Strain and Adaptation Among Probation Officers: An Application of Merton's Classic Strain Theory

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Lester, Joshua L.
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Middle Tennessee State University
To better understand the implications of probationary practices, strain experienced by probationary staff, and deviation from current practices, I administered a 42- question survey instrument to twenty-six probation officers in Middle Tennessee at a privatized and non-privatized probation facility. The survey used two original scales to measure participant’s perceived strain towards probationary goals and their use of adaptations. These key variables of interest, including strain and modes of adaptation were constructed from Merton’s Classic Strain Theory in application to probationary standards. Results indicated: 1) support of Merton’s theoretical model-, those who identified as experiencing perceived strain indicated use of adaptations such as innovation, retreatism, ritualism, and rebellion, 2) confusion among probation officers in terms of facility practices and goals of probation, 3) common use of middle ground and “not sure” responses when asked questions pertaining to respondents’ ethical practices.
Adaptaion, Merton, Offender, Probation, Probation Officer, Strain