How does functionalism relate to "social strain theories" and the concept of "anomie? .I am researching functionalism and juvenile delinquency. The definition of functionalism which has been...

How does functionalism relate to "social strain theories" and the concept of "anomie? .

I am researching functionalism and juvenile delinquency. The definition of functionalism which has been supplied, " is rapid social change to any part of society negativiely impacts the whole." I see the terms social strain theories and anomie discussed in variouse articles and the definitions seem similar to my definition of functionalism, but I do not see the term functionalsim applied to juvenile delinquency.

Asked on by amgherini

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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First of all, I do not think that your definition of functionalism is a good one.  Fuctionalism does believe that rapid social change will negatively impact society, but that is not a definition of functionalism.

Functionalism holds that society is based on shared norms and values.  Those shared norms and values allow us to have order in our society.  Each aspect of society exists because it fulfills some important function for keeping society in order.

Functionalism holds that a properly working society would be stable and orderly.  So where does juvenile delinquency come from?  This is where strain theory and the idea of anomie come into play.  They explain why things go wrong in society and, in this case, why juvenile delinquency can happen.

The idea of anomie comes originally from Durkheim.  He describes it as a state in which society has become "sick" and its norms and values have become weak.   This would be one explanation for why delinquency occurs.  It occurs because our values have become weakened by some force or other.

Strain theory was advanced by Robert Merton, expanding on Durkheim's ideas.  To Merton, anomie was characterized by strain.  This was a situation in which society designated acceptable goals and acceptable means of reaching those goals.  Unfortunately, in our society not everyone has the ability to to achieve those goals through acceptable means.  This, to Merton, is what anomie is.  This idea is often called social strain theory.  To Merton, it is this that causes delinquency--youths cannot get what society says they should want by the means society says they may use and therefore they either reach for unacceptable goals or use unacceptable means in pursuit of acceptable goals.

To summarize, functionalism says that delinquency should not happen in a "healthy" society.  Therefore, it must explain why delinquency does happen.  Durkheim's idea of anomie and Merton's idea of strain are two views on how delinquency can happen even if functionalism is correct.

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