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Essay/Term paper: Social deviance

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"Social Deviance"
Social deviance stems from the passive-aggressive attitudes parents have upon their children. This pressure, coupled with society's own conformist attitude, causes certain members of the society to drift toward what sociologists call deviant groups. These deviant groups, like punks, hippies or other radical organizations, often fight against a society they deem unworthy of their attention and thus ignore. However Emile Durkheim pointed out that deviance is important for the structure of society (Durkheim 1893,1964). Certain groups deviate from social norms because of both their raising and social pressures at the time while others conform for the exact same reason.
"One of the main reasons people choose to conform to society is that their family responsibilities impose caution. Also the weakening of youth's rebelliousness because the youth has begun to find his own identity (Dr. Spock, 1969)." People who conform to society's wishes may also be greeted with more job expectations and higher wages. Oft times these people will choose a specialist in their field and pattern their behavior after this person. This type of social conformity is extremely necessary to any growing society. Without this kind of conformity the greats of civilization would likely never exist. As each great followed in the footsteps of another, for example Thomas Edison followed in the footsteps of Aristotle, society continues to progress in leaps in bounds. The social order can thus be maintained by social conformity. Conformity also adds to the level of social control a society can attribute to its overly passive citizens. The more conformist and meek a society is the easier it is for the controlling class to subvert the general citizen and force them in to their own beliefs of social control. "The conformist aspect of society seeks to subvert and control the more deviant aspect, taking an approach of them and us (Graffin, 1996)." The socialization process seems to favor those in society who would choose to conform. This makes sense since the socialization process is based upon parents teaching, and rearing, their children to become productive members of society. Almost all societal pressures aid those who would choose to conform to society, so why would anyone choose social deviance as their means of public outcry?
"Just cause you don't understand what's going on, doesn't mean it's wrong!" -Suicidal Tendencies
This statement, among others, can give a synopsis of the entire system of beliefs that social deviants choose. Social deviance has many negatives, which were explained in the above paragraph on conformity, but it also has positives that any society needs to fight apathy and discord. "Deviance can be defined as behavior that differs from the norm, especially behavior and attitudes that differ from accepted social standards (Am. Heritage, 1998)." Two different, yet similar, deviant groups can be used to describe the entire deviant subculture. Those who classify themselves as punks and anarchists are one type and those that spout "free love" and peace (hippies) are another type of deviant subculture. The first group chooses to be social outcasts because of a hatred of norms. This group attempts to destroy society and with it the means for bettering it. They believe in a type of anarchy that stems from loathing toward excepted values and refuse to get jobs or even conform to society in the most basic ways. Hippies on the other hand choose a method of peace and tranquility, believing that people should all love one another and anarchy would be beautiful if everyone could simply understand how to live at peace with themselves and nature. Although both groups believe in anarchy one chooses hate and aggression to show their views while the other uses love and passive resistance to demonstrate theirs. Both of these groups have a very specific and useful function in a society. They both show the need for change in a radical way, acting as a catalyst for social change. Like any deviant they both have a hatred of the social order, that is the order that society chooses to separate one from another. Also the socialization process that parents use to teach their young is ignored in order for the betterment of themselves. The parents are often hated as stated in the poem by Phillip Larkin This Be The Verse. "They fill you with the faults they had, and add some extra, just for you." This poem about how parents unintentionally destroy their own children is another example of punk and hippie belief. However these groups also have their own beliefs about what is a social norm and what is not. For example no self-respecting punk would be caught dead without a large and colorful mohawk along with trash-gathered clothing. These types of social norms permeate even the lowest levels of a deviant group. As to why they choose to disobey the social norms, that is an entirely different question. "Often times deviance stems from early child rearing and, indeed, the parents affect on the child (Dr. Spock, 1969)." The parent controls the growth and development of a child in the early stages almost exclusively. If the parent unintentionally direct the child toward deviant behavior, by being in consistent and uncaring in child rearing, the child is likely to grow up lost until a time arrives where the child finds a group of people with similar dysfunctional attitudes. Another cause is the direct and purposeful hatred toward the deviant by his or her peers. "This hatred often causes the child to think and care about only themselves until they fool themselves in to believing they don't need belief or other people. This type of self-destruction is common among social deviants and indeed expresses much about why youths would choose deviance as a way of life (Klockars, 1974)." The social deviant often conflicts dramatically and violently with the social conformist. Two examples of this are the 60's and, in Britain, the early 80's punk movement. More examples are likely to appear as our society's atrophy spontaneously creates more and more deviant subcultures.
Social deviance is difficult to define, as each group chooses to be known in their own particular way. Social conformist is not as difficult as it is the standard with which we are all identified. Without deviance, however, how we come to know what is normal? The answer to that question is we wouldn't the deviant both makes our perception of society more clear and causes us to react and act according to our beliefs. Either hatred or understanding, the end result is irrelevant it is merely the existence of the action that is important. Thus, society can continue to grow and change thanks to those who would choose deviance over conformity and chaos over order.

