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Strain Theory

Sociologist Robert Merton developed strain theory that refers to the frustrations people feel when they want success but find their way to it blocked. It is easy to identify with mainstream norms when they help us get ahead, but when they don't seem to be getting us anywhere, we feel frustrated. We might even feel wronged by the system. Strain theory underscores the sociological principle that deviants are the product of society. Mainstream social values can produce strain such as frustration, dissatisfaction. People who feel this strain are more likely than others to take the deviant paths.