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Merton's Strain Theory and the Presence of Deviance in American Society

Autor:   •  October 2, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,249 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,994 Views

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"Merton's Strain Theory and the Presence of Deviance in American Society"

Merton's Strain theory states that social strain is the cause of deviance. The United States is a highly driven place that the society encourages people to achieve high goals or success without giving them the means to achieve it.

Merton believed that the lower-class people are more likely to get involved with deviant activities like robbery, prostitution, gambling and murder. His reasoning behind this is that society expects such high achievement and the lower-class doesn't always have the ability to gain the tools to be able to reach these goals and it drives them to the deviant acts.

If Merton's Strain Theory is correct it would then mean that every deviant act is accomplished by someone that didn't have the ability to gain the education, experience, money or drive to accomplish what society expects them to be able to. If this was the only theory then every hardworking person that worked their way to a decent goal would be a deviant because they did not accomplish the higher goals of society and it would drive them to commit a deviant act or act in a deviant behavior. At what point is the goal or achievement enough to make you not a deviant?

Merton's Strain theory would make everyone in the United States a deviant since the American dream is constantly evolving and there really is no cap on the extent of what you

should have in life or where in life you need to be in a career. Since social deviants are not just acts of deviance they are also acts of looking different, say having a tattoo or not following a certain president, anyone could be a deviant. The society is ever-changing along

with the social norms that once have been known to be very strict to now being very acceptable. If every American was identical and wanted the same things out of life there would be no individualism.

The positivist theories on deviance in the American society are all very relevant in their own ways. Each theorist has a different approach but they seem to work together or have spun off another theorist's idea of a deviant and what the cause of the behavior is.

Sutherland's differential association theory states that people will more than likely become deviant if they surround themselves with deviants, and not surrounding themselves by high achieving or individuals that fit within the American Social norm. This is somewhat true but seems to have some faults as well. The statistical data would show that this is true to an extent but it doesn't make it one hundred percent fact. Not all people who are lower-class become social deviants or engage in deviant acts because they don't have the means to achieve things that are socially wanted and they don't all take the "do whatever it takes to get it" ( illegal or not) method to get


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