Robbery is a kind of crime which refers to the act of taking or an attempt to take a valuable item by use of force from the owner. The common law defines robbery as the act of taking something that belongs to another person, intending to gain ownership completely and with use of force, or by causing fear. The exact definition of this term is not universal for it varies between jurisdictions. The act that is referred to as robbery also differs from mare theft to stealing by use of force and intimidation (Allen, 2005). There are various types of robbery common in the society today.
They include piracy, armed robbery and aggravated robbery. Robbery can involve use of simple weapons to use of deadly weapons. There is a form of robbery referred to as highway robbery that takes place in an open public place, like on the street or packing lot. Stealing vehicles from people by force is referred to as car jacking. Extortion is a form of robbery where someone gets finances, property or services illegally from someone else or from an organization by use of intimidation (Ormerod, 2005). There are very many theories developed by various theorists in explaining crime and its causes in the society.
Some of the theories have similar while others have different explanations on crime in the society. However, these theories are very important in understanding why some people are more prone to crime than others. Two of the most common theories on crime include the strain theory and the sub-cultural theory. The main similarity between the two theories is that they both describe crime from a social point of view. They are however different in a number of ways, one of them being the fact that their focus is on different elements of the social environment (Agnew & Kaufman, 2010).
This paper compares and contrasts strain and sub-cultural theories explanation of robbery. It is important to define and provide background information of the two theories Sub-cultural theory This theory as used in criminology emanated from the efforts of the Chicago School on gangs. The theory was further expanded via the symbolic interactionism school. It was expanded into a series of hypotheses that put forward the claim that some factions or sub-cultures in the community possess some standards and attitudes that are favorable for crime and aggression. This is the idea that crime is predisposed in some societies and cultures.
This theory focuses on crime committed by young people. This is what is commonly known as juvenile delinquency. This is based on the argument that crime can be effectively controlled from this level. The theory states that if the patterns of crime can be comprehended and controlled from the level of juvenile delinquency, it would be possible to prevent the move to teenage offender and also to adult criminals. It is believed that where the sub-culture is favorable for crime, it begins from an early age, graduating to adolescent and ultimately into adulthood (Agnew & Kaufman, 2010).
There are hypotheses under the sub-culture theory, like the functionalist that assume that crime is influenced by financial requirements, while others claim that deviant is a result of social class. Culture stands for the norms, customs and standards that act as the guide to character. It is also from these aspects that character is judged by many. Transmission of culture is basically through social rather than biological means. A sub-culture is a culture that exists within the larger culture.
The sub-culture has its elements of values, norms and customs being different from the larger culture but does not necessarily stand for a culture considered nonstandard by many people. A sub-culture is distinguished from the larger culture for opposition that acts against the larger culture. This explains why in some parts of a society, especially the poorest regions, there are some forms of behavior that have developed into a norm and tend to be transmitted from one generation to the other. Successful crime perpetrators tend to be role models for the others, revealing likelihood success through criminal activities and its normality.
The cultural arrangement is directed by many norms, values and standards that force people to establish communities that have unique characteristics. The size and population of cities make social factions stronger and heartens the establishment of sub-cultures. The sub-cultures that are developed tend to be more diverse than the main stream culture. This is used to explain prevalence in crime in different societies (Agnew & Kaufman, 2010). The Strain theory This theory argues that social structures that exist within a society may be a contributing factor to people committing crime. Strain can either be structural or individual.
Structural is the processes within the society that filter down and influence the way people perceive their individual needs. For example, a state of inadequacy in social structures and regulations can lead to transformation in the way a person perceives his or her needs. Personal perceptions and to the means and opportunities can also be transformed. This is what basically contributes to crime as per the theory. From the individual perspective, it refers to the frictions and sufferings that are suffered by a person as he or she searches for ways and means to cater for his or her requirements.
This means that the objectives of the society becomes very important to a person such that their achievement becomes more important that the ways of achieving them (Kaminski, 2004). Where people are living in a society where they cannot access their needs normally with the use of the conventional legitimate needs, they tend to get desperate. This feeling of despair that is related to the inability to acquire the needs is the one that is being referred to as strain. It is from this feeling that the people living in the lower class might be forced to be involved in crime as a way of accessing the needs.
