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Society

The social roots of delinquency have been analyzed using theories developed by sociologists as well as criminologists. Some of them view delinquency as function of one individual while others describe it from the macro level of societal structure (Bernard 1984). The theories that will be presented here will be applicable to analyze of crime and delinquency in society. Society has embedded many ideas promoting the success in life. It puts a large emphasis on money, power, commodities, and material goods to prove who we are and how much one has accomplished. Unfortunately we are all given the idea that success is one universal lifestyle and we should all aim to work towards it. However, only few have the means to attain these goals. In this paper I will discuss the correlation between social classes and delinquency. It is important to find the root of the delinquency in order to start eliminating it, leading to a brighter future for those in a lower-class, enabling the youth to have fair opportunities in society. It is a widespread opinion that youth from lower socioeconomic class is more open for delinquency and crime. Through the theories of such sociologists as Merton, Cohen, Cloward and Ohlin I will try to prove that this opinion is right. The strain theory is similar to the structural functionalism and argues that "people who commit crimes have basically the same values as everybody else.., however, the avenues for the achievement of success are greatly restricted for people in the lower class. Thus, they are faced with a cruel dilemma: either they abandon the major American values of success and prosperity or they abandon another - obedience of the law" (Leighninger 331).
Theories
Merton's Strain Theory
Strain theory is mainly applied to juvenile delinquency among the boys of lower class and is based on the idea that the value of success they have is shared with the larger culture, but the stratified socialization makes it impossible to compete effectively. Therefore, this pressure is causing the strain and young adults are trying to resolve it. The condition of the society prevents the poor youth from attaining success and lead to defiance of socially accepted norms. Merton has stated that sometimes the society is structured in the way promoting delinquency. As Calhoun has specified "some social structures exert a definite pressure on persons in society to engage in non conforming behavior" (174). Merton was focused on American society because United States is one of the richest countries in the world but the wealth is not equally distributed. Too much emphasis is being made on financial wellbeing. Children grow up with the dreams to become a millionaire. Distress and strain result from this pressure - even parents say to their children that if they do not go to college they will be lower class. Criminal activity is like the struggle to preserve the self esteem.
Robert Merton added to Durkheim's concept and focused on the idea of strain between aspirations and expectations in society. According to Merton anomie was the state of structural strain between the almost universal cultural goals of the "American Dream" and the much more restricted institutionalized means for achieving them (Deutchmann p.246). Merton believes deviance is a form of adaptation to the strain that exists between, "culturally prescribed aspirations and socially structured avenues for ...Show more

Summary

Using the strain theory, Merton focuses on opportunity and believes that society focuses on goals rather then the means to achieve these goals. There are the same expectations for both lower and higher class citizen; however the lower class does not have the same opportunities to achieve these goals.
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