There are many criminological theories that attempt to explain criminal behavior or crime patterns. For instance, Agnew’s General Strain Theory can be applied to explain why the criminal John Dillinger committed various crimes. Agnew’s General Strain Theory assumes that all individuals experience strain, which, in turn, causes negative emotions that can result in legitimate or illegitimate coping, depending on an individual’s constraints or dispositions. Thus, the continuous criminal behavior throughout John Dillinger’s life can be explained using Agnew’s General Strain Theory in relation to strain, negative emotions, and dispositions.
John Dillinger was born on June 22, 1903, in Indianapolis. Three years later his mother died; his father remarried six years afterwards, but Dillinger resented his stepmother. Being raised by a very strict father, who invoked disciplinary extremes, Dillinger became a troublemaker. Dillinger quit school and got a job, but quickly got bored and decided to stay out all night. His father was concerned that city life was corrupting his son, so he decided to move his family to Indiana. However, the move made no difference, since Dillinger began to act the same as he had in the city. After a “break with his father and trouble with the law” Dillinger enlisted in the Navy (“Famous Cases,” n.d). In the Navy, Dillinger got into trouble and decided to leave his ship and move to Indiana, where he married 16-year-old Beryl Hovius in 1924. Both Dillinger and Hovius moved to Indianapolis with a “dazzling dream of bright lights and excitement” (“Famous Cases,” n.d). However, Dillinger had no luck finding work due to the Depression, and joined the “town pool shark, Ed Singleton” in search of easy money.
Singleton and Dillinger were arrested in their first attempt to rob a grocer. “Singleton pleaded not guilty, stood trial, and was sentenced to two years in prison” (“Famous Cases,” n.d). However, Dillinger followed his father’s advice, confessed, and was convicted. Dillinger “received joint sentences of two to 14 years and 10 to 20 years in the Indiana State Prison. Stunned by the harsh sentence, Dillinger became a tortured, bitter man in prison” (“Famous Cases,” n.d). On May 10, 1933, after serving eight-and-a-half years of his sentence, he was released on parole, where his life quickly continued to revolve around trouble. Dillinger and his gang committed several robberies, murders, and jailbreaks, causing Dillinger to be known for evoking the Gangster Era that ended on July 22, 1934, the night he was pronounced dead at Alexian Brothers Hospital after being shot three times by police officers in the alley by the Biograph Theater (“Famous Cases,” n.d).
The troubled life of criminal John Dillinger can be applied to Agnew’s General Strain Theory. Agnew’s General Strain Theory “assumes that people of all social classes and economic positions deal with frustrations in routine daily life” (Tibbetts, 2012, p. 120). The theory proposes...