Labeling Theory

Topics: Sociology, Criminology, Sociological terms Pages: 2 (546 words) Published: November 26, 2005
Labeling Theory

Labeling Theory is a sociological approach to explaining how criminal behavior is perpetuated by the police and others. This theory looked at how labels applied to individuals influenced their behavior; particular negative labels (such as "criminal" or "felon") promote deviant behavior (online). Emphasis is being placed on rehabilitation of offenders through an alteration of their labels. Labeling theory has been accused of promoting impractical policy implications, and criticized for failing to explain society's most serious offenses ( In 1958, James F. Short Jr. and F. Ivan Nye published an article called self-report, which studied delinquency. The study used a question and interview techniques that asked juveniles what sort of illegal acts they had committed (McShane, & Williams III 2nd Ed.). Howard Becker approach to the labeling theory was described in his book, Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance (1963), views deviance as the creation of social groups and not the quality of some act or behavior (online). Becker noted that deviance is not a quality of the person but it depends on the reaction of others, which means that no one is deviant and no action is deviant unless it's specified by society. Becker criticized other theories of deviance for accepting the existence of deviance and by doing so; accept the values of the majority within the social groups. Becker said "studying the act of the individual is unimportant Labeling Theory 2

because deviance is simply rule breaking behavior that is labeled deviant by persons in positions of power (online). Becker called this master status. Some examples of master status are: A person may be a spouse, parent, and gardener, yet if a person is also a physician; the master status is "doctor. The important factor in master statuses is that they tend to be stereotyped. Another master status is gender. If the physician is a female, most would claim that her...
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