102-06: Week 7 – Assignment: Unit 7 Essay May 6, 2010Patricia PryorStudentKaplan University Social Reaction Theory, also known as Labeling Theory, was developed during the late 1930’s (Wellford, 1975). Social Reaction Theory states that when a person commits a crime, they are then perceived to be a criminal. Society labels them as such, and this person will begin to believe it as truth. The theory explains that when a person holds the belief that they are a criminal, they are then inclined to continue with criminal behavior. <br />Social Reaction Theory was founded by Erwin Lemert, who theorized that events leading to social deviance happen in two stages: primary deviance, and secondary deviance. Primary deviance is defined as the initial criminal action in which the individual is labeled as a criminal, but has yet to receive this label. An individual will remain in a state of primary deviance as long as this person is capable of rationalizing the title through an understanding that it is the result of a socially acceptable role. An example may be a prostitute who is legally employed in the state of Nevada. Although society may see this role as being deviant, she likely views her behavior as an acceptable source of income.<br />Secondary deviance occurs when the accused is labeled as a criminal, usually formally through the legal system, or possibly by family and friends. This results in the individual becoming withdrawn from their traditional role in that family or in society. Labeling may occur when the individual's family members begin to withdraw from this person's life, to detach themselves from the person that has committed a crime. This will result in the individual accepting the label for him or herself. Lemert explains the reasoning, that "
This becomes a means of defense, attack, or adaptation to the problems caused by societal reaction to primary deviation (Lemert, 1951)"
. An unfortunate result is that the person who committed the crimes becomes victimized by these labels, which are used through the many stages of the criminal justice system. From the initial stages where law enforcement is involved, through the latter stages in a courtroom, in front of a judge and jury, labels are applied to identify the individual involved with criminal activity. Beyond these events, labeling can occur at earlier stages in life. When a parent describes a child as problematic, a similar effect can be observed. This can create emotional distance between the parent and the child, and may promote the child to have poor self-esteem, which in turn can cause an increase in delinquent behaviors. <br />Since the 1950’s, learning theories have influenced our society in the ways that we treat offenders, especially those that society feels can be reformed (and in particular, youthful offenders). Many programs have been developed utilizing the principles in Social Reaction Theory. Today, there are many start-up programs that focus on this theory. These programs help to create a productive member of society in lieu of a long-term offender, using ideas that minimize the stigma that is created in today’s society; and to show that a criminal (or potential criminal) is capable of positive change. This illustrates to an individual that he or she has a fair chance throughout his or her life.<br />Reference<br />Siegal, Larry J. (2009). Criminology, the Core, University of Massachusetts, Lowell,<br />Social Reaction (Labeling) Theory: Pros, Cons, and Effects On (2008) Retrieved from http://www.articlealley.com/article_524965_50.html)<br />