Skip to main content

General Strain Theory

Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)

The core idea of general strain theory (GST) is quite simple: individuals who experience strains or stressors often become upset and sometimes cope with crime. Such individuals may engage in crime to end or escape from their strains. For example, an individual with a desperate need for money may engage in theft or an adolescent being abused by her father may run away from home. Individuals may engage in crime to seek revenge against the source of their strains or related targets. For example, a student may assault the peers who are harassing him. And individuals may engage in crimes such as illicit drug use to make themselves feel better.

Keywords

  • Parental Rejection
  • Delinquent Peer
  • Criminal Victimization
  • Negative Treatment
  • General Strain Theory

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Buying options

Chapter
USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4419-0245-0_9
  • Chapter length: 17 pages
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
eBook
USD   89.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • ISBN: 978-1-4419-0245-0
  • Instant PDF download
  • Readable on all devices
  • Own it forever
  • Exclusive offer for individuals only
  • Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout
Softcover Book
USD   119.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)

References

  • Agnew, R. (1992). Foundation for a general strain theory of crime and delinquency. Criminology, 30, 47–87.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Agnew, R. (1995a). Controlling delinquency: The policy implications of general strain theory. In H. Barlow (Ed.), Crime and public policy: Putting theory to work (pp. 43–70). Boulder, CO: Westview.

    Google Scholar 

  • Agnew, R. (1995b). The contribution of social-psychological strain theory to the explanation of crime and delinquency. In F. Adler & W. S. Laufer (Eds.), The legacy of anomie theory: Volume 6 . Advances in criminological theory (pp. 113–138). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

    Google Scholar 

  • Agnew, R. (1997). Stability and change in crime over the life course: A strain theory explanation. In T. P. Thornberry (Ed.), Developmental theories of crime and delinquency: Volume 7. Advances in criminological theory (pp. 101–132). New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

    Google Scholar 

  • Agnew, R. (1999). A general strain theory of community differences in crime rates. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 36, 123–155.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Agnew, R. (2001). Building on the foundation of general strain theory: Specifying the types of strain most likely to lead to crime and delinquency. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 38, 319–361.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Agnew, R. (2002). Experienced, vicarious, and anticipated strain: An exploratory study focusing on physical victimization and delinquency. Justice Quarterly, 19, 603–632.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Agnew, R. (2006a). General strain theory: Current status and directions for further research. In F. T. Cullen, J. P. Wright, & K. R. Blevins (Eds.), Taking stock: The status of criminological theory, advances in criminological theory (Vol. 15, pp. 101–126) New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

    Google Scholar 

  • Agnew, R. (2006b). Pressured into crime: An overview of general strain theory. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Agnew, R. (2009a). The contribution of “mainstream” theories to the explanation of female delinquency. In M. A. Zahn (Ed.), The delinquent girl (pp. 7–29) Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Agnew, R. (2009b). Juvenile delinquency: Causes and control. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Agnew, R. (in press). Controlling crime: Recommendations from general strain theory. In H. Barlow & S. Decker (Eds.), Criminology and public policy: Putting theory to work. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Agnew, R., & Brezina, T. (1997). Relational problems with peers, gender, and delinquency. Youth & Society, 29, 84–111.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Agnew, R., Brezina, T., Wright, J. P., & Cullen, F. T. (2002). Strain, personality traits, and delinquency: Extending general strain theory. Criminology, 40, 43–72.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Agnew, R., Cullen, F. T., Burton, V. T., Jr., Evans, D., & Dunaway, R. G. (1996). A new test of classic strain theory. Justice Quarterly, 13, 681–704.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Agnew, R., & Jones, D. H. (1988). Adapting to deprivation: An examination of inflated educational expectations. Sociological Quarterly, 29, 315–337.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Agnew, R., Matthews, S. K., Bucher, J., Welcher, A., & Keyes, C. (2009). Socioeconomic status, economic problems, and delinquency. Youth & Society, 40(2), 159–181.

