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Manual Deviant Behavior: Patterns, Sources, and Control

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Current sociological research on deviance takes many forms. For example, Dr. One example involves heterosexual white males who become drag queens on weekends. This behavior represents a luxury, because heterosexual white males can afford to make a temporarily shift, knowing that they may subsequently return to the comforts of their prevailing socioeconomic status. Other examples include performers who may affect deviant behaviors in order to gain credibility with an aim to increasing commercial profits.

Misogyny in Billboards: This billboard has been defaced in order to highlight the sexual norms behind the advertisement. Norms are the social rules that govern behavior in a community. Norms can be explicit such as laws or implicit such as codes of polite behavior. Norms can be difficult to identify because they are so deeply instilled in members of a given society. Norms are learned by growing up in a particular culture and can be difficult to learn if one does not grow up in the same social milieu. The act of violating a social norm is called deviance. Individuals usually have a much easier time identifying the transgression of norms than the norms themselves.

For example, few Americans would think to tell a sociologist that it is a social norm to hold the door open for a fellow pedestrian entering a building if within a particular distance. However, someone might remark that another person is rude because he or she did not hold the door open.

Studying norms and studying deviance are inseparable endeavors. Like deviance, norms are always culturally contingent. To study norms and deviance, one must contextualize the action, or consider the action in light of all of the circumstances surrounding it. For example, one cannot merely say that showing up nude to a job interview is a violation of social norms. While it is usually social convention to show up in some manner of usually professional dress to a job interview, this is most likely not the case for someone interviewing to be a nude model.

To understand the norm, one must understand the context.

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The violation of social norms, or deviance, results in social sanction. Different degrees of violation result in different degrees of sanction. There are three main forms of social sanction for deviance: 1 legal sanction, 2 stigmatization, and 3 preference for one behavior over another. Formal deviance, or the violation of legal codes, results in criminal action initiated by the state. Informal deviance, or violation of unwritten, social rules of behavior, results in social sanction, or stigma. Lesser degrees of social violation result in preference rather than stigmatization.

While society might deem it preferable to show up to most job interviews wearing a suit rather than casual attire, you will likely not be out of the running for the job if you are wearing khakis rather than a suit. However, should you show up nude to most interviews, you would likely be stigmatized for your behavior, since it would be such a drastic departure from the norm.

We say that the norm that governs wearing professional rather than casual attire to a job interview is a folkway because its violation results in lesser degree of social sanction—the development of a preference rather than stigmatization. The norm that governs wearing clothing to most job interviews, rather than showing up nude, is a more because its violation results in a more serious degree of social sanction.

Social stigma is so profound that it overpowers positive social feedback regarding the way in which the same individual adheres to other social norms. For example, Terry might be stigmatized because she has a limp. Stigma attaches to Terry because of her limp, overpowering the ways in which Terry might be social normative—perhaps she is a white, Protestant, or a heterosexual female with a limp.

The limp marks Terry, despite her other traits. Stigma plays a primary role in sociological theory. Erving Goffman, an American sociologist, is responsible for bringing the term and theory of stigma into the main social theoretical fold. Goffman identified three main types of stigma: 1 stigma associated with mental illness; 2 stigma associated with physical deformation; and 3 stigma attached to identification with a particular race, ethnicity, religion, ideology, etc.

The Stigmatization of Homeless People: Homeless people are regularly stigmatized by society for being unemployed while living in the streets. While Goffman is responsible for the seminal texts in stigma theory, stigmatization is still a popular theme in contemporary sociological research. Ultimately, stigma is about social control.

A corollary to this is that stigma is necessarily a social phenomenon. Without a society, one cannot have stigma. To have stigma, one must have a stigmatizer and someone who is stigmatized. As such, this is a dynamic and social relationship. Given that stigmas arise from social relationships, the theory places emphasis, not on the existence of deviant traits, but on the perception and marking of certain traits as deviant by a second party.

Stigma depends on a another individual perceiving and knowing about the stigmatized trait.


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As stigma is necessarily a social relation, it is necessarily imbued with relations of power. Stigma works to control deviant members of the population and encourage conformity. Slacking and Snacking at Work: Misusing company resources to conduct personal business, such as online shopping. As technology has opened up a new space for cyberculture, new forms of deviance and social control have appeared.


