Sociology of Deviant Behaviour
Dr. Dorothy Pawluch
Part I DEFINING DEVIANCE
objectivist versus subjectivist dichotomy
certain behaviors are deviant
violate social norms
cause social harm
are not “normal”
to better understand these behaviors (causes)
to offer ways of preventing them SUBJECTIVIST (RELATIVIST) APPROACHES
• Deviance as an interpretation
• No act/behaviour is inherently deviant
• Deviance is in the “eye of the beholder”
• Deviance is subjective or relative
o Historical relativity: One time was deviant but now they are not
o Cross-cultural relativity: In one society is deviant, but not in the other
o Situational relativity: Refers to the idea that the same behaviour in one
situation may be considered deviant, but not in the other. Examples:
Murder, self-defense, capital punishment, first-degree murder, abortion,
consumption of alcohol, who’s allowed to consume alcohol, when you are
allowed to consume alcohol. Discipline kids, swatting kids, etc.
o Gendered relativity: Something may be okay for one sex but not the other.
Example: How many sexual partners one has. Girls are called a
slut if they sleep around while men are praised.
Minimal dress: not an issue for men but an issue for women.
• It is all about context – what is or is not deviant
• It is hard to pin down what deviance is
• What gets interpreted as deviant, who gets interpreted as deviant, why?, how?
• We label it as deviant
GOALS: What are we saying?
• To better understand how behaviors and individuals get labeled as deviant
• To better understand how these interpretations/judgments are made
• To better understand the consequences of labeling/ the consequences when they
o What happens when you are being labeled a deviant?
• Difference between objectivist or subjectivist or relativist theory
o Mass murders – sociologists decide that there are too may occurring and
they have to study it/need to do a study on it
o If you ask why people engage in behaviours that’s a subjectivist method.
Taking into account that there is a mass murder and that’s an objective
o Anytime you ask a why question, it’s a subjectivist approach. Anytime
you study how many mass murders there are, objectivist approach.
o Assuming mass murders. As long as you take it as a given that deviance is
o Example: Last year a group studied nursing. A lot of people start in
nursing and then drop out. Why is this? o One study showed that nurses don’t support one another. They also don’t
support young nurses coming into the profession. Deviance within the
profession. Bullying within the profession. There is a lot of it. Objectivist
study but subjectivist study as well.
THEORIES OF DEVIANCE
Biological → Sick Bodies
Psychological → Sick Minds
Sociological → Society BIOLOGICAL THEORIES
“Sick Body” Theories
Theory of Atavism
Cesare Lambroso (1835 – 1909)
William Sheldon (1898 – 1977)
mesomorph Hereditary Theories Wednesday September 25 , 2013 th
Robert Dugdale: He is looking for biological cause, and ties in hereditary, assumes that
if there is a biological cause for deviance, it will pass itself on from one generation to the
- One day Robert was in Kingston, New York and he was in court and there was
one kid that was tried for stealing. He was acquitted because there wasn’t enough
evidence to convict him. His family was there and they looked rough around the
edges. Robert was able to trace this family back all the way to 1875 (to see if
there is a hereditary gene for deviance). Max Juke (1875). He searched through
public health records, newspaper’s, welfare records, etc. Through this meticulous
searching, he was able to identify 709 Jukes.
1875 – The Jukes
180 paupers (25%) of the Jukes lived in poverty
140 criminals (20%) 20% of the Jukes had a criminal record.
-50 prostitutes (40 infected with STDs) Back during this time if you
had an STD you had to report this to the state.
-30 bastards Born out of wedlock and they required the assistant of
* He lays out the history of the Juke family and claims that there is a biological,
hereditary gene for deviance.
A.P. Knight was a communist who lived in Kingston, Ontario – the economic costs of
* Knight argued that not only that poverty was being passed on but imagine the economic
costs of people who are deviant. The state thought that they couldn’t afford to have so
many criminals. Twin Studies
* A lot of them happened in Scandinavia. In this country not too many come in or leave
* The Scandinavia’s like to keep track of people in their country. They started a twin
registry. Anytime twins were born, doctors had to record this. So this enabled people to
studies these twins.
K. Christiansen – 1977
- He identified all the twins that were born from 1870-1970 and went to the Danish twin
registry. He then looked to see which twins were in the crime registry and he identified
7,172 pairs of twins.
