Street Youth, Strain, and Crime: Testing Agnew's Revised Theory

Stephen W. Baron, Queen's University

: General Strain Theory posits that adversive circumstances experienced by youths increase the likelihood of criminal behavior. Agnew outlines how the failure to achieve positively valued goals, the presentation of negative stimuli and the removal of positively valued stimuli can all lead to criminal behavior. Much of the work surrounding the perspective has used conventional samples of youths to test the theory. The present research tests aspect's of General Strain Theory utilizing a "high risk" sample of 400 homeless street youths. The paper examines how negative life circumstances including homelessness, unemployment and victimization on the street are linked to criminal behavior. As well it explores the role that the failure to achieve positively valued goals in terms of dissatisfaction with finances and feelings of deprivation might lead to crime. The different types of strain are expected to be conditioned by deviant attitudes, deviant peers, self efficacy, and self esteem.

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Updated 05/20/2006