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Some individuals use technology as a means of deviating from more traditional cultural norms. For example, in the United States, employees in offices are encouraged to remain productive and efficient, letting their minds wander off-task as little as possible. In the past decade, most companies have installed high-speed internet access as a means of improving efficiency. However, employees often reappropriate the internet access to avoid work by using social networking sites.

In addition to new forms of deviance in traditional cultural mores, new forms of deviance have arisen within cyberculture. New technologies result in new standards of how to engage with them. The behaviors of deviant employees ultimately have a negative impact on the overall productivity of an organization. For this reason, all of these behaviors are considered production deviance. More serious cases of deviant behavior involve property deviance.

This type of deviance typically involves theft but may include sabotage, intentional errors in work, and the misuse of expense accounts. Just as new forms of deviance have come about as a result of technological advances, so too have new means of controlling deviant populations. These methods include installing proxy servers to prevent programs from accessing resources like Internet Relay Chat, AOL Instant Messenger, or online gambling services.

Other practices include strict disciplinary measures for employees found cyberloafing, and carrot-and-stick measures, such as providing free or subsidized Internet access for employees outside of working hours. Technology is used in policing to monitor formal deviants and encourage conformity to the law and social norms. Four Mechanisms that Regulate Our Behavior: Our behavior in our everyday lives is regulated by social norms, law and policy, technology and design, and market forces.

What function does the notion of deviance play in society? Sociologists who identify with the tradition of structural- functionalism ask this type of question. Structural functionalism has its roots embedded in the very origins of sociological thought and the development of sociology as a discipline.

A structural functionalist approach emphasizes social solidarity and stability in social structures. Structural functionalists ask: How does any given social phenomenon contribute to social stability? This cannot be answered without addressing this question of deviance.


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For the structural functionalist, deviance serves two primary roles in creating social stability. First, systems of deviance create norms and tell members of a given society how to behave by laying out patterns of acceptable and unacceptable behavior. In order to know how not to unsettle society, one must be aware of what behaviors are marked as deviant. Second, these social parameters create boundaries between populations and enable an us-versus-them mentality within various groups.

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Deviance allows for group majorities to unite around their worldview, at the expense of those marked as deviant. Conversely, being marked as deviant can actually bolster solidarity within the marked community as members take pride and ownership in their stigmatized identity, creating cohesive units of their own. From a structural-functionalist perspective, then, how does society change, particularly in regards to establishing norms and deviant behaviors?

Deviance provides the key to understanding the disruption and recalibration of society that occurs over time. Some traits will be stigmatized and can potentially cause social disruption. However, as traits become more mainstream, society will gradually adjust to incorporate the formerly stigmatized traits.

Take, for example, homosexuality. In urban America 50 years ago, homosexual behavior was considered deviant. On the one hand, this fractured society into those marked as homosexuals and those unmarked normative heterosexuals. While this us-versus-them mentality solidified social identities and solidarities within the two categories, there was nevertheless an overarching social schism. As time went on, homosexuality came to be accepted as more mainstream.

Accordingly, what originally appears as a fracturing of society actually reinforces social stability by enabling mechanisms for social adjustment and development. Social control theory describes internal means of social control. It argues that relationships, commitments, values, and beliefs encourage conformity—if moral codes are internalized and individuals are tied into broader communities, individuals will voluntarily limit deviant acts. This stands in contrast to external means of control, in which individuals conform because an authority figure such as the state threatens sanctions should the individual disobey.

Social control theory seeks to understand how to reduce deviance. Ultimately, social control theory is Hobbesian; it presupposes that all choices are constrained by social relations and contracts between parties. Like Hobbes, adherents to social control theory suggest that morality is created within a social order by assigning costs and consequences to certain actions that are marked as evil, wrong, illegal, or deviant.

An internal understanding of means of control became articulated in sociological theory in the mid-twentieth century. Nye carried on the tradition of studying juvenile delinquency as a means of theorizing about deviance and social control. Nye conducted formal interviews of young people in Washington State, though his sample was criticized for not including individuals from urban backgrounds and for only selecting individuals who were likely to describe their families unfavorably. Youth may be directly controlled through constraints imposed by parents, through limits on the opportunity for delinquency, or through parental rewards and punishments.

However, youth may be constrained when free from direct control by their anticipation of parental disapproval indirect control , or through the development of a conscience, an internal constraint on behavior. Michel Foucault: In his seminal text, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Michel Foucault identifies a new form of power introduced in the eighteenth century: discipline. How do individuals develop a particular conscience that promotes social adherence?

