Identifying the Most Effective Sociological Theory for Criminal Studies Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

List of sociological theories

A representative listing of the sociological theories of crime discussed by Hagan (2017) includes the following:

1) Anomie theory by Emile Durkheim;

2) General Strain Theory by Robert Agnew;

3) Differential Opportunity theory;

4) Albert Cohen’s lower-class reaction theory; and,

5) David Matza’s delinquency and drift theory (Hagan, 2017).

Selection of five sociological theories ranked in order of most effective to least effective

The five sociological theories listed above are ranked in order of the most effective to least effective in Table 1 below.

Table 1

Sociological theories ranked most effective to least effective (descending order)

Sociological theory


Differential Opportunity theory


Anomie theory


General Strain Theory by Robert Agnew


David Matza’s delinquency and drift theory


Albert Cohen’s lower-class reaction theory


Analysis of the most effective sociological theory of crime

The rationale in support of the rankings set forth in Table 1 above is discussed briefly below.

1. Differential Opportunity theory: As the name connotes, this pragmatic theory holds that people achieve their goals through legal or illegal means based on their societal status and overarching need for survival regardless of the criminality involved in their behaviors (Zafar & Gul, 2016). In sum, among the above-listed theories, differential opportunity theory represents the most effective theory of crime.

2. Anomie theory: Based on its sensitivity to cultural dynamics, this theory provides a useful framework in which to estimate the impact of low self-control for criminal behaviors within a larger societal context. In addition, anomie theory’s view that the degree to which the ability to constrain aggression results in criminal behaviors is related to the degree to which aggressive behaviors are contrary to prevailing cultural values and norms as expressed in criminal law is also highly relevant for modern sociological analyses (Goode, 2008).

3. General Strain Theory by Robert Agnew: This theory holds that anger emerges in young people in those cases where they externalize the blame for their life condition to other factors (such as their parents, educators, socioeconomic status). Therefore, to the extent that adolescents engage in this externalization process will likely be the extent to which they become sufficiently angry to lash out against society through criminal acts (Hoffmann & Spence, 2010).

Sources Used in Documents:


Cohen’s lower class reaction theory. (2016). Wyndham University Department of Sociology. Retrieved from

Goode, E. (2008). Out of control: Assessing the general theory of crime. Stanford, CA: Stanford Social Sciences..

Hagan, F.E. (2017). Introduction to criminology: Theories, methods, and criminal behavior (9th ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA; Sage.

Hoffmann, J. P. (2011). Delinquency theories: Appraisals and applications. New York: Routledge.

Hoffmann, J. P. & Spence, K. R. (2010, December). Who\'s to blame? Elaborating the role of attributions in general strain theory. Western Criminology Review, 11(3), 1-4.

Zafar, S. & Gul, S. (2016, July). Parental acceptance-rejection and delinquent behavior among adolescents. Pakistan Journal of Criminology, 8(3), 118-122.

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