Anomie/Strain Theory and Race Introduction Research Paper

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e. money and tangible acquisitions) but in unconventional, deviant, or criminal ways (Schmalleger, 2009).

The other significant finding of the empirical literature is that racism also relates to Strain Theory in that social ostracism and oppression are noxious stimuli that contribute to the strain experienced by individuals (Agnew, 1992; Broidy, 2001). In that regard members of racial minority communities who are mistreated and subjected to negative messages from the predominant social groups typically identify less with the norms, values, and expectations of the predominant society. Alternatively, they may still seek the same goals promoted by the predominant society but resort to deviant and criminal methods to achieve them, partly as a result of perceived necessity and partly as a manifestation of resentment and hostility over the injustice inherent in racism and in the oppression of racial minority groups (Macionis, 2007).

Racism also contributes to Anomie and strain perceived by the individual indirectly as well as directly (Agnew & Brezina, 1997). Specifically, in societies where membership in a minority race corresponds to reduced opportunities for upward social mobility, professional achievement, and financial success, minority race is also associated with increased exposure to other circumstances that contribute further to Anomie and to strain perceived by individuals. For example, poverty and lack of vocational opportunities with the potential for upward social mobility correspond to living situations in which the individual is exposed to the negative influences of high-crime communities, substance abuse, and also to domestic violence (Schmalleger, 2009).

Each of those is empirically linked to deviance and to the increased likelihood of criminal deviance among individuals raised in or living in those types of environments. Therefore, even apart from the direct influence of racism on the development of Anomie and psychosocial strain on the individual as described by Merton and Agnew, the situational circumstances frequently associated with racism also introduce specific noxious stimuli in their own right that further exacerbate the alienation of the individual from society and that further contribute to the withdrawal from society and to the development of deviance and criminality (Schmalleger, 2009).

More specifically, exposure to criminal behavior in the immediate external environment has been empirically linked to increased vulnerability to criminal associations. Similarly, low-income, high-crime communities feature higher levels of serious family disharmony, broken marriages, and domestic abuse and violence, all of which are factors empirically linked to increased delinquency in youth and to general deviance and criminality in the community. Finally, in that regard, low-income, high-crime communities also increase the exposure of individuals to deviant norms with respect to illicit substance abuse, alcoholism, and even to poor nutritional choices that greatly contribute to obesity and other negative health consequences, some of which have also been linked empirically to alienation and (in the case of obesity, in particular) to diminished self-worth and to low self-esteem in individuals (Gerrig & Zimbardo, 2009).


There is little doubt that the Anomie and Strain Theory proposed by Merton and Agnew manifest themselves through some of the negative consequences associated with racism in societies where members of minority races are treated differently from members of the predominant social groups. Typically, racism produces diminished opportunities for upward social mobility and reduces the available options for achieving those goals promoted by the society and associated by all individuals with notions of happiness and success. Members of minority races who are deprived of those opportunities typically experience alienation from society and often reject the norms and values espoused by society; alternatively, they may simply pursue some of those same goals but in alternative ways that are deviant and criminal.

Finally, racism also contributes to the development of deviance and criminality through Anomie and Strain concepts indirectly. Specifically, the diminishment of opportunity for upward social mobility and economic advantage is directly associated with increased exposure to other environmental circumstances, both within the family as well as within the immediate community, that are independently linked to the development of Anomie and of psychosocial strain in the individual.


Agnew, R. "Foundation for a General Strain Theory." Criminology, Vol. 30, No. 1

(1992): 47-87.

Agnew, R. And Brezina, T. "Relational Problems with Peers, Gender, and Delinquency."

Youth & Society, Vol. 29, No. 1 (1997): 84-111.

Broidy, L. "Test of General Strain Theory." Criminology, Vol. 39, No. 1 (2001): 9-35.

Gerrig, R.,…

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