Deviance: Breaking Cultural Norms

Charles Wingate Principles of Sociology Professor Ciliberto Paper #4 Deviance Deviance is the recognized violence of cultural norms. The concept of deviance is very broad because norms are what guide human activity. Deviant acts are known as crime, which is the violation of a society’s formally enacted criminal law. Criminal deviance varies from a wide range including minor traffic violations, and major violations such as robbery and murder. Society tries to regulate people’s thoughts and behavior through social control.

Social control can be informal such as parents raising their children when they do well, or punishing them when they do something wrong.

Cases of serious deviance involve the criminal Justice system. How society defines deviance, who is branded as deviant, and what people decide to do about deviance all do with the way society is organized. Psychologists think that personality is shaped primarily by social experience; which allows for deviance to be viewed as the result of unsuccessful learning within socialization.

From the symbolic-interaction perspective theorist would say deviant behavior is learned or is part of socially constructed reality that emerges in nteraction . Our social experiences along with the society by which we live in determine our odds of acquiring deviance. The Labeling Theory is the idea that deviance and conformity result from how others react to what people do, not necessarily the act of what they do. As far as deviance is concerned, people may define the behavior in a number of ways.

Deviance can be classified as both primary and secondary.

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Primary deviance according to Edwin Lemert is norm violations that provoke slight reaction from other and have little effect on a person’s self-concept. In ontrast Lemert refers to secondary deviance as the change in self concept, or when a person begins to employ deviant behavior as a means of defense, attack, or adjustment to the problems created by social reaction. ” A stigma is a powerfully negative label that greatly changes a person’s self-concept and social identity.

Once people stigmatize an individual, they may engage in retrospective labeling, which is the act of interpreting someone’s past in light of some present deviance. An example of this is if someone were to find out that their neighbor was a child molester, theyd utomatically think “he always wanted to be around children anyw?aY’, based on his past. Another prime example of this is the situation that occurred with Penn state. Now that the whistle has been officially blown on Sandusky, everyone is saying that the reason why he hosted these underprivileged young men for the football camps was so that he could take sexual advantage of them.

People may also engage in projective building of stigmatized person, which uses a person’s deviant behavior to predict their future actions. Once someone finds out that another person committed a deviant act, they will assume that the person is oing to continue with these deviant acts until they get caught and punished. The thus increasing the chance that they will indeed come to pass. Like Coolers “Looking Glass Self”, the social construction of reality is a variable process of detection, definition, and response.

Sometimes individuals try to label behavior that they do not like, as deviant instead of as different. They even go as far as labeling them as mental illnesses. Psychiatrist Thomas Szasz stated that in order to avoid this practice is to abandon the idea of mental illness completely. Just because someone is different to he point where they irritate us, does not mean that we should define them as being mentally ill. It is imperative to think critically about how we define the word “different”.

Szasz believed that those who are truly mentally ill cannot help their condition in the same way that a patient with cancer cannot help theirs. He also felt that ordinary people without the proper medical knowledge should not give off the diagnosis. People often try to medicalize deviance by using clinical diagnosis. If someone does something that is “bad”, the label is scientifically swapped to “sick” hile “good” changes to “well”. Alcoholics were originally viewed as weak people but now, alcoholism is considered a disease which means are alcoholics are not “bad”, they simply are not “well”.

This leads to deviance being a learned behavior because the deviant person themselves will soon begin to believe that they are not well, and will use this as an excuse for their actions. Sutherland’s Differential Association Theory claims that a person’s tendency towards conformity or deviance depends on the amount of contact with others and who encourage or reject conventional behavior. Studies have shown that young people are more likely to engage in deviant behavior if they believe that their peers are doing so as well.

In a gang environment, current gang members resocialize new members to norms that oppose those of the dominant culture. From the gang, these new members learn that stealing, carrying a gun, and using drugs are acceptable behaviors, whereas they were not before. In the meantime, the norms they learned at home are no longer acceptable within the gang environment, and they must reject those norms and values to accept the new ones. Current gang members also teach new members how to commit pecific deviant acts, such as hotwiring a car or breaking into a home.

Even, in highschool a lot of the rebel students try and get other student to cut class, don’t do homework and pull fire alarms. The norms that the school administration has put on these students are no longer deemed “cool” to the rebel students and now they try and change other student to engage in deviant behavior. Travis Hirschi’s Control Theory states that social control depends on people anticipating the consequences of their behavior. Hirschi links deviance to four different types of social control. The first s attachment, String social attachments encourage conformity.

People who feel a strong attachment to other people, such as family or close friends, are less likely to be deviant. If people have weak relationships, they feel less need to conform to the other person’s or group’s norms. They are more likely to commit a deviant act. The second is opportunity. Individuals who have a sincere commitment to legitimate goals are more likely to conform to society’s norms. Those goals could be a legitimate job, higher education, financial stability, or a long-term relationship. When people ave little confidence in the future, they are more likely to engage in deviance.

Also, extensive involvement in legitimate activities such as having a Job, and attending and respect for authority figures restrain tendencies toward deviance. We define deviance by what social institution teach us is right and wrong. Growing up in a low income section of Brooklyn NY; my views of deviance are slightly different than many others. Many people view selling drugs as a deviant behavior but as the Notorious BIG (famous rapper) said “when I was hustling Just to make some money to feed my aughter” would you call a person deviant if they are trying to provide for their family?

In reference to murder, social institutions such as school and media taught me that killing is wrong, but significant others taught me its “killed or be killed” if someone is gunning for you, you have to gun back for them. Being in this class sociology has shown two sides of me. Although I know what the normal standard of deviance is, what I was taught in order to survive contradict social institutions. I would be a prime example to reflect the opinions of symbolic-interactionist in reference to deviance, being that is learned.

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Deviance: Breaking Cultural Norms. (2017, Jun 14). Retrieved from

Deviance: Breaking Cultural Norms
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