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Strain Theory & Cognitive Restructuring

A general strain theory was proposed by Robert Agnew. In this theory, he proposed that strain did not arise when people had a failure to meet the American Dream, but that everyone, in every social class, had frustrations in his or her daily life.

Most strain theorists listed failure to achieve goals as a major strain precipitator. Agnew had identified two additional sources of strain: presentation of noxious stimuli and removal of positively valued stimuli. Examples of presentation of noxious stimuli would be an abusive parent, an overly critical instructor, and an overly demanding employer. Examples of the removal of positively valued stimuli would be losing a job, getting a divorce, and filing for bankruptcy.

1. Create a scenario that would fall under the strain theory. In the scenario, provide an explanation of each of the following:
- The loss of the major goal
- The presentation of the noxious stimuli
- The removal of the positively valued stimuli

2. When you have these 3 inputs of strain in your scenario, address the following:
- How would the person in the scenario react with criminal behavior or behavior that would not be acceptable to society? Explain.
- How could cognitive restructuring be used to prevent the person from partaking in criminal behavior? Explain.

Solution Preview

1. Consider a young man, Hispanic, living in a lower middle class neighborhood in Yonkers, NY. He has completed one year of community college, but does not think he has what it takes to go to NYU or CUNY to continue his education. His grades are average and he does not like the nature of academic work. As it stands now, his job prospects are limited. He cannot find suitable work, yet, he has no interest in furthering his education in any but a technical direction.

Thus, he is struggling with money. He is forced to continue to live with his parents, which hurts his status among his peers, causing him some embarrassment. He is certainly not autonomous, since money has become the overriding concern in his life. Making matters worse, his father has been pushed down to 75% time, from full time due to cutbacks and overseas outsourcing. So now even his family will have a tough time covering his bills in the meantime.

Now, this has affected his father terribly. Like many men, he feels that his cut hours mean he is no longer a good provider. His self esteem has slipped, even though the cutbacks are in no way his fault or attributable to his performance. His father is no longer himself, as he looks forward to what are rumored to be more cuts in the future.

As all of this is going on, both the city and state have cut back substantially on job ...

Solution Summary

The solution discusses the strain theory and cognitive restructuring.