Deviance and Social Control
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Social control is techniques and strategies used for preventing deviant human behavior in any society. All levels of society such as family, school, bureaucratic and government has some form of social control. Examples of family social control include obeying your parents rules, doing your homework and chores. School includes standards they expect of students such as being on time, completing assignments and following school ground rules. The bureaucratic organization emphasizes the rules and procedures among their workers. The government expresses social control through law enforcement and other formal sanctions. There are positive sanctions such as rewards for obedience and there are negative sanctions such as penalties for disobedience. Positive sanctions can include a pleasant smile of approval or range to a ceremony of honor. Negative sanctions include informal penalties such as fear, ridicule, sarcasm and even criticism or formal penalties such as law enforcement, jail sentences, and fines.
Conformity and obedience are two areas recognized for studying social control. Conformity means to go along with peers or individuals of our own status with the tendency to change our perceptions, opinions, or behavior in ways that are accepted by the group’s norms. Factors relating to conformity include areas such as size of the group, age differences, gender differences and cultural differences. On the other hand obedience, which is compliance with higher authority, can have an impact on social control as well. Factors relating to obedience include complying with authority figures, the feeling of personal responsibility, and the escalation of harm. With awareness of these factors the more likely someone is to conform along with their peers and obey authority.
Sanctions are used to encourage conformity and obedience and are carried out through informal and formal social control. Informal social control is carried out casually by ordinary people to enforce norms through laughter, smile, and ridicule. Formal social control is used to enforce norms through authorized agents such as police officers, judges, school administrators, and employers.
Some laws, which are government social control, have been created due to society’s norms being important to people’s behavior. For example the prohibition against murder is a law among every member of society. Whereas fishing and hunting regulations are a law among those specific groups. Our textbook points out that sociologist see the creation of laws as a social process because these laws are not passed from one generation to another, but are evolving from continuous change in society of what is right and what is wrong. Society has accepted and followed these laws not because of peer group or authority figure but by means of belonging or even the fear of being viewed as different or deviant. In a sense we want to see ourselves and others to see us as loyal, cooperative, and respectful of others. Control theory is a view of conformity and deviance that stresses the social bond between society and individuals. Deviant acts, which violate social norms, may appear attractive to individuals but the social bond is used to help individuals from going toward those attractive deviant acts because of the fear of not belonging. A weak bond between society and an individual may actually push that individual toward a deviant act that he/she can benefit from.
As explained by Peter Wickman (2009), “Deviance is behavior that violates the standards of conduct or expectations of a group or society” (p. 160). There are different degrees of deviance we all experience here in the United States. On one end of the spectrum there are accepted forms of deviance, like being late to a meeting, or texting while driving. On the other end of the...
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