Crime and Deviance

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Crime and Deviance from a
Sociological and Psychological assessment:

The sociology of deviance is the sociological study of deviant behavior, or the recognized violation of cultural norms. Cultural Norms are society's propensity towards certain ideals; their aversion from others; and their standard, ritualistic practices. Essentially the 'norm' is a summation of typical activities and beliefs of group of people. There are various Sociological deviance theories, including Structuralist: why do some people break the rules? , Marxists: who makes the rules, and who benefits from their enforcement?, and Interactionist: How did this person become processed (labeled) as a deviant? Sociology asserts that deviance is problematic, yet essential and intrinsic to any conception of Social Order. It is problematic because it disrupts but is essential because it defines the confines of our shared reality. It is intrinsic to a conception of order in that defining what is real and expected, defining what is acceptable, and defining who we are always is done in opposition to what is unreal, unexpected, or unacceptable. Sociologically, deviance can be construed as a label used to maintain the power, control, and position of a dominant group.

Deviance is a negotiated order. Deviance violates some groups assumptions about reality (social order). It violates expectations. The definition of deviance defines the threat and allows for containment and control of the threat. The definition of deviance preserves, protects, and defines group interests and in doing so maintains a sense of normalcy. Deviance can consequently be seen as a product of Social Interaction; the result of setting boundaries and limitations, rules and laws, acceptable and unacceptable.

"In sum, by deviance I mean one thing and one thing only: behavior or characteristics that some people in a society find offensive or reprehensible and that generates--or would generate if discovered--in these people disapproval, punishment, condemnation of, or hostility toward, the actor or possessor....What we have to know is, deviant to whom?" (Goode, 1994, page 29)

Psychological theories of crime and deviance really only describe the difference between supposedly ‘normal' and ‘abnormal' human characteristics. What constitutes crime or deviance is a value judgment made by humans. The behaviors might well be innate individual characteristics but they become defined as deviant through a social process. They are intrinsically social because they involve judgment. Decisions are made as to what constitutes deviance and what behaviors are to be considered illegal. The labeling of certain acts as deviant calls our attention to the fact that it is the reaction to the act that places it in the category ‘deviant' not the act itself. Being able to separate biological and environmental factors is nearly impossible since they impact on each other from the day we are born.

Isolating one variable and finding an association with criminality is a correlation but this should not be confused with a ‘cause'. There is a danger of reducing complex processes to simple one-cause explanations. There are some very dubious ethical implications from this area of research. The logical conclusions are to alter peoples biology by pre or post natal interference. It is also quite obvious that there are types of behaviors that will be damaging to any society and need to be controlled. Some of these behaviors seem to have a biological or psychological origin, rather than an environmental cause. The most obvious of the biological/psychological distinctions is that of the different levels/types of deviant involvement engaged in as a consequence of sex. Males seem to be far more predisposed to act in ways that all societies want to reduce because of their social harm. Some of the earlier biological theories are clearly flawed and have been used to demonstrate the weakness of such approaches. More recent...
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