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Analysis Of A Deviant Behavior Of The Filipino Using The Merton’s Strain Theory

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Robert K. Merton: The Man Behind the Merton’s Strain Theory

An American Sociologist named Robert K. Merton was born on July 4, 1910 in Philadelphia. This American sociologist developed the Merton’s Strain Theory of Deviance which explains the rising crime rates expression in the United Stated of America (USA) at that time. This theory states that society puts pressure on every people to achieve socially accepted goals such as the American Dream. This dream encouraged every people to pursue a goal of success which was largely measured in terms of the acquisition of wealth and material possessions. People were expected to pursue this goal through legitimate means such as education and work. The dominant cultural message was if you are ambitious, talented and work hard, then income and wealth should be your rewards. This sociologist developed the concept of hegemony to describe this imbalance between cultural goals and institutionalized means. Merton argued due to hegemony, there is a tension between the goals and meanst which produce unsatisfied aspirations.

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The Five Stages of Merton’s Strain Theory

  1. Conformity states that pursuing cultural goals through social approved means. For example, an adult in the United States going after the ”American dream” by going to college, getting a good-paying job, marrying, and having kids.
  2. Innovation. This is when one accepts the cultural goals, but they reject the traditional or legal means to obtain them. For example, an entrepreneur wants to buy a nice house and have a lot of money, but utilizes illegal methods to obtain that money.
  3. Ritualism involves rejection of cultural goals but acceptance of the means of achieving those goals. An example of this would be a factory worker in China who doesn’t agree with the government’s low wages of factory workers, but continues to work hard at his job day in and day out.
  4. Retreatism – ejection of cultural goals and means required to obtain those goals. An example would be a teenager who gives up on school and the prospect of college/work by smoking marijuana and getting high every day.
  5. Rebellion is when a person rejects culturally and society-defined goals and means and actively replaces them with culturally unacceptable ones.

An example for this situation will be Chris grew up in a poor and well known crime ridden neighborhood. He studied do well in elementary school because he is motivated by his dream to live in a wealthy neighborhood with a big house and fancy car. After academic struggles and personal hardship throughout elementary school, Chris slowly gave up the idea that he would ever do well in school and be wealthy. When he met gang members in middle school, his new goal became earning status and respect in the gang. The means to doing this was by committing crimes. This example of Chris highlights the epitome of rebellion from a sociological standpoint.

Kapit sa Patalim as an Alternative means

‘Kapit sa patalim’ is a Filipino expression which literally means clutching a knife blade. This expression is often used when someone is in a hazardous situation but that person doesn’t have any choice but to live with it

Issues in the Philippines

On the statics of PSA. Gov (n. d) on the first semester of 2018, they stated that a family consist of five members of a family needs no less than PhP 7,337 to provide the basic food needs of a family in a month. On the other side, a family needs at least PhP 10,481 to sustain the needs of both basic food and non-food in a five members of a family in a month.

The PSA said that the poverty was estimated at 16. 1 among the incidence of Filipino families on the first semester of 2018. This was estimated around 22. 2 percent which has the same event in 2015. This shows the proportion of families who has an income below the poverty line

According to borgenproject. org (2018) poverty has a huge impact to the Filipinos to survive in such difficult situation. With this condition, people has no choice but to commit crime and thievery. Based on research, they found out that people tend to steal due to the difficulty to survive in poverty. This people having a hard to find an employment because they didn’t graduated. When they encounter a life and death situation, they have no choice but to steal to sustain the needs of their family. Many people has no enough resources and with this reason, people become desperate and practice drastic measures to provide for the needs of their family. A 27 year old named Edward Elarde from Pangasinan was caught stealing during Christmas. This man stole a 2 goats to have something to eat during Christmas Evening with his family.