Danish Twin Registry
National Crime Registry
data between 1870 – 1970
7,172 pairs of twins
35% identical twins shared a criminal record
13% fraternal twins shared a criminal record
- Christiansen found that 35% of identical twins shared a criminal record. He
concluded that this establishes that obviously there is hereditary information here
that proves there is a connection between biology and crime.
- Go into a prison population, look at their records and see who were raised in an
adoptive circumstance. You would look at their adoptive families and their
biological families and compare their records.. You would expect that the
biological families would have a criminal gene and that it wouldn’t matter how
the adoptive family raised them.
- At this point in time scientists would say that nature raises criminality not nurture
locate among criminals, all adoptees
trace family history
compare criminal records of biological families and adoptive families
There is a greater likelihood of criminality among biological families than among
- Overall, yes you can find some biological but there is also social that are worth
studying. PSYCHOLOGICAL THEORIES
“Sick Minds” Theories
psychoanalytical theory – Sigmund Freud – There is a progression in how our
minds are developed. There are a series of stages that you have to go through to be a
healthy, happy human being. And if any of these stages get messed up, you would deal
with issues. Issues that might result in criminality.
frustration-aggression theory All of us in our lives deal with frustrations. But
those of us who are healthy find outlets for those frustrations. For those who do not have
an outlet, that frustration is going to build and build and then you will act out in that
cognitive theory of moral development Lawrence Kohlberg His theory is
this, that nobody is born into right or wrong. And children do not have the capacity to
think in sophisticated ways. This develops over a series of stages we go through, one of
the early stages is 1) Action-punishment (I should not do something because I will get
punished). SOCIOLOGICAL THEORIES
The Role of Society in Deviant Behaviours
THE FUNCTIONS OF DEVIANCE APPROACH
originated in the work of Durkheim
the “father of sociology”
He was trying to develop a science of society. Why do all of us as individuals
come together to be apart of something called society. Society makes demands of
us, but to be apart of a group is to make sacrifices. Durkheim is trying to
understand what this is all about, why do we put our individual needs aside and
come together in society. For him, he looked at all the societies that we know
about, past and current, and trying to figure out what makes them function so well
or not function so well. What makes for a healthy society?
grand scale theorist. He asks broad scale questions that are at the heart of our
“What makes society possible?”
universal = necessary. Maybe that thing that we find that is universal, is a clue to
what we have to have.
So by starting to understand deviant behaviour, he is starting to figure out society.
And universally, as different as societies are, every society has deviance. This
deviance varies throughout societies. What is universal is the existence of rules,
violation of which creates deviance. Every society has rules, the content of the
rules won’t be the same, but every society ha deviance when you violate those
He says, society creates deviance by creating rules, and the infraction of which
So he would ask why a society would need deviance? He thinks that a society
will generate as much deviance as it needs to contribute in some way to the
smooth running of society. He says you need to have conformist’s in society for it
to work, but a society also needs its deviance.
He wasn’t a sociologist of deviance but we will still talk about him. He was still
What are the positive of deviance? Four functions of deviance that Durkheim
Four Functions of Deviance
• You need to have mechanisms of change in society
• Deviance can act as that mechanism of change
His big question was what makes society possible? One part of it is
group solidarity. In society there is we the good in society group and then
there is the deviant group, the people who mess things up. So for society to exist you need a sense of solidarity among people. People will bond and form
a group. Something that will form that cohesion of society between the ‘we’
group (non-deviant good group). It builds a sense of solidarity between ‘us’
the conformists in society.
Societies are not fixed things, societies come together, decide what the
rules will be, and this sticks no. Society is constantly changing, what we
did in the past isn’t necessarily what we do today.
In deviating and generating a negative response from society,
deviance allows the rest of us to see where those boundaries are set. It helps
us to set boundaries for rules.
Ex: drinking and driving.
Raising the value of conformity
Deviance in society raises the value of conformity. Being a conformist
isn’t always fun. The existence of deviance makes those of us who are
conformists feel good. Society needs for most of us to be conformists and so
deviance makes sure that we have a reward for conformists. They think they
are good and better than the deviant. It allows us to look over at people who
have received a fine, etc. and feel good about our selves and that we don’t
have a fine, etc. This helps to keep conformists, conformists.
