In the field of Psychology, Strain Theory is operationally linked to delinquency; researchers have shown that individuals have a tendency to react to strain with delinquency (Agnew et al. 2002). The rationale of the Strain Theory is that the pressure within social structures encourages individuals to commit criminal actions. The school, based on a number of literature, is continuously considered as a social structure, people interact with one another and, therefore, elicits amount of pressure especially to students. The strain theory is linked to different sources including differences in values, reality vs. aspiration, relative deprivation, and deficient coping (Agnew, 2009).
Actions including plagiarism and cheating are normal occurrences in school that they are all implanted themselves into the culture in education systems. Smith et al. (2013) underlines in their study the effect of school pressure to students. They compared school into a pressure cooker, where everyday students are constantly bombarded with societal pressure. College application is one of the examples used in the study, they shared that the pressure elicited by securing a good college is sending students into an unconscious state of panic. Pressure in some instances turns students into something they are not, but are forced to commit actions in order for them to secure their education. Cheating incidents are rooted deeply into the psyche of students who have no other recourse but to gamble just to pass the exam. At times, educators will argue that they provide ample time for students to review, but in reality some students succumb to pressure despite preparing for an exam. Students experience mental blocks. Studying hard for example does not guarantee that the student will pass because exams are circumstantial. There are students who excel in oral exams, but find written exams difficult.
The strain theory, as it names implies, corresponds to the pressure and stress built up by everyday interaction by people. Students are prone to pressure because they are surrounded with expectations and viewed at times as investments. Investments because their parents or their guardians try to send them to good schools in order for them to receive the best quality of education (O’Grady, 2011). They feel the need to return the favor to their parents by showing good marks, but in reality high marks are difficult to achieve. Institutions and educators have different standards when it comes to grading papers. In addition to this, students are always faced with peer pressure and comparison with their cliques. Some students are compared to their other siblings when it comes to achievements that result to them unconsciously trying to overtake their main source of comparison. It is important to understand that people have differing ways of coping with pressure. Some people handle stressful situations calmly and end up winning against pressure. But some are not as fortunate, and as a result, turn to illegal ways of handling their unwanted stresses.
Agnew, R. (2009). "Revitalizing Merton: General Strain Theory." Advances in Criminological
Theory: The Origins of American Criminology, Vo.16, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction
O'Grady W. (2011). "Crime in Canadian Context." Strain/anomie theory 92-94
Smith (2013). Deviant Reactions to the College Pressure Cooker: A Test of General Strain
Theory on Undergraduate Students in the United States. International Journal of
Criminal Justice Sciences.July – December 2013. Vol. 8 (2): 88–104