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Perceived Injustice and Delinquency: A Test of General Strain Theory

NCJ Number
Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 40 Issue: 3 Dated: May/June 2012 Pages: 230-237
Date Published
June 2012
8 pages

Hypothesizing that the subjective perception of injustice is an important source of "strain" (negative emotion related to criminogenic maladaptive coping behavior) under the tenets of General Strain Theory (GST), this study examined the links between perceived injustice, anger, and rule-violation.


In the self-report survey administered to youth in the three waves of the New Hampshire Youth Study (NHYS), five items probed how fair individuals believed that they had been treated in the prior 6 months by their mother, father, and friends ("perceived injustice"). The study found convincing evidence that perceived fairness is related to delinquency, that this relationship persists after adjusting statistically for critical variables derived from the existing delinquency literature, and that the same relationship is mediated by situational anger. In their discussion of study limitations, however, the authors note that study data came from a convenience sample that may not be representative of the students in the 12 schools from which the samples were taken, and they certainly were not representative of youth throughout the Nation. In addition, further research is needed in order to determine whether these findings can be generalized across time, space, and culture. NHYS data were collected from 8 middle schools and 4 high schools throughout 4 Southern New Hampshire communities in the fall of 2007 (n=941), the spring of 2008 (n=828), and the fall of 2008 (n=867). Extensive statistical controls were applied for such variables as self-control, differential association, attitudes toward delinquency, and alternative strain measures in a longitudinal context. 3 tables, 3 figures, 46 references, and appended questions on delinquent and rule-violating behaviors, as well as negative life events

Date Published: June 1, 2012