Saturday, January 28, 2012

Social Deviance

Social Deviance – Explanation


Deviance refers to behavior or characteristics than violate significant social norms and expectations and are negatively valued by large numbers of people as a result (Robertson, 1977).



Undermost conditions society its processes are remarkably orderly and predictable. This predictability comes of rules of society. But when rules are there, there will always be some people who have the temptation to break them. Socialization may not always succeed in making every body conform to the rules.  Hence societies have further processes to enforce its rules. Societies have rewards for conformity and punishments for deviance.


Why people exhibit deviance?


Theories of Deviance


Four main theories are offered.


1. Biological theories

2. Anomie theory

3. Cultural transmissions theory

4. Labeling theory


Biological Theories


Italian criminologist Cesare Limbroso (1911) identified certain body features as typical to criminals. William Sheldon (1940) came to the conclusion that muscular and agile types comprise higher proportion of criminals. Owen (1972) found that XYY chromosome males are often more criminal.  But still, sociologists are not happy with using inborn nature as responsible for deviant behavior.


Anomie Theory


Anomie is condition wherein a person cannot identify his contribution to the output of the group. Individuals in a state of anomie lack guidelines for behavior, for they feel little sense of social discipline over their personal desires and acts. As the society or group does not recognize or notice the contribution of their activities to the output of the group, the group does not discipline them. Robert Merton (1938, 1968) has modified the concept of anomie developed Durkheim [   ] and applied it to social deviance.


To Merton, in society, anomie is the situation that arises when there is a discrepancy between socially approved goals and the availability of socially approved means of getting them. In such a situation deviance will take place. Merton (1968) explains:


“It is only when a system of cultural values extols, virtually above all else , certain common goals for the population at large, while the social structure rigorously restricts or completely closes access to approved modes of reaching these goals for a considerable part of the same population, that deviant behavior ensues on a large scale.”


People who accept the goal of success but find approved avenues to success blocked may fall into a state of anomie and seek success by disapproved methods.



Cultural Transmission Theory


According to Sutherland (1939), deviant behavior is learned through a process of differential association. The ordinary person does not have the knowledge, the techniques, or the justifications that are available to the deviant. These things must be learnt, and they can only be learned from others. Hence, as deviants are more close friends, the contact occurs at young age, contract frequency is more, duration of contact is more, and number of contacts is more, there is more deviance on the part of normal person.

Labeling Theory


This theory states that a primary deviance, an act of deviance is discovered by the society and a punishment is given. This punishment may become a label and the person is identified with the label.  The person so labeled may be forced to more deviance as other options are closed to him. Thus some persons are thrown into a deviant career.




The Social Consequences of Deviance – Dysfunctions


Deviance has a number of social consequences. It has many dysfunctions in society.


The widespread violation of significant social norms can disrupt social order. Deviance diverts social resources into efforts to control it. Deviance undermines trust. Many forms of deviance are pleasurable and profitable to the individual but disruptive for the society.




Robertson, Ian (1977), Sociology, Worth Publishers, Inc., New York.



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