Introduction to deviance
● Deviance is any behavior that violates cultural
– formal deviance – violation of formally enacted laws
– informal deviance – violations of informal social
norms, norms that have not been codified into law
Theories of Deviance
● Why do people engage in deviance acts?
● Theories offer explanations.
● boys with conduct disorder have differences in
their brain structure and that those differences
exist during childhood and adolescence.
● These differences likely contribute to their
deviant behavior, but whether or not these
differences exist before deviant activities is
● deviant behavior plays an important role in
society for several reasons
– deviance helps distinguish between what is
acceptable behavior, and what is not
– deviant behavior can also promote social unity, but
it does so at the expense of the deviant individuals
– deviance is one means for society to change over
● Deviance and criminal behavior can also be tied
to power and resource imbalances in society.
● Individuals may engage in deviant or criminal
behavior because they lack the physical
resources necessary to survive, committing
property crimes like thefts or selling drugs in
order to procure such resources.
● The criminal justice system is also structured to
reflect differences in power and property.
● individuals become deviant when two things
– a deviant label is applied to them
– they adopt the label by exhibiting the behaviors,
actions, and attitudes associated with the label
● Crime statistics are usually data collected by
governments for the reporting of incidents of
● The criminal justice system in the U.S. has a significant impact on the life chances
of racial and ethnic minorities, in particular, people of African descent.
● Serving time in prison has become a normative event for young, lower-class
● The average African-American, male, high-school dropout born in the 1960s in the
U.S. had a nearly 60% chance of serving time in prison by the end of the 1990s.
● A disproportionate percentage of African-Americans are in prison; African-
Americans make up 12% of the U.S. population but nearly 46% of prison inmates.
● Social control refers to the various means used by a
society to bring its members back into line with cultural
norms. There are two general types of social control:
– formal social control refers to components of society that are
designed for the resocialization of individuals who break formal
rules; examples would include prisons and mental health
– informal social control refers to elements of society that are
designed to reinforce informal cultural norms; examples might
include parental reminders to children not to pick their nose.
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