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Sociology Essay: Deviance

To answer the questions posed it’s necessary to explain each theory separately and compare it with one another. That’s why the main goal of my essay is to speak about such theories of deviance as social control theory, human ecology, differential association, and anomie approach.

At first it’s necessary to speak about social control theory. Social control theory (also known as social bonding theory) according to its definition is theory that is based on methods and techniques used to regulate human behavior in order to lead it to conformity and compliance of the rules of society [2].

Thus, social control theory identifies human behavior corresponding to the social norms. This theory in contrast to other ones is interested not in what makes people commit crimes, but what makes people refuse from committing a crime.

It defines what is right and what is wrong from the view point of social norms and identifies a violation of law. Among the most famous scientists who devoted themselves to the study of control theory is Travis Hirschi. He is the author of the book called the Causes of Delinquency (1969), in which he stated “we are all animals, and thus all naturally capable of committing criminal acts”. Social control theory is also called social bonding theory because it deals with studying of social bonds preventing commitment of crimes by individuals. In its turn human ecology is a branch of sociology which studies the relationship between human beings and natural environment around them. It learns how people and their societies interact with environment, and the results of this interaction. This theory states that competition between people in order to get better accommodation necessarily leads to deviance, caused by disorganization in human society. The followers of this theory are not interested in reasons inducing people to commit or not commit crimes, but are busy with searching for methods that will help sociologists to influence this process. The next theory that is necessary to pay attention to is the theory of differential association introduced by Edwin Sutherland. According to this definition differential association is a term used to indicate that associating with some groups results in learning an “excess of definitions” of deviance, and, by extension, in a greater likelihood that one will become deviant [4]. This theory associates the causes of crime not with biological propensity for committing crimes, but with its social causes. Sutherland’s theory assumes that person engages in deviant activity because of an “excess” of definitions providential to committing a crime over definitions that are not providential to committing a crime. It means that more crimes are being committed when a person is exposed to more information favorable to their committing [6]. The last theory that is necessary to analyze is anomie theory. This theory is also known as strain theory. One of the famous followers of this theory is Emile Durkheim. He used this term “anomie” in order to speak about and define the lack of social control of contemporary human societies, which is the cause of deviance increase. Generally speaking, this theory explains the increasing rate of crimes. To make a conclusion on this point I’d like to say that though all this theories deal with such social problem as deviance, they all have different approach of studies, thus introducing new methods and ways of learning it.

In order to answer the second question it’s necessary to pay attention to Edwin Lemert’s labeling theory and explain it in detail. Labeling theory is a theory that uses labels of people according to others’ and their own perception of themselves, consequently pointing people’s behavior towards deviance or conformity. Edwin Lemert was one the followers of this theory who introduced such terms as primary and secondary deviances. According to his studies primary deviance is a term used for people’s deviant activities that affect personal self-concept in a rather mild way. On the contrary, secondary deviance is described as deviant activity, which becomes a part of the self-concept, and on which a person patterns his/her behavior. Edwin Lemert gives the following examples of primary defiance: truancy, as a variant of delinquency of teenagers, or under-age drinking.

Labels play a very important role in life of people, because sooner or later a person begins to behave himself in accordance with his label. Called a couple of times a “drunker” a person might become an “alcoholic”, because subconsciously he is slowly becomes equated to the label [5]. Very often primary deviance becomes an impulse inducing people to further engagement into constant deviant activity, “by which an individual engages in repeated norm violations and begins to take on a deviant identity” [5]. To make a conclusion on this point it’s necessary to say that this theory has been exposed to criticism lying in the following: major concept of this theory hasn’t been tested enough; it is believed that labeling theory is relativistic and lacks some reasonable explanation [1]. However, it is still believed that it’s a rather qualitative theory used to assess people behavior in sociology.

1. Ian McDermid Gomme. “The Shadow Line” Deviance and crime in Canada.
5. Eamonn Carrabine, Paul Iganski. Criminology: A Sociological Introduction. Routledge, 2004