No society is static. If a society doesn’t build into itself, the more stuck
in a rut and inflexible it is, the more in trouble it is.
Every society has to have mechanisms wherein it changes
How does deviance work into this? Deviance sometimes precipitates
change. These people get penalized, sometimes to pay with their lives, but in
the process, they force society to change. They generate a debate in society
about the appropriateness of the law. Sometimes in the result of that process
society changes for the better.
Ex: Euthanasia, anti-slavery nd
Wednesday October, 2
• Structural functionalism
o Looks at society as a whole and how it is made up of each of these
component parts of society (schools, etc.) wherein these parts help society
to run smoothly. They work with each other but they are interdependent.
Development of the Functionalist School in Sociology
society is like a machine
with different parts all of which play a vital role. Think of a watch, when
you take it apart there are tons of wheels and parts, etc. They are all there for a
reason and they are all interconnected.
society is like an organism/human body
You have a brain, a digestive system, etc. Everything is there for a reason
and they all work together. If your heart stops working, your body starts to shut
down. Everything is interdepended, they all must work togather.
made up of parts
each part serves an independent function
parts are interdependent
some functions are manifest and some are latent
Manifest: the obvious functions.
Latent: hidden. The less obvious functions. Some people have argued that
a latent function that school serves (for example) is to get people used to the
working world, be on time, be at work for a certain time, etc.
some parts (institutions) are dysfunctional
Where do we fix these dysfunctional institutions so that they don’t bring
Applied to Deviance:
Bare Bones Version of the Functions of Deviance Approach:
Every society needs deviance, but too much deviance is dysfunctional for
But every society needs some deviance
Therefore, every society generates its deviants that it needs
Is deviance dysfunctional or does it serve a greater purpose
Most of us at a manifest level think of deviance as dysfunctional
Latent function deviance is good Example: The Functions of Prostitution
• Wrote a paper on deviance. Talks about prostitution and how society sees it as an
• We always talk about getting rid of it but we never have
• We have also heard that it is a reputable profession
• So Kingsley questions why we haven’t gotten rid of it. Is it really dysfunctional?
Or does it have a latent function?
o Yes prostitution is not dysfunctional, it is functional, it serves a latent
function as it supports the family
o Manifest family is a support system
o If we need good, strong, healthy families… prostitution helps us to get
The first premise that his argument says is it is an economic
transaction with no emotional attachment. Secondly men like sex,
they want it a lot, and it has to be interesting all the time. Women
on the other hand don’t care that much. But if you create
prostitution, it is an economic transaction, and if you need kinky
sex and aren’t getting it at home, you can access a prostitute and
this does not affect the family as there is no emotional attachment.
So family as an institution and prostitution as an institution both
need each other. Family as men need to be happy and they then
stay in their role and prostitutions need the family as they need to
For a lot of reasons, Kinsley’s argument has been dismissed and
criticized. Doesn’t take into account women or prostitutes (could
have been forced into it)
the world’s oldest profession”
dysfunctional or latently functional?
latent function of prostitution: strengthens the family!
how so? Example: Swinging
Diane Denfield and Michael Gordon
• People who are in a committed relationship with each other, come together with
people in another committed relationship with each other and swap partners.
• There are tons of bars and all exclusive resorts that are meant specifically for
swinging, local swinging parties, websites that you can access, basically it is very
popular these days.
• Denfield and Gordon treated swinging as a sub-culture
• They get themselves into an activity that there are all sorts of rules in the culture.
o Some of the rules are: you arrive and leave together. No exchange of
names and phone numbers. Drinking is allowed, but not to excess. If you
as a couple drink to excess then you aren’t allowed anymore. Intimacy, but
no kissing. Can have conversations but not the kind of conversation that is
personal. Only impersonal “great body.”
• As a Structural functionalist looking at this, what function might it serve?
o It keeps up for the desires of exciting sex, and if they do it as a couple then
they don’t threaten their relationship
(AKA mate-swapping or “faithful adultery”)
rules of the swinging subculture
arrive and leave together
no exchange of names, phone numbers etc.
drinking, but not to excess
intimacy, but not kissing
functions of the swinging subculture ANOMIE (STRAIN) THEORY – Monday October 7th
Society is nothing more than the individuals that make up society.