Deviant behavior : patterns, sources, and control

Foucault argues that the eighteenth century introduced a new form of power: discipline. Prior to this period, government achieved social control by the mere regulation of bodies. Deviants were controlled by the threat and frequent use of the death penalty or indefinite incarceration. Discipline, however, is a power relation in which the subject is complicit. Rather than the state only regulating bodies, the state began to achieve social control by molding the minds of its subjects such that individuals were educated to conform even when out of the direct gaze of the punishing authority.

Simply by living within a particular cultural context, one learns and internalizes the norms of society. Social control is established by encouraging individuals to conform and obey social norms, both through formal and informal means. Conformity is the act of matching attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors to group norms. The tendency to conform occurs in small groups and in society as a whole, and may result from subtle unconscious influences or direct and overt social pressure.

Conformity can occur in the presence of others, or when an individual is alone.

Deviance (sociology)

For example, people tend to follow social norms when eating or watching television, regardless of whether others are present. As conformity is a group phenomenon, factors such as group size, unanimity, cohesion, status, prior commitment, and public opinion help determine the level of conformity an individual displays. It is motivated by the need for approval and the fear of being rejected. Identification is conforming to someone who is liked and respected, such as a celebrity or a favorite uncle. This can be motivated by the attractiveness of the source, and this is a deeper type of conformism than compliance.

Internalization is accepting the belief or behavior and conforming both publicly and privately. It is the deepest influence on people, and it will affect them for a long time. Solomon E. Asch conducted a classic study of conformity. He exposed students in a group to a series of lines, and the participants were asked to match the length of one line with a standard line, a task with a very clear right answer. Only one individual in the group was a true student, however — the rest were confederates, or actors that were pretending to be students, but knew the true aim of the study.

The confederates were instructed to unanimously give the wrong answer matching the standard line with an incorrect line in 12 of the 18 trials. On average people conformed one-third of the time, even in situations where the correct answer was obvious. In human behavior, obedience is a form of social influence in which a person accepts instructions or orders from an authority figure.

Obedience differs from compliance, which is behavior influenced by peers, and from conformity, which is behavior intended to match that of the majority. Obedience can be seen as both a sin and a virtue. For example in a situation when one orders a person to kill another innocent person and he or she does this willingly, it is a sin. However, when one orders a person to kill an enemy who will end a lot of innocent lives and he or she does this willingly, it can be deemed a virtue.

Stanley Milgram created a highly controversial and often replicated study of obedience. In the Milgram experiment, participants were told they were going to contribute to a study about punishment and learning, but the actual focus was on how long they would listen to and obey orders from the experimenter. The participants were instructed that they had to shock a person in another room for every wrong answer on a learning task, and the shocks increased with intensity for each wrong answer.

If participants questioned the procedure, the researcher would encourage them to continue. The Milgram study found that participants would obey orders even when it posed severe harm to others. Milgram experiment advertising: In the Milgram experiment, participants were told they were going to contribute to a study about punishment and learning, but the actual focus was on how long they would listen to and obey orders from the experimenter.

Phillip Zimbardo was the principle investigator responsible for the experiment. Unlike the Milgram study, in which each participant underwent the same experimental conditions, the Zimbardo study used random assignment so that half the participants were prison guards and the other half were prisoners. Likewise, prisoners were hostile to and resented their guards, and because of the psychological duress induced in the experiment, it had to be shut down after only 6 days. Informal social control —the reactions of individuals and groups that bring about conformity to norms and laws—includes peer and community pressure, bystander intervention in a crime, and collective responses such as citizen patrol groups.

The social values that are present in individuals are products of informal social control. It is exercised by a society without explicitly stating these rules and is expressed through customs, norms, and mores. Informal sanctions may include shame, ridicule, sarcasm, criticism, and disapproval. In extreme cases sanctions may include social discrimination and exclusion.

As with formal controls, informal controls reward or punish acceptable or unacceptable behavior. Informal controls differ from individual to individual, group to group, and society to society. In a criminal gang, a stronger sanction applies in the case of someone threatening to inform to the police. Socialization is a term used by sociologists to refer to the lifelong process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs, and ideologies, which provide an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within his or her own society.

Primary socialization occurs when a child learns the attitudes, values, and actions appropriate for individuals as members of a particular culture. Secondary socialization takes place outside the home, where children and adults learn how to act in a way that is appropriate for the situations they are in. Group Socialization: Informal social control—the reactions of individuals and groups that bring about conformity to norms and laws—includes peer and community pressure, bystander intervention in a crime, and collective responses such as citizen patrol groups.