This can also include the drug pusher/seller which is always been the headline of the news. When our President Duterte sitted on his position on June 30, 2016, he started his campaign of “war of drug” and led to the deaths of over 12,000 Filipinos. On the bust operation, Emelyn Dingal was was caught. She is has three (3) kids. When a police officer interrogated her, she says that she began to sell illegal drugs because her husband’s income was not enough for their family. His husband works as a tricycle driver. Emelyn said that she has no choice but to “kapit sa patalim. ”

Aside from being a thief, prostitution is an example of non-violent form of survival. Poverty becomes the driving force for women to become a prostitute. In prostitution, there is no requirement for you to apply. This doesn’t require women to have educational background. Also, prostitution doesn’t require references and experience. From using their body, they can generate income. However, Prostitution is not legalized in the Philippines. When you go to the bridge or underground of Recto, a woman will poke you and ask for money. This may look like a beggar, but they are selling their body for little amount. It is all over the news about the prostitution in shops like restaurant, and massage which offers extra service or what we called “sex service”.

One example of this is Marie from Davao city. At the age of 16, she is already pregnant. Every night, Marie and her lesbian partner named Lea roam in the streets fo look for clients. After engaging with the clients, they get money and use it to support Marie’s prenatal checks. According to Lea prostitution is the only thing that can help them to survive. Marie became a prostitute at the age pf 14 because she ran away from her abusive brother-in-law. Marie’s sister is also a sex worker after being a victim of trafficking. Meanwhile, Lea was forced to be a prostitute due to the influence of other child sex workers

It is quite alarming in southern Philippines because girls are tend to be part of the prostitution. What worse is, it is getting the prostitutes are getting younger. They supposed to be studying however, due to some circumstances, it became a choice for then to survive.

There are some other ways to sustain the needs of a family without using violence and that is working abroad. Overseas Filipino worker (OFW) is an example of a non-violent survival. These workers choose to work abroad to escape from poverty and lack of opportunities. Knowing that living in foreign country could dangerous, they choose to gamble in other country. On the article of Philippine Inquirer, they have an interview with a woman who’s working on Libya. Her name is not mentioned to remain it confidential. She mentioned that while she was on her way to work, a group of men kidnapped her and raped her. She said that she was scared at that moment and caused her trauma. She lives in a poor family and her goal is to help her family’s life. She has many dreams therefore, she decided to go to Libya and gamble there. Her simple dream turns into a nightmare that she doesn’t want to happen anymore.

If you connect this in deviance this will be ritualism and retreatism. For the ritualism, the example would be the OFW. They rejects the traditional culture which is working in their own country to earn an income and help the country progress. However, their goal is still the same as the other people which is to achieve their dreams. Every people wants to get what they want. As we know, the income of the other country is higher than us. In fact, based on research, the Philippines is currently classified as a lower middle income country along with Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia and India. This means that we are still progressing and cannot fully increase the wages of the workers inside the country. And because of this reason, many people choose to work to the other country to earn a higher living. This makes their income higher due to the high currency rate.

For the prostitution, thief, and drug pusher are the example of retreatism. They have a goal however, it is not socially accepted. Stealing is a crime but due to the needs of that person, he/ she has no choice but to do it. The reason behind it may be good but still the action done is not right. Illegal drugs can be sold for a high amount. This is the reason why some people sell it to earn for a living. The drug lords use the less fortunate people to act as their puppet to sell the drugs. This drug lords may help this people to have a job however, it is not socially accepted and there is a high risk for this people to be caught and be imprisoned.

The Pro of Deviance

  • Teaches norms by providing examples of rule violations

School is the foundation to every student because this is where they learn mostly aside from their home. School teaches the norms which is socially accepted in their society. Every school has the personal development to hone theirselves. Aside from this, school teaches the Good manners and right conduct to make sure that the students will not change its path. For example, there are group of kids were bully. These kids used to scare other kids to get their money and use it for their food. By teaching that bullying is a prohibited action and has punishments, the bullies got scared and find another solution to resolve this.