Durkheim didn’t buy that society was just individuals. He believed that there
was a layer to social reality that went beyond the individual. He was out to
establish that there was this layer of reality that couldn’t be understood. He
called this individual layer a social fact. He established the existence of social
facts in a book called ‘suicide’
Roots: Durkheim’s study on SUICIDE (1897)
1. In this book he gathered whatever information he could find about suicide
and he discovers is that there are in fact distinct patterns.
2. He noticed a difference between protestant countries and catholic
countries (patterns), he discovered that there were higher suicide rates for
men than women, higher for unmarried than married, higher for without
children than with children.
Establishing a “social fact”
Patterns in suicide rates across Europe:
Protestant vs. Catholic countries higher in protestant. Why? What
might integration and regulation explain why catholic countries have lower rates.
The work ethic in the Protestant society is too intense. Catholicism is a religion of
community. There is a real emphasis of pulling people in you feel like you are
apart of something. Protestantism formed because they were rejecting the church
they say you don’t need the church, you can have a one on one relationship
with god. This individualism also led to this isolation people more lonely in
Men vs. women Women are more social, women are more open,
women talk about their feelings. Gender expectations by men they are
supposed to be manly, etc. They also have fewer resources to help them
through social support. Most women build social support motions that
help them in times of crisis.
Married vs. unmarried Married people have the support of one another.
With children vs. without children Children have a way of integrating
you into society. There’s a school community that you get hooked into,
extracurricular network that you get hooked into. Through your children’s
activities you get integrated into society.
• Suicide doesn’t occur randomly, every individual has a reason. And this is why
we need to look at patterns.
• You need to look beyond the individual to understand suicide.
• There are patterns in suicide, certain countries have higher rates than others
• Durkheim chose suicide for this reason; taking something so personal and
understanding it at the societal level
• How do you explain those patterns?
o For Durkheim understanding the social integration and regulation in
society helps you explain the patterns. Durkheim’s Theory of Suicide:
Social integration altruistic
Social regulation fatalistic
• Social integration: the degree with which society pulls you in and makes you feel
part of it. Make you feel like you are part of something bigger than yourself. Any
healthy society does this. You need it but if you have too much or too little
integration in society, can be detrimental and leading to suicide.
o Excessive integration – leads to altruistic suicide. Egoistic suicide occurs
when you aren’t integrating people enough (less integration), not giving
them sufficient opportunity to feel like they are apart of something. They
o Altruistic suicide suicide bombings, euthanasia.
o Egoistic suicide (not enough integration) Bullying, depression.
• Social regulation: Durkheim’s thought that life would be unlivable if there
weren’t certain parameters on what to do. Life would be exhausting. If we had
limitless options we would never get anything done; that’s why we have norms
(setting parameters) about what to have for breakfast, etc. So for Durkheim you
need to have clear rules of what it means to be in a society, what you have to do in
society. Without these rules, we are in trouble. But sometimes societies become
overboard and they become too restricted too many rules and regulations.
When society has excessive rules and regulations and individuals are ‘smothered’
by rules, that is fatalistic. When there are no rules and you don’t know what it
means to be in society that’s ‘anomic’/
• Fatalistic too many rules. Examples: post-secondary pressure, oppressive
religions (no wiggle room to live the way you want)
• Anomic suicide when regulation is underdeveloped, don’t know how to live
your life. Examples: A victim of sexual abuse (you feel like you aren’t like
everyone else, you are in a place where no one really shares those experiences and
so you don’t know what to do with your life), someone with mental illness
(especially if they are feeling the stigma of being mentally ill. People aren’t
giving you jobs, etc. because of your illness. Don’t know how to go on), and ex-
convicts (finally have freedom out on the street, don’t know how to survive
outside of prison and we as a society don’t want to help them -> don’t give them
jobs, rent apartments, etc.
Durkheim’s main contributions:
1. Social structure → individual behavior
How a society structures itself influences individual behaviour.
Suicides have to do with how society is organized. Of course
our societies going to have an impact on how we behave. Durkheim was one of the first to suggest this that its just not
psychology its society too.
2. Concept of “anomie”
You want to be apart of the society but you just don’t know
how to function in society for one reason or another.
