General Strain Theory

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Alternate name(s)


Main dependent construct(s)/factor(s)

Strain caused in an individual

Main independent construct(s)/factor(s)

Failure to achieve positively valued goals, loss of positively valued stimuli, and the presence of negative stimuli

Concise description of theory

GST is a modified version of traditional strain theory from crime and delinquency literature proposed by Agnew in 1992. It states that strains in an individual causes delinquency. According to Agnew there are three main sources that causes strain in an individual i.e. failure to achieve positively valued goals; loss of positive-valued stimuli; and presentation of negative stimuli. The 1st reason for strain is mostly same as that of traditional strain theories, whereas the rest two are mostly situational dependent. For example loss of positive valued stimuli may include loss of any important person for an individual and negative stimulus like bullying, physical and emotional abuse. Presence of any of these three causes or all lead to create strain in an individual because he feels that he has not been treated in the way he is supposed to. Agnew further argued that though strain did not directly cause crime, it leads to negative emotions of frustration and anger which can latter results in delinquent or violent behavior. In IS literature usage of this theory started recently, in studying online deviant behaviors like cyber-bullying, cyber-harassment etc.

Diagram/schematic of theory


Originating author(s)

Robert Agnew(1992)

Seminal articles

Agnew, R. (1992). Foundation for a general strain theory of crime and delinquency. Criminology, 30(1), 47-87.

Originating area


Level of analysis


Links to WWW sites describing theory

Links from this theory to other theories


IS articles that use the theory

Patchin, J. W., & Hinduja, S. (2010). Traditional and nontraditional bullying among youth: A test of general strain theory. Youth & Society.

Jang, H., Song, J., & Kim, R. (2014). Does the offline bully-victimization influence cyberbullying behavior among youths? Application of general strain theory. Computers in Human Behavior, 31, 85-93.

Lowry, P. B., Zhang, J., Wang, C., & Siponen, M. (2016). Why do adults engage in cyberbullying on social media? An integration of online dis-inhibition and deindividuation effects with the social structure and social learning model. Information Systems Research, 27(4), 962-986.


Monalisa Mahapatra

Date last updated

1st March 2017