Agents of socialization can differ in effects. A peer group is a social group whose members have interests, social positions, and age in common. It can also be an important influence on a child, as this is where children can escape supervision and learn to form relationships on their own. The influence of the peer group typically peaks during adolescence. However, peer groups generally only affect short-term interests, unlike the long-term influence exerted by the family. Formal means of social control are the means of social control exercised by the government and other organizations who use law enforcement mechanisms and sanctions such as fines and imprisonment to enact social control.

In democratic societies the goals and mechanisms of formal social control are determined through legislation by elected representatives. This gives the control mechanisms a measure of support from the population and voluntary compliance. The mechanisms utilized by the state as means of formal social control span the gamut from the death penalty to curfew laws.

From a legal perspective, sanctions are penalties or other means of enforcement used to provide incentives for obedience with the law, or rules and regulations. Criminal sanctions can take the form of serious punishment, such as corporal or capital punishment, incarceration, or severe fines. Within the civil law context, sanctions are usually monetary fines. When Sam kills Katie, he is a criminal guilty of murder. When the state kills Katie, it is enacting its authority to use the death penalty to protect society. Weber uses this definition to define what constitutes the state.

The formal means of social control and the monopoly on violence serve a similar role in defining the state—they both illustrate the unique relationship between the state and its subjects. The study of social deviance is the study of the violation of cultural norms in either formal or informal contexts. Social deviance is a phenomenon that has existed in all societies with norms. Sociological theories of deviance are those that use social context and social pressures to explain deviance. Crime: The study of social deviance is the study of the violation of cultural norms in either formal or informal contexts.

Social deviance is a phenomenon that has existed in all societies where there have been norms. Four main sociological theories of deviance exist. The first is the social strain typology developed by American sociologist Robert K. Merton proposed a typology of deviant behavior, a classification scheme designed to facilitate understanding. According to Merton, there are five types of deviance based upon these criteria: conformity, innovation, ritualism, retreatism and rebellion.

For instance, individuals in the U. Thus, deviance can be the result of accepting one norm, but breaking another in order to pursue the first. The second main sociological explanation of deviance comes from structural functionalism. This approach argues that deviant behavior plays an active, constructive role in society by ultimately helping to cohere different populations within a particular society. Deviance helps to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable behavior. It draws lines and demarcates boundaries.

This is an important function that affirms the cultural values and norms of a society for the members of that society. Finally, deviance is actually seen as one means for society to change over time. Deviant behavior can imbalance the social equilibrium but—in the process of restoring balance—society will adjust norms. With changing norms in response to deviance, the deviant behavior can contribute to long-term social stability.

Punks: Labeling theory argues that people, such as punks, become deviant as a result of people forcing that identity upon them and then adopting the identity. The third main sociological theory of deviance is conflict theory. Conflict theory suggests that deviant behaviors result from social, political, or material inequalities of a social group.

An example of conflict theory would be the Occupy Wall Street movement that began in the fall of Angered at the extreme inequalities in wealth distribution in the United States, protesters began to organize more communal ways of living in Zucotti Park—near Wall Street in New York City—in order to protest the lavish means of life of those at the top of the socioeconomic ladder. The protesters were deviating from social norms of coherence in order to articulate grievances against the extremely wealthy. Their actions and perspectives demonstrate the use of conflict theory to explain social deviance.

The fourth main sociological theory of deviance is labeling theory. Labeling theory refers to the idea that individuals become deviant when a deviant label is applied to them; they adopt the label by exhibiting the behaviors, actions, and attitudes associated with the label. Labeling theory argues that people become deviant as a result of others forcing that identity upon them. This process works because of stigma; in applying a deviant label, one attaches a stigmatized identity to the labeled individual.

Labeling theory allows us to understand how past behaviors of a deviant-labeled individual are reinterpreted in accordance with their label. Much of their behavior leading up to the school shootings has been reinterpreted in light of the deviant identity with which they were labeled as a result of the shootings. A biological theory of deviance proposes that an individual deviates from social norms largely because of their biological makeup. The theory primarily pertains to formal deviance, using biological reasons to explain criminality, though it can certainly extend to informal deviance.

