Deviance- Theories and research results
Sociological definition of deviance
- Deviance is non- compliance with social norms that provokes a negative social reaction,
and an attempt to control the behaviour and/or punish the perpetrator.
- Crime is deviance sanctioned by law
- Objective and subjective concepts of deviance: moral status accorded thoughts, actions,
characteristics, and persons.
Types of deviance
- Social diversions: Harmless non-compliance to social norms; it does not elicit sanction
- Social deviations: non-compliance to social norms that elicits an informal sanction
- Conflict crimes: non-compliance to law; members of society disagree its seriousness and
the appropriate sanction.
- Consensus crimes: most members of society agree on their seriousness.
- Is theft a consensus crime?
- Is murder a consensus crime?
C.f. Saccoo and Horton: ordinary and extreme deviance.
Theories of deviance
1. Why do some people engage in deviance?
- Structural – functionalist theories: strain, cultural support, differential association
- Symbolic- interactionist: transactional, labelling
2. Why don’t all people engage in deviance?
- Structural functionalist: social control
3. How are behaviours defined as deviant?
- Structural-functionalist: conservative control theory
- Neo-Marxist: radical control theory
- Post-modernist: discourse as means of social control normalized by the powerful;
minority views are unheard.
Strain Theory- Merton
- Lack of fit between the accepted cultural goals and socially acceptable means available to
achieve these goals
- This strain creates four types of coping strategies: innovation (crime), ritualism,
retreatism and rebellion. - Critique: fails to account for middle-class and upper-class crime and deviance.
- A child that is a very bright minded student and is from a family of the working class
would do worse than a rich child that cheats its way threw university.
Cultural support theory- Sutherland
- People become deviant because they are exposed to learning experiences that make
deviance more likely, i.e to a subculture of deviance.
- Rationalisations: deviant people learn to believe that their behaviour is morally
- Knezevic: A weak critique: tautological (values are inferred from behaviour, behaviour is