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Sociology: A Research Paper on Social Deviance

Social Deviance can be defined as activities and behaviours that are not at par within the known and expected social standards. Social deviance is also known to engender anger and resentment and in many occasions also engenders the desire for punishment usually in a significant segment of a particular culture or society. Most people consider a deviant behaviour to be a behaviour that takes place in a negative manner or that breaks the law. In sociology, however, a deviant behaviour is usually referred to as an ‘unexpected' or a ‘different' behaviour, and that departs from the norms of a particular cultural group or society. Crimes can be deviant or non-deviant depending on a society or a cultural group. An example is speeding which is considered as deviant by most people but in certain states in the United States, it is considered completely normal (CliffsNotes, 2015).

Theories of Social Deviance

There are various theories that have been used in the attempt to explain the different social deviances that have been experienced in the society and different cultural groups. The first theory is Edwin Suntherland's "Differential Association Theory". In this theory, a reference group is formed, and the people within this particular group provide norms of conformity and deviance. This particular group usually influences how people commonly look at the world as well as how they react. This theory applies to many deviant behavioural types such as in Juvenile Gangs. In this situation, the recruited gang members learn how to be deviant to the society and instead conform to the norms of the gang (CliffsNotes, 2015).

The second theory is the Robert Merton’s “Anomie Theory". The theory usually occurs when confusion arises due to conflicting social norms or in the lack of existence of a social norm. This theory has contributed majorly to the explanation of the forms of deviance in many societies and social group. It is particularly very important especially considering that new behaviours come up all the time that have not been placed on social norms already (CliffsNotes, 2015).

The third theory is Walter Reckless's "control Theory". In this theory, the outer and inner controls work against the deviant tendencies. A lot of people in many occasions want to act in deviant ways, but internal forces such as their conscious, morality and integrity and external factors such as family, police and friends hold them back. These people, therefore, end up doing what the society requires from them and not their personal desires such as Politicians (CliffsNotes, 2015).

The final theory is the “Labeling Theory”. This theory concerns the meanings that are driven by people from actions, symbols, labels and reactions of each other. In this theory, behaviours are considered deviant only if the society lists them as deviant without which, they are considered as non-deviant. Examples of labeled persons include sex offenders, alcoholics, criminals and prostitutes (CliffsNotes, 2015)


Non-Criminal to Criminal

A major behaviour within the society and most cultural groups that was considered non-criminal earlier but is now a criminal offense is slavery. Slavery in the United States was legal in the 18th and the 19th century. It was practiced in the British North of America during the early colonial periods and was accepted by all the 13 colonies, which were present at the time of the declaration of independence in 1776. The Unites States government shipped their slaves from the continent of Africa. Most of the slaves in the United States government were African Americans, and they were forced to work in the plantations and in production companies as gardeners and blacksmiths respectively (History, 2015).

In the current world however after independence of the African countries the act of Slavery has stopped and is considered as a very big criminal act. Slavery is considered as an act that is morally wrong and also against the law. The United States government has illegalized these activities, and heavy penalties are given to any individual who exercises slavery of any kind. However, this act is still going on among world's biggest gangs with sex slavery topping the list (History, 2015).

This behaviour reflects the "Labeling Theory". This is because the United States government as illegal has labeled the act of slavery. Also, this behaviour partly depicts the "Differential Association Theory" in which the people who still take part in actions of slavery are gangs. These gangs operate under their own social norms, and the gang members have been incorporated to believe in these norms. This is regardless of whether the other society views them as wrong or not. These gangs have in the current world been seen to manage especially prostitution in various locations (CliffsNotes, 2015).

Criminal to Non-Criminal

A major act that was a crime in the past but has now been considered as a non-criminal act is killing in self-defense. The act of killing has generally been considered as a great criminal offense in a number societies and cultural groups. However, recent developments argue that killing in self-defense is not a crime. This has been adopted by several law courts and a lot of people who are accused of murder while in fact it was an act of self-defense have been let out on bail or given light charges (Findlaw, 2015).

Initially, murder was murder and whoever committed it and for whatever reasons faced heavy penalties. It has been listed by the laws in many countries, the United States of America inclusive as "Justifiable Homicide". Currently, killing is self-defense is universally accepted principle that a person is allowed to protect him or herself even if it means committing a crime such as murder (FindLaw, 2015).

This behaviour also brings out the aspect of “Labeling Theory”. This is because the law has listed that killing in self-defense is a justifiable homicide. A part of this behaviour also depicts the control theory especially inner control. The people who commit these crimes of killing in self-defense in a number of occasions usually have a feeling that they will be in greater danger, hurt or killed if they don’t kill their attackers first (CliffsNotes, 2015).


Different societies and cultural groups have different norms that they live by. These norms usually vary from community to community depending on social, political and religious backgrounds. An action that may be considered to be in agreement with one particular society may be deviant for another society's norms. Some behaviours also have not been listed within the social norms and are guided by the internal controls of the people who take part in them. The social norms are generally necessary for the smooth operations of the activities within the society.


CliffsNotes. (2015, May 27). Sociology: Theories of Deviance. Retrieved from
FindLaw. (2015, May 27). Self-Defense Overview. Retrieved from
History. (2015, May 27). Slavery In America. Retrieved from


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