strain theorists is the “American Dream”, and it is the cause of much stress in most people’s lives. The “American Dream” is the universal goal of achievement and success among Americans. For the poor, it is rather like a nightmare, according to the Strain theory. “Poor people are not taught to be satisfied with their lot but rather are instructed to pursue the American dream; through hard work, it is said, even the lowliest among us can rise from rags to riches”. These ambitions have consequences for the poor because “the social structure limits access to the goal of success through legitimate means (e.g., college education, corporate employment, family connections)” (53). Therefore, crime is a way of life for many Americans because it helps them reach the American dream. They chase after a dream that seems impossible to attain. According to Merton, strained people adapt to their reality in 4 different ways: innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion.
Innovationists usually use legitimate ways to achieve success but resort to illegitimate means when they find their window of opportunity temporarily blocked for whatever reason. Ritualists follow the norms of society, but they scale down their aspirations lower than the norms and avoid taking risks. Retreatists escape the norms of
society through such means as drinking and drugs. Rebels reject the norms and set up their own rules of how to live (54-55).
Control theory believed that all of this deviation can be solved with a proper upbringing (notes). This theory was started in the 1950’s when the trend was a focus on the family and parenting. Reiss’ “push and pull”