    Google Scholar 

  • Agnew, R., Piquero, N. L., & Cullen, F. T. (2009). General strain theory and white-collar crime. In S. S. Simpson & D. Weisburd (Eds.), The criminology of white-collar crime (pp. 35–60). New York: Springer-Verlag.

    Google Scholar 

  • Arter, M. L. (2008). Stress and deviance in policing. Deviant Behavior, 29, 43–69.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Aseltine, R. H., Jr., Gore, S., & Gordon, J. (2000). Life stress, anger and anxiety, and delinquency: An empirical test of general strain theory. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 41, 256–275.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Bao, W., Haas, A., & Pi, Y. (2004). Life strain, negative emotions, and delinquency: An empirical test of general strain theory in the People’s Republic of China. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 48, 281–297.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Bao, W., Haas, A., & Pi, Y. (2007). Life strain, coping, and delinquency in the People’s Republic of China: An empirical test of general strain theory from a matching perspective in social support. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 51, 9–24.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Baron, S. W. (2004). General strain theory, street youth and crime: A test of Agnew’s revised theory. Criminology, 42, 457–483.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Baron, S. W. (2007). Street youth, gender, financial strain, and crime: Exploring Broidy and Agnew’s extension to general strain theory. Deviant Behavior, 28, 273–302.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Baron, S. W., & Hartnagel, T. F. (1997). Attributions, affect, and crime: Street youths’ reactions to unemployment. Criminology, 35, 409–434.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Blazak, R. (2001). White boys to terrorist men. American Behavioral Scientist, 44, 982–1000.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Brezina, T. (1998). Adolescent maltreatment and delinquency: The question of intervening processes. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 35, 71–99.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Brezina, T., Piquero, A. R., & Mazerolle, P. (2001). Student anger and aggressive behavior in school: An initial test of macro-level strain theory. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 38, 362–386.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Broidy, L. (2001). A test of general strain theory. Criminology, 39, 9–33.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Broidy, L. M., & Agnew, R. (1997). Gender and crime: A general strain theory perspective. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 34, 275–306.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Capowich, G. E., Mazerolle, P., & Piquero, A. (2001). General strain theory, situational anger, and social networks: An assessment of conditioning influences. Journal of Criminal Justice, 29, 445–461.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Caspi, A., Moffitt, T. E., Silva, P. A., Stouthamer-Loeber, M., Krueger, R. F., & Schmutte, P. S. (1994). Are some people crime prone? Replications of the personality-crime relationship across countries, genders, races, and methods. Criminology, 32, 163–195.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Cernkovich, S. A., Giordano, P. C., & Rudolph, J. L. (2000). Race, crime, and the American dream. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 37, 131–170.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Cheung, C., Ngai, N., & Ngai, S. S. (2007). Family strain and adolescent delinquency in two Chinese cities, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Journal of Child and Family Studies, 16, 626–641.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Cloward, R., & Ohlin, L. (1960). Delinquency and opportunity. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cohen, A. (1955). Delinquent boys. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Colvin, M. (2000). Crime & coercion. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Cullen, F. T., & Agnew, R. (2006). Criminological theory: Past to present. New York: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Currie, E. (1998). Crime and punishment in America. New York: Owl Books.

    Google Scholar 

  • De Coster, S. (2005). Depression and law violation: Gendered responses to gendered stresses. Sociological Perspectives, 48, 155–187.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • De Coster, S., & Kort-Butler, L. (2006). How general is general strain theory? Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 43, 297–325.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Drapela, L. A. (2006). The effect of negative emotion on licit and illicit drug use among high school dropouts: An empirical test of general strain theory. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35, 755–770.

