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Sunday, July 14, 2013

Essay on Gangs and Strain Theory

Essay on Gangs and Strain Theory

Strain theory Explaining the Existence of Gangs
            One of the most pressing problems of the United States regarding the problem on crime and youth involvement is the wide proliferation of gangs. The perpetuation of gangs in our society can be associated with the increase of other social problems such as violence and crimes. The term gang itself has a lot of negative connotations. It can be defined as a group of individuals having that collective negative traits and behaviors. They are also seen as deviants and those who perpetuates crimes A lot of the most serious crimes in the records of the authorities all over the United States are connected to gangs. Many gang members are involved in the most serious criminal activities including shooting, extortion,prostitution, smuggling, robbing, rape assault and weapon trafficking. Because of the increase in the violence and crimes that gangs perpetuate, many social researchers started to explain the existence of gang phenomena. 

            One of the social theories that could explain the existence of gangs, gang membership and gang behaviors is the Strain theory. The basic premise of the Strain theory is that the society sets universal goals for the whole population and then offers only the ability to reach these goals among few individuals. There are a lack of resources which lead to a disproportionate allocation of wealth among the economic classes. Those who belong in the lower classes then would feel a certain strain or failure in achieving these positively valued goals. They would feel frustration as they felt that they have no way of achieving all these goals. As applied to gang membership, strain theorists see the gang members as those who lack economic opportunities. These members have felt that the only way they can attain all their goals and desires is to join a group or a gang which can provide for them. For example, a gang member sees the gang which is involved in drug trafficking, selling illegal weapons and engage in prostitution as a source of money. If he joins then he knows he can also benefit from all the money that the gang generates. The strain theory also assumes that there is a common economic goal among the members of the gang. They all desire to live a comfortable and wealthy life. They feel that they could not be able to attain these because of their lack or resources. They then join gangs and engage in illegal activities in order to fulfill all these desires.

            I think Strain theory as a theory of gang membership and the criminal behaviors of gangs is not an enough explanation.. It only focuses on the desire of people to have wealth and achieve the goals of the society and disregard the other motives for joining gangs or for engaging in criminal behavior. It just focuses on the materialistic nature of man and it cannot explain other crimes that leans on different motives thus it cannot explain hate-crime, vandalism etc. It also mainly focuses on the lower classes and thus cannot explain the membership of those well off people in joining gangs. It cannot explain why rich and wealthy people form gangs and commit the same crimes. It thus offers a very limited view and perspective on gang membership and the behavior of the gang members towards crime.

            In general, strain theory explains the existence of gangs and their behaviors towards crime as  a result of the frustration felt by the lower classes due to their failure to meet society’s goal due to their lack of resources. Though it quite provide one of the plausible reasons for gang formation and gang behaviors, its explanations are very limited.

Alleyne E. & Wood, J. (2010). Street gang theory and research: Where are we now and where do we go from here?. United Kingdom: University of Kent

Goldstein, A.P. (1991). Delinquent gangs: A psychological perspective. Champaign, IL: Research Press.

Jankowski, M. (1991). Gangs and Social Change. Berkeley, CA: Sage Publications.
Klemp-North, M.MS (2007) . Theoretical Foundation for Gang Membership. Theoretical Foundation for Gang Membership, 14(4), 11—26.

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