Anomie Theory Wednesday October, 9th
Robert Merton: he picks up on the idea of normlessness.
“anomie” – unfulfilled goals and expectations
There are expectations but you have no way of meeting those
expectations. You are in a society where it says you need to do A, B, and C to be
apart of society but you have no way to do A, B and C or you don’t know how.
Creating a situation where people were socialized to strive for certain
goals in society (success, doing well in school). This is what it was like in the
1940’s and 50’s. Work really hard, go to school, you will be successful. But if
you actually looked at the picture then of who could actually attain these goals =
very slim. There were some people that could but during this time people were
struggling. Many American’s were in a rut because they wanted to be successful
and attain this goal, but they didn’t have the means to do this. This created a
goals/means gap → strain → adaptation
Your set up to want to reach a goal but you don’t have the means to attain
those goals. So there is a gap between reaching these goals, this creates anomie.
This is also referred to as strain theory.
Society is fixed in that some people can attain these goals, but a lot of
people don’t have those means.
When you find yourself experiencing this strain, you ask yourself what
you are going to do next. This is called the modes of adaptation
modes of adaptation
Below is the modes of adaptation
Second chart is law.
So if you find yourself in a social situation where they follow the cultural
goals and then you have access to the institutionalized means to follow those
cultural goals, you would expect that the individuals behaviour will be
Situation where you buy into the success goals, don’t have access to
means, so then you might be tempted to become a innovator. You can’t do it
legally, you can’t do it acceptably, so you do it somehow creatively. Example:
cheating on a test to be successful.
A mode of adaptation: Ritualism. You are not buying into the goals, but
you are still going into the legitimate means of attaining success. These are people
who are saying, you know what, this is just not possible to attain success, that’s
not going to happen to me, but you still go through the motion to try and attain
those goals (maybe not as dedicated though). Sociologists are divided on whether
this person is a deviant or not. Their behaviour is not deviant but our society expects us not to just act out the behaviour to be successful, but to buy into these
goals as well so they are considered deviant because they don’t buy the goals.
Retreatist Someone who gives up on the goals, they don’t buy into it
any more, and they aren’t even going to pretend to be a conformist. They take
themselves out of this whole thing called society homelessness. Alcoholics or
drug addicts. Dealers are innovators (they are just about making money, don’t
often do drugs themselves) but drug takers would be a retreatists. People with
serious mental illness that retreat into their own mind are retreatists.
Rebellion (it has both + and -) why? The negatives are there because
you are rejecting societies goals and rejecting the means to get there, but unlike
the retreatist they replace societies goals with your own goals and following your
own means to get there. An example of this would be anarchists. Malala girl
who got shot by Talaban for speaking out about women’s rights to education.
Goals, Means, and Adaptations: Merton on Deviance
Cultural Institutionalized Modes of
Goals Means Adaptation
+ + Conformity
+ - Innovation
- + Ritualism
- - Retreatism
+ + Rebellion
• If society creates a goals means gap, it puts people in a position where they have
to adapt, and they rely on deviance to help close this gap. This is anomie and
Variations on the Theme:
Bare Bones Version of Anomie Theory:
strain → deviance
• Worked a lot with juvenile delinquents
• Teens today will be violent for violence sake
• Looking at Merson’s theory, he didn’t understand kids. They aren’t being
innovators, etc. they are just being violent to be violent.
• He thought that Merton started at the right place but for kids it didn’t work.
• Kids don’t feel like their position in society is ever going to change, they are stuck
and frustrated. Some deviance in kids are just frustrated and they take it out on society non-utilitarian deviance. It means nothing. Just violence for violence
sake. The strain they experience is just out of frustration.
• Came along to challenge Merton’s theory. He says that Merton is right, most
deviance starts with this strain ___ going to finish next week
strain status deviance
Richard Cloward and Lloyd Ohlin:
• Who thought Merton was onto something and introduced the idea that yes its true,
we are born into different areas of society and some are born in better parts then
other (better schools, etc. better access to achieving success goals).
• He says your access to your illegitimate means of obtaining success goals are
• Some people have access to the illegitimate means but some people don’t. This
means that you get different kinds of deviance sub-cultures
o You have the criminal subculture (drug-dealing, car theft, etc).
