General Strain and Urban Youth Violence

Timothy Brezina and Robert Agnew

in The Oxford Handbook of Criminological Theory

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780199747238
Published online December 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

General Strain and Urban Youth Violence

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  • Theories of Crime



This article proposes Robert Agnew's general strain theory (GST) as an alternative to subcultural and social disorganization theories. Unlike other crime theories, GST highlights the negative social relations and emotions that pressure individuals into crime. GST is particularly relevant to urban youth violence; young people have a greater tendency to experience strains conducive to violence and to react to them with violence. Moreover, GST helps to explain the self-perpetuating cycle of violence that consumes many youth, a major phenomenon in many inner-city communities whereby high levels of violent victimization act as a major strain that prompts further violence. After providing an overview of GST, this article examines how it explains urban youth violence. It then reviews research on the validity of GST and its application to urban youth violence, giving special attention to research on community violence exposure/victimization. It also uses GST to explain the origin of those deviant subcultures that also trigger urban youth violence.

Keywords: Robert Agnew; general strain theory; deviant subcultures; social disorganization; crime; social relations; urban youth violence; young people; victimization; community violence

Article.  8067 words. 

Subjects: Criminology and Criminal Justice ; Theories of Crime

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