The concept of Strain theory has played a central role in determining criminal trends in the society. Strain theory emphasizes the unmatched opportunities available to individuals and the approved social desirable goals. The case of the US explores this idea where there is one goal of achieving greater economic and social prosperity for all citizens. However, the skewed distribution of resources and institutional discrimination seems to limit access of the African American minority leading to system manipulation among this community hence higher criminology record.

  1. Article Summery

The article explores the relationship between race and crime so as to understand the overrepresentation of minority African American communities in the criminal justice system. According to Piquero & Sealock, (2010), as well as other scholars like Braithwaite, (1989) several facts have been identified about offenders and offending while their underlying causes are still pending. One of such facts is the relationship between crime and race. However, it is also still in controversy. Piquero & Sealock, (2010) and Hawkins, 1998 asserts that several studies indicate a higher rate of crime especially serious ones among the African American communities as compared to the whites. Among the reasons suggested for the higher rate among the black society include differential enforcement and differential participation. This implies that more attention is given to criminal activities by minority communities than is the case for the whites. Further, the later posits that African Americans don’t just offend more but also engage in more serious crimes explaining their dominance in the criminal justice system.

Piquero & Sealock, (2010); Lieber, Mark & Featherstone, (2009) observes that most criminological theories assume a universality in their application. This they claim led to bias in their findings. Nonetheless, a theoretical perspective that has provided a qualitative difference between the ethnic groups is General Strain Theory. This theory, as argued by Piquero & Sealock, (2010) can provide a framework for understanding as well as unpacking the reasons underlying the racial difference in crime. Smelser, Wilson & Mitchell, (2001); Piquero & Sealock, (2010) while linking general strain theory to higher crime among the African American communities explained the following: environmental, familial, social and individual risk factors for crime that the two races are exposed to are different with that of African Americans evincing the factors at higher levels. Other factors also noted are stress, discrimination and poverty that is also higher among the blacks society.

In conducting her study, Agnews, (2006) hypothesized that minorities, particularly the African-Americans would be more likely to experience strain conducive to crime and have less coping resources due to their disadvantaged status.  Piquero & Sealock, (2010) hypothesized that: strain would be positively related to criminal offending regarding both interpersonal aggression and property offending in the baseline model but only for minority youths. The second hypothesis was: direct effect for anger predicting interpersonal aggression but only for white youths. Hypothesis 3 was: negative effect will; mediate or reduce the effect of strain once other factors are controlled. The findings of the study were that General Strain Theory offers explanations that could enable understanding of causal mechanisms that lead to crime involvement regardless of the group examined.


  1. Do the findings indicate empirical support for the theory?

The findings of this study indicate empirical support for the theory. The general strain theory advances an argument that strain as well as strainful events that involve the presentation of negative stimuli and a removal of positive stimuli in turn produces a range of negative emotions. Such emotions that may include anger, fear, rage, and depression whose reactions directly or indirectly lead to crime depending on other available contingencies like self-esteem, coping mechanisms, familial and peer support. As such, the finding of the study by Piquero & Sealock, indicate an empirical support for the general strain theory.  This is because; the hypothesis 1, “strain would be positively related to criminal offending regarding both interpersonal aggression and property offending in the baseline model but only for minority youths” was confirmed by the study.  Consequently, we can deduce that the evidence-based study based on its findings is consistent with the General strain theory. Secondly, from hypothesis 2: “direct effect for anger predicting interpersonal aggression but only for white youths” and Hypothesis 3: “negative effect will; mediate or reduce the effect of strain once other factors are controlled” both are confirmed by the study. This gives evidence of the link between the environmental, familial, individual, stress, poverty and discrimination and crime levels among different ethnic groups. It is a fact that the African American societies are more prone to these disadvantages which, therefore, gives explanation as to why the crime rates are higher among them.


  1. What are the policy implications of the theory? Be specific.

The general strain theory indeed advances a plausible argument about the pattern of crime across racial groups that explain the disparity in crime levels among the African American societies and the whites. Due to the factors that the theory proposes as influencers of this trend among them individual, environmental, familial, poverty, discrimination, and stress, etc., policy formulation and enforcement can, therefore, be informed by them. General strain theory has policy implications in the sense that, it is informative in explaining the patterns of crime across diverse ethnic communities. Further, it gives the linkages between the prevailing social, environmental, economic and political conditions and crime patterns across different age groups and ethnic societies. For policy makers, when coming up with interventions that can reverse the bad narrative of criminal cases in a given geographical area, this information is very critical. This is because it gives an analysis that can inform on the causal effects of the rise in criminal activities among certain sets of the population. For instance the familial, environmental and individual condition, summed up with poverty, stress and discrimination evidently lead to anger and depression among individuals. Such individuals due to their need for survival and stress-free life may opt for crime as a means to an end. It is, therefore, prudent for policymakers as well as policy enforcers to look at this perspective in directing policies. This may enable them the ability to understand the right places to direct certain intervention programs that are situation or area specific. This will ensure that the policies formulated are evidence based and result oriented.


The conclusive article review offers an insight into the concept of strain theory and its application in explaining the dominance of African America in criminology. It is therefore worth noting the higher crime tendency among the African-Americans, and other Hispanic minorities. Strain theory therefore explains how failure to achieve desirable goals due to other factors pushes individuals to seek illegitimate means through criminal engagement. Studying the race-crime tendencies from the criminal justice records indicates higher African American involvement that can e explained by strain theory.

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