Applying a Criminological Theory on a Reported Crime

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This essay will attempt to explain a crime chosen from an article by applying a criminological theory. The article chosen is ‘Girl in critical condition after fire that killed mother and siblings’. The writer of the article describes the events of a suspected arson attack that killed five members of the family after their home was set alight. The article then mentions another suspected arson incident that caused damage to a car belonging to a family living opposite the victims, which appears to have been set alight at the same time (The Guardian, 2012). The theory that will be applied to this article in an attempt to explain arson is Merton’s strain theory. The Oxford Dictionary defines arson as ‘the criminal act of deliberately setting fire to property’ (Oxford Dictionary, 2012). The statistics show that large proportion of arsonists have a lower social background and are predominately young adult males (Home Office, 2011). Merton believed that criminal activity is thus the result of strain between culturally encouraged goals and the legitimate means of achieving them (Newburn, 2007). The ‘American Dream’ makes an individual believe that they live in meritocracy where everyone has equal opportunity to succeed if they work and study. Unfortunately, the reality is that the socially approved means of achieving the financial success are not equally distributed (Carrabine et al, 2009). Causing the working class males to seek alternative, and therefore, illegitimate means of achieving these goals or lashing out and deliberately setting fire to public and private property. The article previously mentioned states two suspected acts of arson, but because it happened to two neighbours it eliminates revenge as a motive as well as hate crime since the two neighbours were of different cultural backgrounds. Thus, strain theory can successfully explain arson committed by an individual frustrated by the status quo who took their frustrations out by vandalism, arson and damage...
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