Do Frustrated Economic Expectations and Objective Economic Inequity Promote Crime? A Randomized Experiment Testing Agnew's General Strain Theory


Although prior research concerning Agnew's General Strain Theory (GST) has generated renewed support for the perspective, it remains limited in two critical ways. First, research tends to measure strain in terms of noxious stimuli while neglecting Agnew's conception of strain as the disjunction between expected and actual outcomes or as the disjunction between fair and actual outcomes. Second, studies rely exclusively on correlational designs that preclude causal assertions about the relationships among strain, anger, and crime. This study addresses both limitations by conducting the first experimental test of GST. Results indicate that (1) respondents assigned at random to experimental conditions involving strain as a disjunction between expected and actual outcomes or between fair and actual outcomes report significantly higher levels of situational anger, (2) high levels of situational anger are significantly associated with a higher self-reported likelihood of engaging in theft from an employer, and (3) these relationships are not significantly conditioned by perceived social support.



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European Journal of Criminology


Sage Publications

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