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Sociological Theories of Deviance

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Western University
Sociology 3321F/G

Sociological Theories of Deviance • Symbolic Interactionist Perspective 1) Cultural Transmission Theory 2) Control Theory 3) Labeling Theory • Functionalist Perspective 1) Structural Strain Theory 2) Illegitimate Opportunity Theory • Conflict Perspective 1) Social Inequality and Deviance 2) Capitalism and Deviance Differential Association or Cultural Transmission • Differential association refers to how some people -- those having closer contact with a subculture -- come to reflect the deviant norms by which they are socialized. • Differential association theorists claim that subcultures may teach norms for behavior defined as deviant by the larger culture. Labeling Theory • Labeling theory states that deviance is a socially constructed process in which social control agencies designate certain people as deviants, who, in turn, come to accept the label placed upon them and begin to act accordingly. • Labeling theorists focus on the process of becoming deviant. Behavior is not deviant in and of itself; rather, it is defined as such by a social audience. • Primary deviance – the initial act of rule breaking • Secondary deviance – occurs when a person who has been labeled a deviant accepts that new identity and continues the deviant behavior Control Theory • Control theorists take deviance for granted and concentrate instead on explaining why people conform. • Control theorists argue that conformity occurs when people have more to gain by it than they do by deviance; that is, they have a stake in conformity. • According to
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