People that have access to illegitimate means, can be taught.
o Conflict subculture (gangs)
Don’t have access to illegitimate means, so they become attracted
to gangs. Move up in the gangs through violence.
o And then Retreatist (double failures)
One of the modes of adaptation – drug addicts and alcoholics.
They haven’t made it in the legitimate world but haven’t made it in
the illegitimate world either. Rejected by the conflict subculture
and criminal subculture. Homeless people.
strain → differential opportunity → deviance
criminal (drug-dealing, car theft etc.)
retreatist (double failures) WHY DON’T I DEVIATE?
SOCIAL CONTROL THEORY Wednesday October 16, 2013
• Why do people deviate?
o Their answer is ‘duh, it’s easy. Deviance is fun.’
• The starting question is not why do we deviate, but why do we conform.
• Deviance comes naturally, the real question is why do we conform?
• We are all born with deviance. We start with the deviant impulses, but society has
to reign us in, society has to make us want to conform
• When we do conform into society, this is where ‘social control theory’ comes in.
We are controlled by society.
• A society that does that right, does induce control over it’s members, has created
conformity and social control theory.
• If a society doesn’t do it right, then we will have lots of criminals
• Deviance then happens when there is a lack of social control over our natural
Bare Bones Version of Social Control Theory:
Deviant → Control → Conformity
Deviant → Control → Deviance
Variations on a Theme:
Containment Theory (Walter Reckless)
• Walter reckless develops the idea that you need social control to develop
conformity (containment theory). Control + containment = containment theory.
• External: exerted from the outside, external from society. Pushing us towards
• Internal: are characteristics that are part of us, our morality, more to do with us.
• External forces that are pushing us towards deviance: socio-economic status, poor
family socialization, the environment you are in, media (video games, etc.)
internal / external forces of deviance
Internal Personal, needs/wants, recognition, low self esteem, poor
impulse control External socioeconomic status, environment you are in (family),
media (video games, etc.)
internal / external forces of control
Internal Fear, strong religious codes, environment where you have
a moral code, need to belong
External Law enforcement, prison, education
Family Ties Theory (Ivan Nye)
• Family is pivotal
• Nye was influenced by the work of Freud, in particular the Id, the Ego and the
• Freud you come into a stage in life where you have developed a healthy
personality made up of three parts, the id, the ego and the superego.
• The ID is what we are born with (doesn’t have any consequences, “I want this,
and I want it now”). You are born with these basic impulses, wants for food,
water, sex, companionship, etc. The point is the ID represents all these basic
needs and it is guided by ‘the pleasure.’ It is not conscious of rules. It doesn’t say
‘you shouldn’t be wanting this.’
• The Superego is the centre of moral code that we basically learn it from our
parents. Society has these moral codes but you have to take them on board if they
are to have any effect.
• The ego balances out the ID and the Superego. He is the middleman of your
personality. He is taking into account the ID and the needs of society. If you give
to much to your ID then you are not attentive enough to the social context around
you, but for Freud it is also a problem if you just want to please society (you are
ignoring your basic needs and the ID), so the ego helps with a healthy personality
in that it balances your personality.
• Ian Nye:
o Internal control: You conform because you have an internal control
that tells you “this is the wrong thing to do.” Moral code.
o Indirect control: You are conforming out of respect for others who
respect this behaviour. You value the opinions of others around you
enough so that you will not do it (something that you want to do that
society doesn’t like). You are controlled by those around you because
you want to please them.
o Direct control: You are a conformist because you are afraid of the
consequences of not conforming. Whatever form that punishment
makes, that’s direct control.
o Legitimate need satisfaction: You engage in conforming behaviour,
not deviant behaviour, because society has taken into account all your
needs, desires, etc., and gives you a legitimate way of meeting those
impulses. Society gives you legitimate ways to meet your needs so that
you don’t have to engage in illegitimate behaviour.
Social Bonds Theory (Travis Hirschi) • It is about society controlling us
• Conventional beliefs: Mainstream definitions of right and wrong in society, then
those mainstream definitions are going to start to control our behaviour. Just like
Ian Nye’s internal control also the same as Walter Reckless’ internal forces of
• Attachment: You decide what reference groups are important to you, you can also
attach to your families, what your families and reference groups think of them
controls them. So you are attaching yourself to other people who views of you are