Sociologists would define labelling as a process of attaching a definition or meaning to an individual or group. For example, police officers may label a youth a “trouble maker”. Agents of social control define an individual which leads to a person being labelled by those who have the power to make the label stick and therefore the individual is seen as a deviant. In his essay I will look at the work of Howard Becker, Jock young and Edwin M. Lemert who look at the effects of the labelling theory on individuals and their contributions on how an individual becomes a deviant.
Howard Becker argued that deviance is not a quality of the act person commits, but rather a consequence of the application by others of the rules and sanctions to an “offender”, the deviant has been successfully associated with the label which means that the deviant behaviour is behaviour people label. Due to an individual being labelled it can have possible effects as a label defines a person as being a particular character and as it is not neutral, it has master status. Because of this an individual may internalise the label leading to self fulfilling prophecy. This may encourage further deviance. For example, drug addicts may turn to crime to support their habit since “respectable employers” refuse to give them a job. Becker argued that once individuals joined an organised deviant group, they are more likely to see themselves as a deviant and act in terms of this self- concept.
Jock young looked at labelling and marijuana users in needigham in London. Young looked at the reasons and influences that influenced the police view of ‘hippies’. The police tended to see hippies as dirty, promiscuous and immature and good for nothing drug addicts. Young argued that the police reaction to hippies could alter and transform the social world of the ‘marijuana smoker’. this meant that police saw