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Criminology of Digital Stalking and Harassment

There are many social structure theories which may be applied to digital crimes involving stalking and harassment. Among the many theories, strain theory is one developed by Robert Merton an American sociologist. Under certain social parameters, such as established rules either societal or community driven and norms created normally by social conditions external and internal to a group. Due to deviance, we can better understand establishments or disruptions in strain when associated with society based on physical or artificial boundaries between populations either ethnically, systematically, or other areas that fall under socially driven solidarity groups. Strain theory states that pressures created by social structures may pressure specific behaviors such as crime. (Sociology, 2020) These conditions manifest individual responses when conditions observed in society creates a situation where an individual perceives his or her needs are negatively affected. If pain or exaggerated resistance is experienced, individuals are forced to find new ways to meet their innate needs. (Sociology, 2020)

In a study published in 2012 on negative emotions and legitimate coping strategies, preliminary test had accurately shown a substantial correlation to strain theory. Over the last 20 years, the introduction of technology has artificially shaped the way humans cope with areas highlighted in strain theory. As increased reports of online bullying, stalking, and harassment in youth are reported researchers can now statically track strain with a larger sample size using victim reporting. The triggers responsible for negative emotions are freely expressed online and without traditional coping for stressing situations. People are also easily dismissed more frequently leaving negative emotions to grow in people more rapidly than previously observed. In the initial results of research females have shown greater struggle with having few legitimate coping resources to assist in solving issues online. (Ngo, 2013) This is not limited to females where harassment and stalking has increased in males as well. Implications of societal representation through technology has artificially imposed the ideal that observed behavior online is normal whereas majority of activities viewed online has been clinically proven to reflect activities associated with strain theory. The manipulation of social structure online has shape society previously hypothesized by psychologist studying human behavior. The absence of traditional barriers which shape our political, business, and social persona's have revealed major discrepancies in human social development which now span multiple generations.

Book: Sociology (Boundless). (2020, December 16). Retrieved January 29, 2021, from

Ngo, F. T., & Paternoster, R. (2013). Stalking Strain, Concurrent Negative Emotions, and Legitimate Coping Strategies: A Preliminary Test of Gendered Strain Theory. American Journal of Criminal Justice: AJCJ, 38(3), 369-391.

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