Importance of Group Differences in Measuring and Testing General Strain Theory

Deanna M. Perez, University of Maryland at College Park

In his formulation of General Strain Theory, Agnew (1992) admonished criminologists to consider the role group differences might play in the types of strain individuals frequently encounter. While prior research has examined variation in strain effects across groups, empirical assessments of GST have negleted to investigate group differences in the types of strain linked to crime and delinquency. The former approach relies on the assumption that perceptions of what is strainful are similar for disparate groups and, more importantly, it fails to address the possibility that certain groups are likely to experience particular types of strain the referent group is not likely to encounter. Groups are commonly distinguished according to ascribed status and one of the most important categorizations hypothesized to have a direct bearing on the type of strain an individual is exposed to is race/ethnicity. The present work draws on socio-cultural research, particularly in the area of acculturation, to identify the types of strain most likely to be related to antisocial behavior among Hispanic adolescents. Specifically, data analysis will: (1) assess the comparability of traditional measurement models of GST across Hispanics and non-Hispanic Whites; and, (2) test the impact of measures of "acculturative" strain on delinquency for the Hispanic group.

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Updated 05/20/2006