Robert Merton's Strain Theory

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Strain Theory The founding fathers believed that democracy depends upon economic freedom (Schramm, 2006). Indeed, the founding fathers wrote the U.S. Constitution so that a capitalistic economic system would persist to ensure political freedom. As a result, achieving financial success is fundamental to American society. According to the Robert Merton’s strain theory, when people in power pass laws that do not represent the common interests of the local residents, and which inhibit them from legitimately achieving their financial goals, the local residents start to experience stress and strain (Vold et al., 2002). The strain theory indicates that the social structure fails to provide the legitimate means to achieve what the local culture values (i.e., financial success) and that negative feelings (e.g., stress, frustration, anxiety, depression, and anger) are created because the poor perceive that their financial opportunities are being oppressed by the government (Vold et al., 2002). In short, the residents who have little power perceive society as unjust. The Declaration of Independence encourages residents to pursue happiness and the U.S. Constitution promotes economic freedom (Hames, & Ekern, 2005). Although American culture defines financial success as the country’s most important goal, the poor are not always given the opportunities to pursue happiness (DuBois & Berg, 2002). This may negatively affect their quality of life within the community. Thus, being
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