Criminological theories have diverse explanations of crimes and different views on nature of man but there is still no ideal, universal theory, which can explain crime and nature of man to the full extent to be accepted by specialists and average people. Nevertheless, some theories may look to be similar but to be different in their essence. In this regard, the Strain theory and Control theory are particularly noteworthy because both theories implies certain limitations being imposed on individuals and the violation of existing limitations or inability to achieve certain goals lead people to the commitment of crimes.
In actuality, the Strain theory looks for causes of crime, while the Control theory attempts to explain why people do not become criminals. In this regard, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that the Strain theory views people as a product of their environment, namely of the mainstream culture (Reiner, 2007). What is meant here is the fact that, according to the Strain theory, people are vulnerable to the impact of the mainstream culture, such as the modern consumerist culture. As a result, people attempt to achieve goals set by the mainstream culture. The modern consumerist culture set goals, which are not always achievable for average individuals. Nevertheless, people attempt to reach these goals and often slip to the illegitimate way to achieve them.
In this regard, the Control theory is quite different from the Strain one because it attempts to explain how people do not become criminals. In other words, the Control theory uses a different approach to view on people compared to the Strain theory (Deflem, 2006). The Control theory stands on the premise that people are capable to self-control as well as they may have other mechanisms of control of their behavior that prevent them from the commitment of crimes, such as the public opinion, family background, moral values of an individual and others (Sutton, et al., 2001). As a result, people do not commit crimes as long as they are capable to control their behavior. However, when the control weakens, they may skip to illegitimate activities and commit crimes (Hallsworth, 2005). For example, an individual may want to buy a car but he or she does not have money for the purchase. If the individual is strong enough to maintain self-control, he or she will not steal the car or money to buy the car. However, if the individual’s self-control is weak, he or she may commit a crime to reach the desirable goal.
In such a way, the Strain theory and the Control theory are quite different but the development of these theories depended, to a significant extent, on political views of their founders (Felson, 1994). In this regard, it is worth mentioning the fact that the Strain theory is vulnerable to the impact of socialist views, which make an individual dependent on the environment, whereas the social injustice or inability to obtain certain goods become reasons for the commitment of crimes. As for the Control theory, this theory was influenced by individualist views, which put the individual inclinations and capabilities above the impact of the social environment of an individual. Hence, the inability to self-control is viewed as a sufficient reason to commit a crime.
Thus, the Strain theory and the Control theory have different views on nature of man and crimes. The Strain theory looks for explanation why people commit crimes, whereas the Control theory attempts to explain why people do not commit crimes.
Deflem, M. (2006). Sociological Theory and Criminological Research: Views from Europe and the United States. Elsevier
Felson, Marcus (1994). Crime and Everyday Life. Pine Forge.
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Reiner, R. (2007) Law and Order, Cambridge: Polity.
Sutton, M. et al. (2001) Tackling Theft with the Market Reduction Approach. Crime Reduction Research Series paper 8. Home Office. London.
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