The Structural Strain Theory

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The articles A spate of random, cruel murders, committed by teens - coincidence or a sign? and Wagga Police: We can’t ‘arrest our way’ out of youth crime issues detail a number of deviant acts committed by teens in different areas across Australia. These deviant acts can be explained by four theories of deviance: cultural transmission, structural strain, control theory and labelling theory.

Cultural transmission theory developed by Edwin Sutherland is based on symbolic interactionist view that deviance is learned through interactions with other deviants. It focuses on the age, ratio and intensity; the age of the individual becoming deviant, ratio of deviants to conformists and the intensity of the interactions and relationship between the
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It explores the anomie that occurs due to the organisation or disorganisation of society; strains placed on the individual by society encourage them to achieve goals by deviant means. The four types of deviance according to this theory are innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion. Innovation occurs when the individual accepts the goal but rejects the means, therefore achieving the goal using deviant means. An example of this is when Ryan Miller and Brad Stevens achieved the goal of possessing and driving a car by “stealing cars and doing drive-bys and stuff” (Guilliatt 2013). Ritualism occurs when the goal is abandoned but the means are continued, losing sight of the objective. Retreatism is when both the goals and means are abandoned and the individual is no longer a functioning part of society, and rebellion occurs when the goals and means are abandoned and replaced with new deviant ones. An example of rebellion is when Miller sets the goal of killing someone because he “Felt like killing someone” (Guilliatt 2013) then achieves it with the disapproved means of stabbing. This theory explains the high rate of crime in Glenfield Park as it is identified as a disadvantaged area that is well on its way to “lose a generation to the judicial system” (ABC 2015). This theory fails to explain how Miller and Stevens became …show more content…
It outlines that people who feel attachment (relationships with others), commitment (application to genuine goals), involvement (engagement in legitimate activities) and belief (values shared with dominant society) are less likely to deviate due to their emotional ties to other people and society. This theory helps explain how Miller became deviant because his parents marriage was described as “acrimonious… their continuing hostility had exposed him to domestic violence” and his father was later described to have “paid scant attention” to his activities (Guilliatt 2013), this means he would not have felt the attachment to his parents that could have prevented him from deviating. He would have also not felt involved with any social activities as he was described as a ‘social outcast, bordering retardation’. Miller’s lack of intelligence and unusual thoughts meant he did not share many values with larger society, another likely cause for his deviant behaviour. Young people in Glenfield Park would likely not feel any commitment to goals because of their lack of education, which would cause them to deviate. This theory explains the cause for deviance but not why the deviance takes the particular form it does; it clarifies why Miller became deviant but not why his deviance occurred in the form of violence and