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Strengths and Weaknesses of Merton’s Strain Theory in Understanding Crime

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Each society has its cultural and societal structure. Culture sets up goals for individuals in society. It is up to the individuals to meet these goals. A societal structure, on the other hand, facilitates the means for individuals to achieve these goals. It is not necessary for the societal structure to provide the means to achieve the goals. In some situations, it does not provide the avenue for all the individuals in society. As Merton affirms, it is in a developed society that individuals use the means set up by society to achieve their goals. The goals are the ones that society establishes. In such a situation, the goals and the means that society provides are in balance. Criminal behavior is likely to develop when there is an imbalance in this system. The criminals feel that society has set up their goals while it does not provide clear means to achieve these goals. They resort to crime to achieve these goals. This means that society has its cultural structure but lacks the societal structure.Merton explains that innovation is accepting the goals and rejecting the societal means set up. This shows that after an individual fails to use the means that the society has set up, they resort to different ways to achieve these goals.In some situations, it does not provide the avenue for all the individuals in society (Mooney, 2012 p100). As Merton affirms, it is in a developed society that individuals use the means set up by society to achieve their goals. The goals are the ones that society establishes. In such a situation, the goals and the means that society provides are in balance. Criminal behavior is likely to develop when there is an imbalance in this system. The criminals feel that society has set up their goals while it does not provide clear means to achieve these goals. They resort to crime to achieve these goals. This means that society has its cultural structure but lacks the societal structure. Merton explains that innovation is accepting the goals and rejecting the societal means set up. This shows that after an individual fails to use the means that the society has set up, they resort to different ways to achieve these goals. These goals differ from the institutionalized means set up by culture and society. Innovation is an important concept in understanding crime and criminal behavior (Brym Lie, 2010 p300). Deviant behavior in individuals in society develops since they feel the society has set up roles without providing means to facilitate the achievement of these goals. The criminal develops these traits feeling that the only way out is to behave in a deviant way. This is in an effort to facilitate their personal needs and satisfaction. Merton maintains that if an imbalance develops between the cultural and societal structures, deviant or criminal behavior in turn develops. He bases his proposal on this theory on two main tenets.