Explaining Deviance and Crime
I have chosen to explain Symbolic Interactionist perspective on deviance and crime. According to the textbook, symbolic interactionists believe deviance is socially constructed because it is in the eye of the beholder. They offer many theories to explain deviance, but two of the best known are differential association theory and labeling theory. An example of Differential Association Theory is when crime runs in families. A learned behavior, Dale “Rooster” Bogle created criminals with his children as young as 10 years old learning to commit burglaries for their dad and the daughters were committing petty crimes to support drug habits. Almost all of Rooster’s clan wound up in prison because they grew up in an environment that taught deviance rather than conformity. Sociologist Edwin Sutherland coined the term differential association, which asserts that people learn deviance through interaction, especially with significant others such as family members and friends. People become deviant, according to Sutherland, if they have more contact with significant others who violate laws than those who are law-abiding (Sutherland and Cressey 1970). Considerable research supports this theory. Almost 47 percent of the state prisoners have a parent or other close relative who has also been incarcerated. Labeling theory is explained as society’s reaction to behavior is a major factor in defining oneself or others as deviant. In some of the earliest sociological studies found that teenagers who were caught in misbehavior were tagged as delinquents. Such tagging changed the child’s self concept and resulted in more deviance and criminal behavior (Tannenbaum 1938). According to Howard Becker (1963), being a deviant or a criminal depends on how others react: “Deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an offender....
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