    Google Scholar 

  • Eitle, D. J. (2002). Exploring a source of deviance-producing strain for females: Perceived discrimination and general strain theory. Journal of Criminal Justice, 30, 429–442.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Eitle, D., & Turner, R. J. (2003). Stress exposure, race, and young adult male crime. Sociological Quarterly, 44, 243–269.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Ellwanger, S. J. (2007). Strain, attribution, and traffic delinquency among young drivers. Crime & Delinquency, 53, 523–551.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Froggio, G., & Agnew, R. (2007). The relationship between crime and “objective” versus “subjective” strains. Journal of Criminal Justice, 35, 81–87.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Ganem, N. M. (2006). The role of negative emotion in general strain theory. Ph.D. dissertation, Department of Sociology, Emory University.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gibson, C. L., Swatt, M. L., & Jolicoeur, J. R. (2001). Assessing the generality of general strain theory: The relationship among occupational stress experienced by male police officers and domestic forms of violence. Journal of Crime and Justice, 24, 29–57.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Gottfredson, M. R., & Hisrchi, T. (1990). A General Theory of Crime. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Greenberg, D. F. (1977). Delinquency and the age structure of society. Contemporary Crises, 1, 189–223.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hagan, J., & McCarthy, B. (1997). Mean streets. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Harrell, E. (2007). Adolescent victimization and delinquent behavior. New York: LFB Scholarly Publishing.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hay, C. (2003). Family strain, gender, and delinquency. Sociological Perspectives, 46, 107–136.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hay, C., & Evans, M. M. (2006). Violent victimization and involvement in delinquency: Examining predictions from general strain theory. Journal of Criminal Justice, 34, 261–274.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hinduja, S., & Patchin, J. W. (2007). Offline consequences of online victimization: School violence and delinquency. Journal of School Violence, 6, 89–112.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hoffmann, J. P. (2003). A contextual analysis of differential association, social control, and strain theories of delinquency. Social Forces, 81, 753–785.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hoffmann, J. P., & Cerbone, F. G. (1999). Stressful life events and delinquency escalation in early adolescence. Criminology, 37, 343–374.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Hoffmann, J. P., & Su, S. S. (1997). The conditional effects of stress on delinquency and drug use: A strain theory assessment of sex differences. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 34, 46–78.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Ireland, T. O., Smith, C. A., & Thornberry, T. P. (2002). Developmental issues in the impact of child maltreatment on later delinquency and drug use. Criminology, 40, 359–400.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Jang, S. J. (2007). Gender differences in strain, negative emotions, and coping behaviors: A general strain theory approach. Justice Quarterly, 24, 523–553.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Jang, S. J., & Johnson, B. R. (2005). Gender, religiosity, and reactions to strain among African Americans. Sociological Quarterly, 46, 323–357.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Johnson, M. C., & Kercher, G. A. (2007). ADHD, strain, and criminal behavior: A test of general strain theory. Deviant Behavior, 28, 131–152.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Kaufman, J. M. (2005). Explaining the race/ethnicity-violence relationship: Neighborhood context and social psychological processes. Justice Quarterly, 22, 224–251.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Klemp-North, M. (2007). Theoretical foundations for gang membership. Journal of Gang Research, 14, 11–26.

    Google Scholar 

  • Konty, M. (2005). Microanomie: The cognitive foundations of the relationship between anomie and deviance. Criminology, 43, 107–132.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Landau, S. F. (1997). Crime patterns and their relation to subjective social stress and support indicators: The role of gender. Journal of Quantitative Criminology, 13, 29–59.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Landau, S. F. (1998). Crime, subjective social stress and support indicators, and ethnic origin: The Israeli experience. Justice Quarterly, 15, 243–272.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Maxwell, S. R. (2001). A focus on familial strain: Antisocial behavior and delinquency in Filipino society. Sociological Inquiry, 71, 265–292.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Mazerolle, P. (1998). Gender, general strain, and delinquency: An empirical examination. Justice Quarterly, 15, 65–91.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Mazerolle, P., & Maahs, J. (2000). General strain theory and delinquency: An alternative examination of conditioning influences. Justice Quarterly, 17, 753–778.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Mazerolle, P., Piquero, A. R., & Capowich, G. E. (2003). Examining the links between strain, situational and dispositional anger, and crime: Further specifying and testing general strain theory. Youth & Society, 35, 131–157.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • McClelland, G. H., & Judd, C. M. (1993). Statistical difficulties of detecting interactions and moderator effects. Psychological Bulletin, 114, 376–390.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Messner, S. F., & Rosenfeld, R. (2001). Crime and the American dream. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