  • Organize to limit future deviant acts

There are different stages of deviance wherein being teach to every student. In this way, the students were able to be informed about it. They are able to know whether they are doing are acceptable or not. For example, Ana wants to be in a list of ranking in her class. For her to be able to do it, she has to steal the answer sheet of their test. While reviewing, she saw that what she is doing isn’t right. Instead of stealing, she choose to study hard to achieve her goal without violating the norm.

The Con of Deviance

  • It causes confusion about the norms and values of that society

There are people that are being misguided by the elders. People tend to use this people to show that it is norm. However, what they say is complete opposite with the norm is. They use this misguided people to work for them. There are times that they use them as their scapegoat to freed from the crime. This people are not aware of what they are doing. They only knew that it is the right thing to do. This is already embedded in their life. It is like a stain in a cloth wherein you need to do something to remove it. Just like this, you need to teach them a proper education and norms which is acceptable in the society.

  • It is a threat to the social order

The threat starts when you defy a norm. For example in the law, it states that having an affair is a serious crime which can file you an adultery. When a couple stays for a long time and someone has an affair, the mistress comes in the problem. This guy is married and has two (2) kids. This family seems to be an ideal because they have a huge house, fancy car, and they can afford everything. The wife knows that his husband works hard because he always stay at office to have an overtime. Without knowing that his husband goes to his mistress and their kids. This wife doesn’t know anything about this and one time, her friend told her that she saw her husband with some other girl carrying a child. At first she didn’t believe about it until she discovered it by herself. She confronted his husband and after that, she choose to separate with husband and live by themselves. . And now, this husband stays with his mistress. This example shows that the norm which is a husband and wife stays in one house to raise their kids. However, it goes different in this case because the husband and the mistress stays together as a family. In the law, it is prohibited and it has a punishment.


People are not born delinquent. Being delinquent is a learned through society. Deviance is influenced through social and affected by the behavior. People will not do any hazardous crimes if they can afford the expenses of their family. This is the problems of every people living in a barefoot living. For you to survive in this world, you must play with the fire to save yourself. You would take a risk to find a solutions for your problems. If people can afford their expenses, therefore, they would commit a crime.

The deviance and crime rise a negatives from the reaction from the society. This reminds that every society needs to make sure that members should obey the norms in their everyday life. There are times the behavior is being considered harmful that the governments enact written laws that ban the behavior.

“K sa patalim” is an expression of the Filipino. This expression signifies the having the same goal but rejecting the socially accepted norm. From the current situation of the Philippines, it cannot provide job to every people. Even though the government increases number of schools, there are still large number of students who cannot go to school to help their parents to earn a living. In today’s society, people tend to see people in poverty acts the same way. There are different ways for people to survive. There are times that people thinks that people in poverty tend to steal food, steal money, and violating loitering laws.


  1. Merons strain Theory (n. d) retrieved from: https://revisesociology. com/2016/04/16/mertons-strain-theory-deviance/
  2. Examples of Rebellion (n. d) retriever from: https://study. com/academy/lesson/rebellion-in-sociology-definition-examples. html
  3. Effects of Poverty in Philippines (n. d) retrieved from: h ttps://borgenproject. org/effects-of-poverty-in-the-philippines/
  4. War of Drugs (n. d) retrieved from: https://www. hrw. org/tag/philippines-war-drugs
  5. Abused OFW (2015) retrieved from: https://www. sunstar. com. ph/article/396166
  6. Philippines Income Rate (n. d) retrieved from: https://news. abs-cbn. com/business/09/24/18/ph-on-track-to-upper-middle-income-status-by-2019-world-bank-economist
  7. Kapit sa patalim (n. d) retrieved from: https://opinion. inquirer. net/77181/kapit-sa-patalim-3
  8. Poverty press (n. d) retrieved from: https://psa. gov. ph/poverty-press-releases/nid/138411
  9. Prostitutes in Philippines (n. d) retrieved from: https://www. ucanews. com/news/in-southern-philippines-victims-of-prostitution-are-getting-younger/74404
  10. Thief on Christmas (2017) retrieved from: https://www. pressreader. com/philippines/balita/20171225/281582355998609
10 December 2020

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