Functionalism and Strain Theory – Useful Resources

Last Updated on January 9, 2019 by Karl Thompson

In addition to your text book and main in-class hand-out, the following resources are especially useful for enhancing your knowledge and understanding of Functionalism and Strain Theory, and for evaluating these theories of crime and deviance. 

Easy research studies and case studies to evaluate the relevance of Functionalism and Strain Theory

Read through/ watch the articles and case studies below – consider the extent to which they either support or criticise the above theories.

  1. September 11th brought us together – but was it unity? – Seems to support Functionalism
  2. London Riots – Hundreds answer the appeal to clean up the streets – Seems to support Functionalism
  3. Stoned Moms – A Vice documentary about the legalisation of Cannabis in Colorado – You could use to criticise Durkheim’s idea that ‘deviance is the morality of the future’ – is this really positive? (of course you might think it is!)
  4. The idea of the American Dream has changed greatly (Young Turks Video) – Criticises Merton’s Strain Theory

How to evaluate the above theories (thoroughly!)

The above examples are just the ones KT thinks are especially applicable to Functionalism and Strain Theory, to further evaluate these theories you need to consider the following:

  1. Supporting Evidence: Crimes this theory can explain – Is there any statistical evidence or case study* evidence which supports this theory?
  2. Criticising evidence: Crimes this theory cannot explain – Is there any statistical evidence or case study evidence which criticises this theory?
  3. Evaluate using other perspectives – What does the theory under investigation ignore according to….
  • Consensus theories
  • Marxism
  • Feminism
  • Interactionism
  • Postmodernism
  • Realist Criminology
  1. Historical evaluation – Has society changed so much that the theory is just no longer relevant?
  2. Evaluate in terms of ideology/ power – Is the theory biased, does it serve the powerful?

Types of crime and evidence you could apply to each perspective when evaluating!

Types of Crime to consider

  • Serious Violent Crime, Terrorism, Anti-Social Behaviour
  • Burglary, Theft, Fraud, Drug possession
  • Hidden crimes: DV, elite crimes
  • Global crimes: cybercrime/ state crime/ green crime
Evidence to consider

  • Official Stats: Police Recorded Crime / CSEW
  • Specific sociological research studies – e.g. Venkatesh.
  • Any case studies

For example, if you apply hidden crimes like Domestic Violence and Fraud to Functionalism, their existence criticises this theory – if people aren’t being punished for these crimes (which they generally aren’t) then they can’t be performing positive functions!

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