Applying Merton’s Strain Theory to Young People

As we learned in the class, deviance is to behave defiantly to the adults and teachers, or even to the society itself. It is usually seen in the junior and high school students, who are neither little kid, nor are grown adults. I think everyone should have been distressed by finding your position and role in the society. For this article, I would like to study about the strain theory by Robert King Merton, and apply it to the characteristics of teenager students in Japan and how they make efforts to their dream and how they run for deviance.

As all of us have experienced, the teenage period is very important to find and establish our personality and decide our future. Many middle and high school students should have some ideas of their future and study for it so that their dreams will come true. Adults say if we do our best, we will be able to succeed in the society. Especially in Japan, however, because of the recession, no matter how hard we make efforts, some of us have difficulty to survive in this society.

According to Robert Merton’s strain theory, there are 5 different types of people who make efforts for the future. First type is ‘conformists.’ People of this type have clear idea for their future and accept their goals. In order to attain that, they study and go to university, and work. Then finally their goals are attained. Second type is called ‘ritualists.’ Different from conformists, ritualists reject their goals, but gain the standard education during the school days, and not try to achieve their goals. Third one is called ‘innovators.’ They are people who have passionate to attain their dreams, but find other ways to reach it. Fourth and fifth types are towards deviance. Fourth type is called ‘retreatists’, who reject the goals and ignore it. They avoid joining to the society and live in solidarity. Students who do not go to school and stay at home can be categorized to this type. Fifth type is called ‘rebels’, who also reject and ignore the goals, but try to change the society itself through deviant behaviors such as smoking, drinking, drugging, and so forth instead of going to school.

For the case of conformists, ritualists, and innovators, we do not need to worry so much because they can somehow contribute to the society. How about retreatists and rebels? How can they avoid running towards deviant behaviors? If I can advise them to overcome such deviance, I will recommend them to find their own personality and have confident of it. Most of them are suffered because they do not recognize what they are living for. If they can find what they really like and what they really want to do, they will actively go outside and contribute to the society. Also I will recommend them, though it is a bit hard, to accept that we all should keep growing and improving as we get old. Otherwise even they will be willing to grow and improve in 20 years later, perhaps it will be already too late.

The truancy is one of the biggest social problems, so adults and the society, and even all of us have responsibility to take care of them to grow up and understand what they think and what they want. I wish this problem will be solved very soon.

Sociology – Robert Merton’s Social Strain Theory’  (17/1/2012)

by Takeshi Sakagami


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