    Google Scholar 

  • Moffitt, T, E. (1993). Adolescence-limited and life-course persistent antisocial behavior: A developmental taxonomy. Psychological Review, 100, 674–701.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Morash, M., & Moon, B. (2007). Gender differences in the effects of strain on the delinquency of South Korean youth. Youth & Society, 38, 300–321.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Ostrowsky, M. K., & Messner, S. F. (2005). Explaining crime for a young adult population: An application of general strain theory. Journal of Criminal Justice, 33, 463–476.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Paternoster, R., & Mazerolle, P. (1994). General strain theory and delinquency: A replication and extension. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 31, 235–263.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Piquero, N. L., & Sealock, M. D. (2004). Gender and general strain theory: A preliminary test of Broidy and Agnew’s gender/GST hypotheses. Justice Quarterly, 21, 126–157.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Pratt, T. C., & Cullen, F. T. (2005). Assessing macro-level predictors and theories of crime: A meta-analysis. Crime and Justice: A Review of Research, 32, 373–450.

    Google Scholar 

  • Pratt, T. C., & Godsey, T. W. (2003). Social support, inequality, and homicide: A cross-national test of an integrated theoretical model. Criminology, 41, 611–643.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Robbers, M. L. P. (2004). Revisiting the moderating effect of social support on strain: A gendered test. Sociological Inquiry, 74, 546–569.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Sharp, S. F., Brewster, D., & Love, S. R. (2005). Disentangling strain, personal attributes, affective response and deviance: A gendered analysis. Deviant Behavior, 26, 133–157.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Simons, R. L., Chen, Y., Stewart, E. A., & Brody, G. H. (2003). Incidents of discrimination and risk for delinquency: A longitudinal test of strain theory with an African American sample. Justice Quarterly, 20, 827–854.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Slocum, L. A., Simpson. S. S., & Smith, D. A. (2005). Strained lives and crime: Examining intra-individual variation in strain and offending in a sample of incarcerated women. Criminology, 43, 1067–1110.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Spano, R., Rivera, C., & Bolland, J. (2006). The impact of timing of exposure to violence on violent behavior in a high poverty sample of inner city African American youth. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 35, 681–692.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Swatt, M. L., Gibson, C. L., & Piquero, N. L. (2007). Exploring the utility of general strain theory in explaining problematic alcohol consumption by police officers. Journal of Criminal Justice, 35, 596–611.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Thaxton, S., & Agnew, R. (2004). The nonlinear effects of parental and teacher attachment on delinquency: Disentangling strain from social control explanations. Justice Quarterly, 21, 763–792.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Wallace, L. H., Patchin, J. W., & May, J. D. (2005). Reactions of victimized youth: Strain as an explanation of school delinquency. Western Criminology Review, 6, 104–116.

    Google Scholar 

  • Walsh, A. (2000). Behavior genetics and anomie/strain theory. Criminology, 38, 1075–1108.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

  • Warner, B. D., & Fowler, S. K. (2003). Strain and violence: Testing a general strain theory model of community violence. Journal of Criminal Justice, 31, 511–521.

    CrossRef  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

Copyright information

© 2009 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Agnew, R. (2009). General Strain Theory. In: Krohn, M., Lizotte, A., Hall, G. (eds) Handbook on Crime and Deviance. Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research. Springer, New York, NY. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0245-0_9

Download citation