General Strain Theory (GST) argues an effective relation between strain and delinquent behavior, and that strains are main causes of delinquent behaviors by increasing the likelihood of negative emotions such as anger.

GST examines the generality of multiple strains, embracing life stresses and relationship difficulties, as well as delinquency (Agnew, 1995a). Namely, GST argues that strainful circumstances pressure individuals into committing delinquent acts.Our given definition of strain within this research is: “a severe or excessive demand on the strength, resources, or abilities of someone or something.” Based on Agnew’s argument, strains can be considered as situations and relationships in which there occured a removal of positively valued stimuli, and the presence of noxious or unpleasant stimuli as sources of strain that could lead to deviant behavior (Agnew, 1992).Specifically, GST emphasizes economic status is highly important factor to crime (Agnew, 2001). Cernkovich and Giordano (1979) stated that perceptions of limited educational and occupational opportunities were predictive of delinquency involvement as well. Lower academic achievement and general truancy has been linked to drug use (Henry, 2010). In addition, discrimination could exert a powerful influence on the target’s mental health and behavior; research has demonstrated that exposure to perceived or actual discrimination was strongly related to individuals’ emotional well-being and mental health (Thompson, 1996).

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A composite measure of strains, or stressors, such as negative life events or life hassles that increase negative emotions (e.g., anger and frustration) have at least as much predictive power as social learning variables for explaining delinquency and adolescent drug use (Agnew & White, 1992). These emotions can provoke pressure for making a method for reducing negative emotions and strains through responses such as illicit drug use (Agnew, 1992), as a means of escape from their psychological distress they are experiencing (Agnew, 1995; Brezina, 2000). While contemporary literature has been able to establish a relationship between strain and delinquency with regard to drug and alcohol usage (Moon, Morash, Perez McCluskey, & Hwang, 2009), there is not much discussion regarding the attitudes people have on drug use. SinceThus, we focus on GST by examining the relationship between educational and financial strains, as well as discrimination.

Through the context of general strain theory we hope to better understand if coping mechanisms of college students in response to their strain involves drug usage, and to what extent. We also hope to establish patterns between strain, drug usage, and delinquency, which we will then use to explore the potential impact this may have on future local drug policies.


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