Strain and Delinquency

Robert Agnew

in The Oxford Handbook of Juvenile Crime and Juvenile Justice

Published in print December 2011 | ISBN: 9780195385106
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

 Strain and Delinquency

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  • Criminology and Criminal Justice
  • Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice
  • Theories of Crime


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Strain theories state that certain strains or stressors increase the likelihood of delinquency. These strains include such things as harsh parental discipline, negative relations with teachers, peer abuse, criminal victimization, and a desperate need for money. Delinquency may be a way to escape from strain. This article discusses the link between strain and delinquency. It begins with an account of history of strain theories of delinquency. It then describes those strains that are most likely to cause delinquency, discussing why these strains increase delinquency. Following this, the article reveals those factors that increase the likelihood that juveniles will cope with strains through delinquency. It draws on strain theory to explain group differences in delinquency, such as the higher rates of offending among males. Researchers continue to examine factors that affect the likelihood of delinquent coping. Finally, the article concludes with a discussion of the implications of strain theory for controlling delinquency.

Keywords: strain; stressors; delinquency; strain theories; victimization; juveniles; delinquent coping

Article.  8164 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice ; Theories of Crime

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