Anomie and strain theories are very different but related theories of crime. The first of them analyze the link between countries’ crime rates and societal factors (Cullen, Agnew, & Wilcox, 2017). For example, the theory states that in the US, individuals are likely to engage in crimes to pursue monetary gain because the government promotes monetary success while not stressing the significance of legitimate ways for achieving it.
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Strain theory explains why some groups of individuals are more likely to participate in illegal activities compared to other ones (Cullen et al., 2017). The central idea of this ideology is that individuals are pressured to engage in crime when they cannot achieve cultural goals. Notably, studies do not show support for both presented theories despite their similarities.
Studies in criminology reveal that anomie theory is relevant and can be applied to real-life cases. For example, Simmler, Plassard, Schär, and Schuster (2017) report that its concepts offer a reliable sociological explanation for differences among people of various social classes and their behavior. The study supports the hypothesis that dissociation between culture-related aspirations and the means for realizing them can lead to deviant behavior.
At the same time, some studies on strain theory show little support for the hypotheses. For instance, a literature review by Eitle and Eitle (2016) reveals that there is a lack of evidence regarding the applicability of the theory’s principles to juvenile delinquency. The possible conclusion that can be made is that explaining the background of crime rates among various countries using a criminology theory may be effective while linking all crimes to cultural aspects is a strategy that has limitations and should be improved.
Cullen, F. T., Agnew, R., & Wilcox, P. (2017). Criminological theory: Past to present: Essential readings (6th ed.). New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Eitle, D., & Eitle, T. M. (2016). General strain theory and delinquency: Extending a popular explanation to American Indian youth. Youth & Society, 48(4), 470-495.
Simmler, M., Plassard, I., Schär, N., & Schuster, M. (2017). Understanding pathways to crime: Can anomie theory explain higher crime rates among refugees? Current findings from a Swiss survey. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 23(4), 539-558.