CHAPTER 6: DEVIANCE
Deviance is framed: shows how children learn to think of themselves as deviant and
bad (or not?) from the society around them.
What is Deviance?
Behavior that strays from the norm
o Not necessarily ‘bad’, ‘wrong’, ‘perverted’, ‘sick’, or ‘inferior’
o A category that changes with time, place, and culture.
From Deviance to Crime
Deviance varies with degrees:
o Folkways to serious infringements of laws.
o An act that violates criminal law and is punishable with fines, jail
terms, and other sanctions.
The Power to Decide What is Deviant
Definitions of deviance often reflect power.
Overt and Covert Characteristics of Deviance
o The actions or qualities taken as explicitly violating the cultural norm.
(On the surface)
o The unstated qualities that might make a group a target for sanctions.
(What’s taking place underneath)
Social Constructionism vs. Essentialism
o Elements of social life – including deviance, gender, race, etc. – are
not natural but are established or created by society or culture.
o There is something ‘natural’, ‘true’, ‘universal’, and therefore
‘objectively determined’ about these elements of social life.
Contested Nature of Deviance
o Is a disagreement among groups over whether or not something is
• Ex. Same sex marriage
Structural Functionalism on Deviance Strain/Anomie Theory (Robert K. Merton)
o Inequality – gap between wants and legitimate gains.
o Strain is produced when social structure prevents people from
achieving culturally defined goal through legitimate means.
o Anomie – condition characterized by a breakdown of norms and
personal disorganization, which may lead to crime.
Merton’s Anomie Theory of Deviance
Robert K. Merton’s Deviance Typology
Conflict Theorists on Deviance
o Inequalities in society as the cause of deviant behavi