How general is general strain theory? Assessing determinacy and indeterminacy across life domains

Stacy De Coster, Lisa Kort-Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Scopus citations

Abstract

This article explores how assumptions of determinacy and indeterminacy apply to general strain theory. Theories assuming determinacy assert that motivational conditions determine specific forms of deviant adaptations, whereas those assuming indeterminacy propose that a given social circumstance can predispose a person toward many forms of deviance. The authors propose that strain theory posits a strong tendency for the domains in which stresses occur to match those in which delinquency takes place. This is a source of determinacy. Drawing on stress spillover and aggression displacement arguments, the authors also discuss sources of indeterminacy - or domain cross-over effects. The tendency toward domain matching that is tempered by stress spillover and aggression displacement is what the authors refer to as soft determinacy. The authors derive hypotheses from their soft determinacy argument and test them on a sample of middle school students. The results support the arguments and suggest that discussion of soft determinacy is worthy of further attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-325
Number of pages29
JournalJournal of Research in Crime and Delinquency
Volume43
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Nov 2006

Keywords

  • Delinquency
  • Determinacy
  • Strain theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology

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