Cesare Lombroso: Cesare Lombroso argued that criminality was a biological trait found in some human beings. A biological interpretation of formal deviance was first advanced by the Italian School of Criminology, a school of thought originating from Italy during the mid-nineteenth century. The school was headed by medical criminologist Cesare Lombroso, who argued that criminality was a biological trait found in some human beings. The Italian School was interested in why some individuals engaged in criminal behavior and others did not.

Their explanation was that some individuals had a biological propensity for crime. The term Lombroso used to describe the appearance of organisms resembling ancestral forms of life is atavism. He belived that atavism was a sign of inherent criminalities, and thus he viewed born criminals as a form of human sub-species.

Ferri argued that anyone convicted of a crime should be detained for as long as possible. Classical thinkers accepted the legal definition of crime uncritically; crime is what the law says it is. A human universal is a trait, characteristic, or behavior that exists across cultures, regardless of the nuances of a given context. A famous example of a universal is the incest taboo. Exempting a very small number of small communities, all human cultures have a taboo against incest in some form.

Deviant Behavior

As soon as criminals are marked as inhuman or unnatural, the public has license to think of an individual convicted of a crime as completely unlike the rest of society; a whole new range of punishments are authorized, including serious social stigmatization. Italian School biological explanations have not resonated in criminal justice systems in America.

However, some traces still exist. Now, the conversation about crime and biological explanations focuses more on the relationship between genetics and crime than the relationship between phenotypic features and crime. Though the debate has mutated, a biological explanation for deviance and crime is still commonplace. In many ways, psychological theories of deviance mirror biological explanations, only with an added emphasis on brain function. Whereas historical biological explanations, such as those provided by the Italian School, used biological traits from the whole body e.

Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — IV: According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders — IV, the professional manual listing all medically recognized mental disorders and their symptoms, conduct disorder presents as aggressive and disrespectful behavior. One case study of a psychological theory of deviance is the case of conduct disorder. Conduct disorder is a psychological disorder diagnosed in childhood that presents itself through a repetitive and persistent pattern of behavior in which the basic rights of others and major age-appropriate norms are violated.

This childhood disorder is often seen as the precursor to antisocial personality disorder. Compared to normal controls, youth with early and adolescent onset of conduct disorder displayed reduced responses in the brain regions associated with antisocial behavior. In addition, youth with conduct disorder demonstrated less responsiveness in the orbitofrontal regions of the brain during a stimulus-reinforcement and reward task. These psychological symptoms of conduct disorder, both in terms of neuroanatomy and neurotransmitter regulation, help to explain the explanatory link between psychology and crime.

Most norms are supported by reason, almost are considered moral while some have scientific explanations.

What is Deviance?

It depends upon the cultural norms. Thus, the norms of society become unclear and are no longer applicable to current conditions. Deviance promotes social unity. It affirms cultural values and norms. It clarifies moral boundaries. It encourages social change.

It provides jobs for people. It provides a safety valve for society Deviance is a source of harm, injuries, and deaths. It endangers social norms. It is expensive a need to secure the services of policemen, lawyers, psychologist, etc. It creates disorder in the society. Deviance may lead to another deviant act. Drug Abuse — relates to the subjective effects of drugs on the individual.

Sedatives depressant drugs — these are drugs that exert calming effects on the nervous system. Stimulants uppers or pep pills — these drugs increase the alertness and physical disposition of the individual. Narcotics — these are drugs that relieve pain and make one drowsy and relaxed. Childhood trauma 2. Family history 3. Escape from reality 4.

Self — medication 5. To feel high or to get a thrilling experience or sensation 6. Peer pressure 7. Low self — esteem Changes in behavioral patterns 2. Changes in appearance 3. Changes in mood Establish close and harmonious family relationship. Government should promote the physical well — being of the youth by initiating various sports programs of the gross — roots or community level. Government should launch a massive campaign through the use of various media.

The barangay council should establish an anti — drug abuse committee to monitor the activities of the members of the community. The national legislature must enact a laws that will limit the access of citizens to prohibited drugs and other paraphernalia. Educational institutions must constantly monitor the behavior of students and report immediately to proper authorities suspected users of illegal drugs. The church must also do its share by constantly reminding members about the sanctity of human body.

A crime of lesser degree that typically involves punishment by paying a fine rendering community service or getting imprisoned for not more than one year. Crimes against person 2. Crimes against property 3. Related Information. Close Figure Viewer. Browse All Figures Return to Figure. Previous Figure Next Figure. Email or Customer ID. Forgot password? Old Password. New Password.

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