This reveals the fact that crime is as a result of strains that act upon an individual in striving to achieve expectation. This is supported by the following quote: “The gap between expectations and actual achievements will derive from short- and long-term personal goals, and some of those goals will never be realized because of unavoidable circumstances including both inherent weaknesses and opportunities blocked by others; and the difference between the view of what a person believes the outcome should be and what actually results increases personal disappointment.
Frustration is not necessarily due to any outside interference with valued goals, but a direct effect on anger, and has indirect effects on serious crime and aggression” Akers (2000, p. 159). Similarities between the two theories in explaining robbery The strain and sub-cultural theory describe criminal activities in relation to the social environment. Both theories argue that crime is as a result of the social environment within which individuals reside.
Despite the fact that the ways in which the society contributes to crime as explained by the two theories are different, the fact is that the causative factor of crime as per the theories is the society. In strain theory, people commit robbery and other criminal activities as a result of being in a society where their needs are not able to be met and hence fail to achieve their expectations. It is as a result of the social class where a person exists that determines the kind of behavior that he or she exhibits.
In the United States, people are always in pursuit of wealth property, power, education, and other things that ensure a comfortable life. It is from their unfortunate nature that the lower class in society does not have the means to access these things. They cannot get these things through the Normal legitimate means. This is what basically causes people to steal. From the sub-cultural theory point of view, it is the society that is predisposed to crime or one that condones crime that causes people to be thieves or other criminals (Kaminski, 2004).
While the two theories give different factors as the causes of crime like robbery, the end results according to the two theories are common. Strain theory explains that people are motivated by their need to acquire their requirements in an environment that does not make things easy for them. This is what makes them to take the easy way out, which is acquisition of money or property through stealing. The end result of the act is acquisition of finances or property through illegitimate means. As per the sub-cultural theory, the basic values of a group are what cause a person to be involved in crime.
Where the children in the working class fail to achieve academically as a result of social or cultural factors, they develop the feeling that they are not in a position to achieve anything through legitimate means. This is the reason why they go into crime as a way of acquiring wealth and property. The end result of the action is acquisition of finances or property through illegitimate means. The ends result is hence one of the common aspect of the two theories in explaining robbery (Agnew and Kaufman, 2010). There is a point where the strain theory and the sub-cultural theories cross.
In explaining the sub-cultural theory, three types of sub-cultures come up. One of the types of sub-culture, criminal sub-cultures, is explained through the use of strain or anomie theory. This is where adolescents are motivated by material gain to be involved in crime. From this point of view, the sub-cultural theory becomes similar to the strain theory in explaining crime. Here the motivating factor to crime under the two theories is the acquisition of material gain in a society where this is not possible through conventional legitimate needs.
This is what drives them to stealing and commuting other criminal activities (Kaminski, 2004). There are strong forces as per the two theories that force individuals into stealing and defying the law. According to the sub-cultural theory, the pushing factors are the structural constraints. The perpetrators are people who feel completely powerless. They feel tired of being pushed by the system, thus end up defying the rules and regulations. They are people that the society has pushed to act as per its expectations. According to the strain theory, the forces that act towards the individual leading him or her to crime are the strains.
People act in criminal ways where they are unable to cope with the strains. There are series of events and circumstances that hinder people from achieving their expectations. This could be major or minor situations and circumstances that build up and dishearten with time. Disappointment causes dissatisfaction, hatred and anger. All these are feelings linked to strain in criminology. It is a natural human character to feel desperate and frustrated when they are not able to acquire what they want in life (Fischer, 1995). Differences between the two theories in explaining robbery
While the strain theories stress on the stains and stressing factors of crime, the sub-cultural theories stress on groups as the causing factors of crime. The strain theories presents the argument that a person will be forced to steal where they are not in a position to gain financial success through lawful means. The sub-cultural theories on the other hand claim that a person will steal where he or she belongs to a sub-culture that excuses, justifies or approves of crime. This can be supported through the punishment and reward hypothesis.
Actions that are rewarded tend to be favorable than those that are punished. Acts that are rewarded are the ones that people tend to be attracted to. Societies that excuses and tolerates acts of violence and stealing, tend to produce more criminals than others (Einstadter and Henry, 2006). The strain theory as suggested by Cohen (1965) state that stealing is motivated by money success. He claims that crime is committed as a way of seeking to gain financial success. From this point of view, people steal so as to become financially successful.
