Deviant Behavior / The Social Learning Theory

Topics: Sociology, Criminology, Child abuse Pages: 5 (1757 words) Published: April 14, 2014


Social Behavior
Final Paper – SOC 3380

Sherri Nichols


A person would be considered to be acting in a deviant manner within a social setting if they are violating the established social “norm” within that particular culture. What causes a human being to act in certain ways is a disputed topic among researchers. There are three types of researchers that have tried to answer this question. There is the psychological, biological, and the sociological approach. With all of the studies that have been performed, not one group has provided an exact reason or explanation as to why people behave in a deviant manner. Although sociologists’ theories have not been disproved as often as the psychologists’ and biologists’ theories because their experiments are too hard to define and no one definition for deviance is agreed upon by all experimenters (Pfuhl, 1980, p. 40), the sociological perspective has provided the most information concerning why people exhibit deviance. The definition of deviant behavior is considered to be broad with multiple viewpoints which makes it complicated and difficult to find an accurate answer (Pfuhl, 1980, p. 18). This is why this topic is so important in the study of sociology. Sociologists have more information, and therefore may be closer to finding the best explanation for the major contributing factors in explaining the development of deviant behavior(s) within a certain culture. For this reason, the main focus of this paper is based on the sociological stand point of deviance based upon the Social Learning Theory and social reaction(s) to deviant behavior(s).

According to The Social Learning Theory (Bandura, 1977), one person can learn simply by observing the behavior of another person (DeLamater, 2011, p. 10). The family is the major link to socialization in one’s environment (Four Categories of Family Functions that Seem to Promote Delinquent Behavior, p. 1). In the family, divorce, conflict within family, neglect, abuse, and deviant parents are the main determinates for the offspring’s actions or behavior. Early researchers first thought parental absence only affected girls and members of the white population. Modern research finds that the lack of supervision or support of the child’s needs is a link to delinquency in any race. It occurs more in single parent homes because they have a more difficult time providing supervision and support. Poverty can be another reason within the family for conflict because it can lead to both family breakups and delinquency. Children need close and supportive relationships with parents. The inability to talk to parents also promotes deviance within the home. The child may feel that they need to obtain attention elsewhere, thus acting in a deviant manner if their parents are not there to provide guidance and support. Parents can prevent this type of behavior by being competent, providing non-aggressive punishment, and by being supportive in order to build the child’s self-confidence. Family conflict has more damaging effects on children than divorce, whereas parental death has less impact than divorce (Four Categories of Family Functions that Seem to Promote Delinquent Behavior, p. 2). When a parent dies a child at least knows that the parent did not want to leave on his own terms and probably did not inflict any abuse to his or her psyche before the parent passes away. Also, if a child still has contact with both parents after a divorce the less likely the child will feel neglected and feel the need to react with deviant behavior. Family size also leaves an adolescent without the necessary attention they need as an individual. Middle children are more likely to exhibit deviant behavior because they go unnoticed more than their younger or older siblings. The legal definition of abuse and neglect varies from state to state but does, in any form, create...

Bibliography: Becker, H. S. (n.d.). Overview of Labeling Theories. Retrieved from
DeLamater, J. &. (2011). Social Psychology. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Deviance: Behavior that Violates Norms. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Four Categories of Family Functions that Seem to Promote Delinquent Behavior. (n.d.). Retrieved from
Lemert, E. M. (1972). Human Deviance, Social Problems, and Social Control. New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.
Pfuhl, E. H. (1980). The Deviance Process. New York: D. Van Nostrand Company.
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