Theories of Deviance

Topics: Sociology, Sociological terms, Criminology Pages: 9 (3522 words) Published: March 2, 2013
Theories of Deviance
Deviance is any behavior that violates social norms, and is usually of sufficient severity to warrant disapproval from the majority of society. Deviance can be criminal or non-criminal. The sociological discipline that deals with crime (behavior that violates laws) is criminology (also known as criminal justice). Today, Americans consider such activities as alcoholism, excessive gambling, being nude in public places, playing with fire, stealing, lying, refusing to bathe, purchasing the services of prostitutes, and cross-dressing—to name only a few—as deviant. People who engage in deviant behavior are referred to as deviants Deviant behavior is any behavior that is contrary to the dominant norms of society. There are many different theories on what causes a person to perform deviant behavior, including biological explanations, psychological explanations, and sociological explanations. Following are some of the major sociological explanations for deviant behavior. Deviance is any behavior that violates cultural norms. Deviance is often divided into two types of deviant activities. The first, crime is the violation of formally enacted laws and is referred to as formal deviance. Examples of formal deviance would include: robbery, theft, rape, murder, and assault, just to name a few. The second type of deviant behavior refers to violations of informal social norms, norms that have not been codified into law, and is referred to as informal deviance. Examples of informal deviance might include: picking ones nose, belching loudly (in some cultures), or standing too close to another unnecessarily (again, in some cultures). Deviant behavior is behavior that is a recognized violation of social norms. Formal and informal social controls attempt to prevent or minimize deviance. One such control is through the medicalization of deviance. Acting upon certain discriminatory facts or problems. It is not the act itself, but the reactions to the act, that make something deviant. Crime, the violation of formally enacted law, is formal deviance while an informal social violation such as picking one's nose is an example of informal deviance. It also means not doing what the majority does or alternatively doing what the majority does not do. For instance, behaviors caused by cultural difference can be seen as deviance. It does not necessarily mean criminal behavior. An example of a group considered deviant in the modern United States is the Ku Klux Klan. Milder examples include punks and goths. The word deviance connotes odd or unacceptable behavior, but in the sociological sense of the word, deviance is simply any violation of society’s norms. Deviance can range from something minor, such as a traffic violation, to something major, such as murder. Each society defines what is deviant and what is not, and definitions of deviance differ widely between societies. For example, some societies have much more stringent rules regarding gender roles than we have in the United States, and still other societies’ rules governing gender roles are less stringent than ours. Deviance

In everyday language to deviate means to stray from an accepted path. Many sociological definitions of deviance simply elaborate upon this idea. Thus deviance consists of those areas which do not follow the norms and expectations of a particular social group. Deviance may be positively sanctioned (rewarded), negatively sanctioned (punished), or simply accepted without reward or punishment. In terms of the above definition of deviance, the soldier on the battlefield who risks his life above and beyond the normal call of duty may be termed deviant, as the physicist who breaks the rules of his discipline and develops a new theory. Their deviance may be positively sanctioned; the soldier might be rewarded with a medal, the physicist with a Noble prize. In one sense, though, neither is deviant since both conform to the values of society, the soldier to the value...
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