The sub-cultural theory, explains that criminal acts are not motivated by money success as the strain theory suggests. The theory claims that the cause of crime is the pressure of all the dominant values in the society. The idea of working class is what is used by Merton to explain crime. Where male adolescents in this class fail to achieve academically, they develop the attitude that they are not in a position to achieve anything in life through the legal means. As a result they develop what is referred to as “social status frustration.
This is how they end up in criminal activities as a way of gaining wealth. Robbery from this point of view is committed in pursuit of property and wealth. The difference in the two theories comes up in the motivating factors to crime or robbery. According to the strain theory the motivation is financial success, while for the sub-cultural theory the motivating factor is the failure to succeed through legitimate means in a society that is prone to crime (Fischer, 1995). In the sub-cultural theory, the society is already pre-disposed to crime that is transmitted from one generation to the next.
This is what is referred to as sub-cultures. In most cases, the society has already established illegitimate opportunity structure. The young people learn criminal behaviors from the elder people. This is what it basically referred to as learning the tricks of the trade. This is where robbery comes up. The sub-culture has already taught the youth that robbery is a norm where they live. From the strain theory point of view, the society has established goals which have to be attained. People in the society know the importance of these goals and objectives and the significance of attaining them.
Unfortunately, there are people or groups in the society who are not able to attain these goals and objectives through the legal means. For the dire need to achieve these needs and the importance of achieving them, some people result to robbery. From this point of view, robbery is caused by the society by creating the needs without the providing the means to achieve them. The two theories hold the society responsible for crime, but in different ways (Einstadter and Henry, 2006). Strain theory argues that criminal activities can take place in either a positive or negative environment.
The claim here is that people’s real expectations or the expected failure to attain positive values set up by the society, real or elimination of positive incentive, and real or expected presentation of negatively valued incentive all cause strain. In a positive social setup, people turn to crime where they are not able to live up to the social standards set up by the society. Where people are not handled in the way they expect to be handled by others in the society they loose their trust in the responsibility of the others in attaining expectations. Irritation and disappointment affirm negative interactions.
This involves more unilateral action. This is due to the existence of a desire to stay away from unfavorable rejections. This is what generally leads to alienation. This is translated into a feeling that the society is not supportive. This strong feeling may culminate into crime. This explains why younger people tend to be involved in crime, like stealing. The sub-cultural theory operates from the opposite direction. The society does not expect anything positive from its people because it is already predisposed to crime. This means that the theory operates from a negative environment.
The older people are already involved min crime and acts as role models to the younger ones. This means that crime is a norm here and that people gets involved because it is somehow what is expected of them (Agnew and Kaufman, 2010). In the sub-cultural theory, crime is a way of living up to the cultural expectations of for roughness and smartness. In the strain theory on the other hand, it is as a result of being unable to live up to cultural expectations. In the sub-cultural theory, it is expected of the people in the lower class to live a life of crime.
This is indirectly by the need from the society to be tough and street-wise. In the lower class it is expected of the children to be tough so as to be able to face life. This is what motivates then to join groups, begin getting involved in criminal activities, and find fun in defying the regulations of the land. From this level there is no turning back for crime because it becomes a form of social pleasure. From the strain theory point of view, failure to live up to the expectations of the society is what causes people to become criminals. The society sets up the expectations that should be achieved by its members.
The members become desperate for not having the means to achieve the expectations and this is what makes some to pursue them through illegitimate means like stealing. Failure to reach the expectations may also make some to defy against the law as a way of revealing or dealing with their frustration (Fischer, 1995). Unlike the strain theory where criminal behavior is as a result of being pushed to the edge by social goals, Matza (1964) on sub-cultural theory argues that criminal acts can be performed for fun. He claims that claims that criminal actions can be exciting for people.
He adds that there is level of pleasure where one exercises free will and going against the law, aware the chances of being caught are minimal. This is an implication of a level of rational choice in structural constraints. This is unlike the strain theory where there is no change of rational choice. Where criminal activities as explained by the sub-cultural theory are out of some degree of free will, as per the strain theory, there is a strong force by the circumstances that rational choice has no part to play (Fischer, 1995). Strengths of the theories Gang robbery can be explained better through the use of the sub-cultural theory.
Thrasher (1927) defines gang through the process that they undertake in formation of groups. “The gang is an interstitial group originally formed spontaneously, and then integrated through conflict. It is characterized by the following types of behavior: meeting face to face, milling, movement through space as a unit, conflict, and planning. The result of this collective behavior is the development of tradition, unreflective internal structure, esprit de corps, solidarity, morale, group awareness, and attachment to a local territory” (Thrasher, 1927, p. 6).
