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Robert Merton Theory

Part A
1. There are three independent yet overlapping branches within the social structure. perspective social disorganization theory, strain theory, and culture conflict theory. Discuss the. main focuses of each of these theories (and by 'main focuses" l mean the basic premise of. each theory, assumptions about crime causation, implications for crime' control or prevention, and any criticisms discussed), Which one do you find most relevant to U.S. society now, and why do you think so?
2. Describe Robert Merton's theory of social "strain" or "anomie" as it relates to deviant/criminal behavior. Be sure to discuss the place of "conformity" in his theory. How does his theory differ from Durkheim's earlier notion of anomie? Next, based on your own experience, the experiences of someone you know, or even the experiences of notorious/famous persons, describe an individual who fits each of Merton's four (4) modes of deviant "paths" or adaptations to "strain." You must discuss four separate people, ' t

Part B
2. Sociologist Robert Agnew's General Strain Theory (GST} helps identify the micro- or individual level influences of "strain.' Describe GST, and then explain how this theory differs from those of Merton-(Strain Theory), and Messeners and Rosenfeld ( Institutional Strain Theory/Relative Deprivation association).
4. Discuss what labeling theory tells us about crime, including a discussion of the concepts of primary and secondary deviance. Do you agree with the major assumptions of labeling theory? Why or why not? Have you (or has someone' you know) ever been given a negative label, and if so, did it-cause you (or that other person) some kind of "social harm"? How did you (or the person) lose the label, or did it become a permanent "marker""that still troubles you/him/her today? On the other hand, what could be an example of the everyday imposition of a POSITIVE l label (for anyone)? Why is it so hard sometimes to successfully impose a positive label on a i -
person who has been previously negatively labeled?

Solution Preview

Social disorganization theory, strain theory, and cultural conflict theory are branches of social
structure perspective used to explain criminal behavior within society. Social disorganization theory
focuses on the variations among people within a relatively small geographic area. Variations in culture
and social behavior influenced by differences in cultural, ethnic, and social backgrounds, lead to
variations in criminal behavior with the region (Vanderbilt University, nd). When variations in social
behavior exist there are few social norms commonly accepted among people living in the same area.
Therefore, social norms, which are assumed to shape beliefs about acceptable behavior, have less
influence on crime prevention and acceptable behavior.
In a culturally and socially diverse society, the different sets of acceptable social norms can lead
to conflict. It can be confusing to understand which behaviors are acceptable and which are not. It may
be difficult for an individual to know which set of norms to follow. However, Cohen (in Vanderbilt, nd)
argues that even in seemingly disorganized neighborhoods social norms exist, as families and neighbors
uphold unseen sets of norms as a means of co-existing. Therefore, neighborhoods and communities are
not as disorganized as may be assumed. The theory alone does not explain causation of crime,
considering the informal expectations of members of the community.
Strain theory explains crime in terms of strain, which is described in terms of attainment or
Frustration in lack of attainment in areas of money, status, and autonomy (Agnew, 1994, in Florida State
University, nd). No single factor can adequately explain causation of crime. Money is less of an
Influence by itself. Money can be a symbol of status attainment. It is the status or acceptance of
peers within the community that has a greater influence on criminal behavior. Where there are few
other opportunities for attainment of status, crime becomes a means of attaining status and
representing one's ability to overcome constraints imposed by others within the community, thus
increasing autonomy.
Though strain theory can be used to explain crime there are coping mechanisms that do not
Involve crime. Reducing the importance for achievement, handling emotional strain through use of
harmful substances like alcohol, and finding positive outlets for negative ...

Solution Summary

Robert Merton Theory is described. The social strain of anomies as it relates to deviant/criminal behavior is determined.