Strain Theory

Strain Theory

The American dream makes many Americans to adjust themselves in a way that would ensure parallel development to those people with successful lifestyles. Becoming successful means that the all Americans have to work towards a common goal of achieving the American dream. Crime and it relation to the American dream has changed the way people view crime entirely. The strain theory establishes that societal pressures emanating from social structures may pressurize individuals to commit crime.

The structure of the American dream contributes a lot to crime in the United States. The dream is structured from a national ethos in the US, which constitutes ideals for freedom including prosperity and success opportunities. The dream constitutes an upwards social mobility, which can only be achieved by hard work. The American dream subjects some Americans to strain and creates structural or institutional anomie, which involves personal state of isolation and anxiety resulting from a lack of social control and regulation (Murphy & Robinson, 2008). This aspect of life is a contributor of criminality throughout the US.

In pursuing the American dream, some people combine both the legitimate opportunities and illegitimate opportunities. Some individuals would deal with success perceived in monetary value and essence of making use of legitimate means to achieve success. Other individuals would look at the structural distribution of various legitimate opportunities within their society and act from their perceptions of success. The struggle emanating from such differences creates strain and pressures that would cause people act illegitimately to achieve success in life (Murphy & Robinson, 2008).

All these cases arise in the attempt to achieve the American dream. The structural differences in satisfying human needs may contribute to the assumption that the most successful used the wrong methods to achieve their wealth (Siegel, 2012). Matza and Sykes’ techniques suggest that individuals understand their moral obligations in abiding by the law. When a person commits a crime like the case of taking an exam for other students as viewed in the video “Cheating on the SAT,” the person may employ some mechanisms, which would force the urge in following the moral obligation of abiding by the law. Sam Eshaghoffin, the offender in this case, did write exams for other students believing that he generated a new life for the students (Stewart, 2012 ). Almost everyone would agree to point of view by Sam Eshaghoff. In such a context, every student would wish to pass. Given the availability of shortcuts, all Americans would wish to elevate their success abilities. To many, crimes provide these abilities.


Murphy, D. S., & Robinson, M. B. (2008). The Maximizer: Clarifying Merton’s theories of anomie and strain. Theoretical Criminology 12 , 501-522.

Siegel, L. (2012). Criminology. (11th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth (Chapter 6& 7).

Stewart, A. (2012 , January 1). The Perfect Score: Cheating on the SAT. (S. Eshaghoff, Performer) Web.