Writing Assignment 2Agnews General Strain Theory

Writing Assignment #2-Question #2
Agnew’s General Strain Theory
- Micheal Taylor

Robert Agnew’s General Strain Theory (GST) argues that strain or stress is the major source of criminal motivation. He expands upon Merton’s Anomie Theory of strain and stress to include several causes of strain or stress. Agnew categorizes 3 types of strain that produce deviance: the failure to achieve positively valued goals, the loss of positive stimuli, and the introduction of negative stimuli. There are several different actions that can be taken to correct the strain in order to curb deviance, including exercise, counseling, and advocacy programs. Furthermore, we will also look at how this relates to domestic violence.

As first mentioned there are 3 categories to Agnew’s theory. The first category, the failure to achieve positively valued goals, suggests that “communities… may affect crime rates by influencing goals that residents pursue and the ability… to achieve such goals through legitimate channels” (Agnew, 1999). This category includes 3 subcategories: the failure to reach ideal goals, the failure to achieve expectations, and the failure to be treated in a fair and just manner.
The failure to reach ideal goals also includes personal inadequacies in abilities and skills in achievement of immediate goals. The second subcategory, the failure to achieve expectations will in turn develop into “anger, resentment, and disappointment” (Akers, p159). This idea relies on the outcome of the person’s behavior. Strain is augmented when the actual accomplishments of a person are less than what was anticipated. The last, failure to be treated in a fair and just manner, is a result of differences between a person’s personal view of what should happen and the real outcome. This allows individuals to compare and contrast their contributions and outcomes against those of others.
The failure to achieve positively valued goals is a central part of GST. It leads one to believe that, in part, the strain caused by not achieving the goals set by communities (be it economic success or achieving status and respect, etc) causes stress on the individual to commit crimes in an attempt to achieve these goals.

The second aspect of Agnew’s GST is the loss or potential loss of positive stimuli. This stressor involves the loss of the “opportunity to freely engage in a range of valued behaviors” (Broidy; Agnew, 1997), such as the loss of romantic partners or friends. In other words, the ability (or lack-there-of) of an individual to deal with stressful events in life can produce deviant feelings and behavior.

Agnew’s last strain producer, the presentation of negative stimuli, refers to such things as child abuse, negative experiences at school, homelessness, and poor association with peers.

Agnew suggests that crime isn’t the only approach people will use in their response to strain. According to Agnew, there are 3 types of strategies, apart from crime, that people can utilize to deal with stress and strain through legitimate means. He says that cognitive, emotional, and behavioral coping strategies can be used to reduce strain in a person’s life (Broidy; Agnew, 1997).
Cognitive strategies allow the person to decipher stress in a different way. A person can reduce the significance of the strain, or maximize the favorable and at the same time minimize undesirable outcomes, or acknowledge accountability for the adverse outcomes (Agnew, 1992).
Emotional strategies require the person to center on eliminating the damaging feelings rather than attempting to change the event through such means as, physical activity, and relaxation methods (Agnew, 1992).
In order to reduce the strain that has resulted, a person may also utilize behavioral coping strategies. A person could look for constructive motivation or try to elude adverse stimuli (Agnew, 1992).
To provide support for these strategies, additional community support is needed. The objective of additional support would be to guide the person on how to deal with stresses and strains on their own through anger control programs. An example of these corrective methods would be peer programs, such as midnight basketball, that attempt to lower the stresses teens feel when dealing with peers. As well as increased community support, it’s vital to alter the approach the person uses in response to their atmosphere and lessen the likelihood of producing negative responses from society.

In response to domestic violence, it’s suggested that teenage violence toward parents is an effort by youths to