He argues that gangs come up from a very young age with groups of adolescents engaging in play groups. The groups begin by simply getting involved in some sort of mischief. They culminate into gangs when they begin to excite themselves with disproval and mischief. This is where they begin developing a clear-cut group-consciousness. The society does not make things better for these gangs because, from the theory it is already predisposed to crime. Thrasher gives a description of the way the society can be favorable to delinquent behavior.
He claims that gang sub-cultures came up from cracks or interstices of neglect in the teenage years. Shaw (1930) supports the arguments of Thrasher by claiming that gang acts are transmitted by older boys to the younger ones. Such gangs are found in areas with high rate of single-parent homes, joblessness and low education. These are the areas of ghettos, and slums. This is a confirmation of the theory that the society is the major contributing factor to crime, especially one that is predisposed to crime (Fischer, 1995). The sub-cultural theory also explains why the gangs tend to be more in the lower class than in the middle class.
This is evident in the arguments of Miller (1959), who supports the arguments of Cohen. Miller agrees that delinquency is a subculture, but one that is evident within the lower class. He claims that history has seen a clear-cut distinction between the lower and the middle class. The two classes stood for different values and principles. The middle class tend to be accomplishment and social goal oriented. The lower class on the other hand appears to be more concerned with their offspring staying out of trouble. For example, the parents will sons stay away from fighting, while girls are protected from getting pregnant.
This class has some expectation from the boys to be tough and street-smart. This is what motivates them to create and join gang groups. Considering the fact that their lives tend to be boring for lack of exciting social activities, they tend to embrace crime as an exciting social activity. This is where they begin stealing and getting involved in other simple crimes. They gain a sense of independence by going against the social regulations that are established by the state. For the middle class on the other hand, the most significant traditions are the family, workplace and learning institutions for their children.
For the lower class, there is another tradition that plays a major role in their social life. This institution is same-sex peer groups. This is an institution that is more important than the family, workplace or learning institution in this class. The reason behind this is the social belonging that it offers. It is from these groups that they are in a position to gain status, one thing they cannot access in the conventional society (Fischer, 1995). The strain theory explains crime like robbery even in areas that are not predisposed to crime.
This is by the argument that crime is as a result of strain due to the inability to achieve expectations. This can even take place in places that are not prone to crime. This point can be best illustrated through the individual or personal strain. The society places a lot of expectations on individuals in a society. The goals of a society can be positive as well as diverse such that one is unable to live up to them. Where the goals and expectations become very important to a person who lacks the means to obtain them, this kind of a person will end up striving to acquire them even if it means use of illegal means.
This explains crime even in a society that has positive values, standards and norms (Einstadter and Henry, 2006). Weaknesses of the theories The explanation of the strain theory is incomplete. Up to the point where the theory is explained by Akers (2000), there are only kinds of the strains that are discussed and nothing is discussed about their sources. The pressure of situations is only revealed as interfering with the attainment or expectations. They are shown minor or major disturbances that build up and demoralize with time. Where they emanate from is not discussed in the theory.
This is the failure of the theory in that it is not possible to use it in dealing with crime. The theory can only be used in describing the source of the problem and not the effects and solution to the problem. The only way that the theory would beneficial in seeking the problem would be addressing the root course, which it does not. Just like this theory, the sum-cultural theory does not address ways of handling the issue of crime in the society (Miller, 1959). Conclusion This paper compares and contrasts strain and sub-cultural theories explain robbery.
The two theories are similar in some aspects, one being their social interest in their explanation of crime. The two theories reveal similar end results, which is crime for attainment of wealth and property. This is basically by committing robbery. It can be argued therefore that robbery is the end result of the two theories. The two theories reveal strong forces that lead people to committing crime. While for sub-cultural theory, it is the structural constraints, for the strain theory it is the strains. There is however a number of ways by which the two theories differ.
The focus of the two is on varying features of the society. The two also give varying accounts of the reasons why the society leads to crime. These are some of the ways discussed in the paper by which the theories differ. The theories are a crucial way of explaining why robbery and other criminal activities are prevalent in some societies. This is achieved by descrying their causes. They offer a crucial way of understanding crime in the society. There is however the need to research more on the solutions of problems related to crime in the society since the theories do not address this.