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th SOC212H1 September 12 2012 Deviance In sociology, the term deviance is hard to define because it relies on the definition of other terms. By definition, a deviant act is one that veers away from social norms. But what is considered normal in society? Each group, ethnicity, race, and so on has their own definition for what constitutes normal behaviour. For example, in African culture, it is normal to put spaces in ones ear lobes, but this act is considered deviant in Canada. Whether an act is accepted or not by people in a certain group, they change based on time and place. There are instances where the lines are blurred between what is deviant and criminal, and what is not. For instance, murder is by all means considered a very deviant act in almost all nations, but there are exceptions where murder is considered, more or less, to be a norm. In war, it is a normal occurrence to murder another person, whereas if this act were to be committed outside of the battlefield, it would be anything but commendable. There are also cases of self- defense where murder is not considered to be a deviant act. In Southern México, for example, the person who was ambushed and killed was believe to be the guilty party; it was believe they brought the violence on themselves. The homicide, in this case, was a reaction to a crime, and not a crime itself. As is the case in some south-eastern countries, where it is believe that a rape victim is at fault. In summary, context matters! Deviance can change over time and place, and certain acts, although they may be the same, have different repercussions if they are in different social settings. The definition of deviance cannot be taken for granted as it varies from place to place. Smoking marijuana, smoking in public places, pre-marital sex, and having children before marriage were, at one time or another, believed to be deviant acts. As societies views about these issues change, so too does the definition of deviance. Deviance, therefore, is not a random occurrence. It reflects the interest of the majority of society and the ruling elite. The elitists in society, Howard Becker argued, created and defined deviant behaviours and forced people who complied with these notions into the groups. Certain individuals were labeled based on how they looked, dressed or acted. These people were then shunned by society and cast aside as outsiders. A deviant person, therefore, is one who a label has successfully been applied to. Deviant behaviour, in summary, must be labeled and applied to a certain group of people, and is therefore based on social construction. Joel Best was a sociologist who studied why over the years, Halloween has become such a fearful holiday for parents. His findings revealed that the media elaborates on minor incidents and makes them seem as though they are common occurrences, when in fact they are very rare. Over the span of 25 years, Best found that there were only 76 incidents, and only one of which resulted in death (and it was a domestic assault). The media overplays how dangerous candy can be, how dangerous being out at night alone can be, and how Halloween has become more of a sadist holiday, when in fact, the rate of accidents in very low. Best concluded that Halloween sadism is highly over emphasized in the media. Deviant acts have become associated with Halloween over the years, hence the growing concern for the safety of children around this holiday. th SOC212H1 September 12 2012 There are problems associated with deviance. Deviance can undermine social behaviours. Certain groups are determined to go against the labels that have been applied to them, and rightly so in some cases. Certain studies of deviant groups have taken the information gathered and extrapolated it into a broader framework and the findings have been taken out of proportion. Not all people associated with a deviant group are deviant. For example, many young people and teenagers are considered to be rebellious and deviant, but that does not mean that all are. Another problem associated with deviance is that it is hard to discover. People associated with deviant groups will likely not provide necessary information for a study to be conducted. Many people hide or turn away from these labels and it is therefore hard to conduct studies on people and their behaviours, especially those correlated with deviance. The Five Approaches: In order to found out who is deviant, we must first focus on who defines deviance. As many people are unwilling to admit to their own deviance, there are 5 approaches that are used to ensure accurate results. The 5 approaches are: statistical approach, absolutist approach, legalistic approach, reactive approach, and the group approach. All will be discussed in detail below. Statistical approach focuses on the prevalence of certain behaviours in society to determine if they are normal. It counts the number of people who engage in deviance behaviours per act. The statistical approach is a more objective approach to the subject. Norms and morals do not play a key role in this approach. This focuses on what the majority of people are engaging in. The main advantage to this approach is that it accurately shows that is going on in society, based on normative and non-normative behaviours. It is an accurate way to measure deviance as it is based on a standardized scale. A common question that arises out of this approach is the idea that if the majority of people are engaging in a certain act, then how can it be deviant? An example of this could be texting while driving. Absolutist approach is in place to decide on what is good or appropriate for society and to measure the level of deviance based on the idea of good and bad behaviours. Absolutists declare that x, y, and z are deviant, and anyone who falls into this group is therefore considered deviant. Functionalists use this ideology as well because they believe it establishes boundaries and guidelines. People that fall within these guidelines are there for beneficial to society. The idea shows how society can unite for a greater cause, by which I mean that society works together to develop a set of morals in which good behaviour is determined. Therefore, behaviours that are detrimental to society
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