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The theory has its roots in Emile Durkheim’s work. Strain theory posits that social structures within a society may pressure a person to commit crime. It focuses at the strain an individual has and whether the individual will gravitate towards criminal behaviors in order to reduce it. Such strain could be either structural or individual. Structural strain refers to processes at the society level that filter down and influence how a person perceives his/her needs. This is in order to settle the anger and frustration caused by feelings of inadequacy (Agnew, 2009). The strain theory targets explanation of deviant behavior in adolescents and other people who may be inadequate in the expectations ascribed by society. In explaining sex crimes, an example could be that adolescents in a town could uphold the notion that having sex is the norm. An adolescent in the town who has never had sex may be strained to the extent of committing rape. An advantage of the theory is that it can explain stress/crime relationships regardless of guilt feelings, a person’s age, or capacity to cope with events occurring simultaneously. The disadvantage is that the theory is that the strain is sometimes so broad that researchers cannot identify a particular strain to focus on to help in proving or strengthening the theory.
This theory owes its development to Harry Stack Sullivan. It emphasizes that personality is shaped by the relationships one has with other people. Sullivan insists that interpersonal relationships are very crucial in understanding behavior. The theory is made up of three strands of chief ideas: the principles of complementarity, rigidity, and circumplex structure. Complementarity attempts to specify ways that an individual’s interpersonal behavior stirs up restricted behavior from the interactional partner, giving rise to a system of self-sustenance and self-reinforcement. Rigidity proposes that individuals with inflexible personalities (rigid) have more personality problems, while those with flexible personalities will exhibit fewer problems. Interpersonal circumplex suggests that variables measuring interpersonal relations have a circular arrangement in two-dimensional space. The theory explains lust as a self-centered need devoid of intimate interpersonal relationship and being based entirely on sexual gratification. This theory targets to explain deviant behavior in all stages of development. An advantage is that is very successful in explaining social influences on behavior. However, it cannot explain biological influences on behavior.
Daryl Bern developed the theory. It suggests that an individual decides on his/her own attitudes from watching himself or herself behave in various situations. The theory attributes change of attitude or feelings in individuals to arousement (feelings of discomfort and dissonance) and second, the attribution of the cause of their arousement to their own behaviors/attitudes (Laird, 2007). In explaining sex crimes, an example could be a sexually abused girl may blame herself for the abuse. The advantage of the theory is that it can be used to target individuals with deviant sex behaviors to change them by use of psychological therapy. The disadvantage of the theory is that it overlaps with the cognitive dissonance theory, and differentiating between dissonance or self-perception as leading to attitude change is not easy.
The strain theory is the most complete and general theory to describe sex crimes. This is because it easily explains sex crimes by determining the discrepancies of the offender. Such discrepancies can easily be established by looking at an offender’s biography.
This is my theory. The inherent dislike for systems, norms or widely accepted behaviors leads individuals to pursue criminal activities. A man’s dislike for sex work may lead him to assault sex workers. The theory can explain behaviors of serial sex offenders.