Deviance Thoery Essay

2154 words - 9 pages

Deviance is described as being behaviour that is not part of the norms in your particular society. This can be different throughout the world because some cultures have very different norms (Stephens and Leach, 1998:17). Most deviant behaviour will attract disapproval from others in the society or punishment from authorities. There are many different types of deviance such as addiction, mental illness, alcoholism, criminality and homosexuality. Throughout this essay six types of theories will be discussed about how and why people are deviant. Four of these theories support the idea of deviance being biological and three support the idea of it being caused by your social construction. Also ...view middle of the document...

Cesare Lombroso was born in 1835. His view on deviance was that it can be biologically explained. He refers to the criminality part of deviance. He was very well known for his theories and studies about the relation between mental and physical characteristics of people. He became famous because he claimed to have found the reason that people were committing crimes. Lombroso believed that different physical appearances were an indication to if you were a deviant or not. Lombroso called these differences “stigma” and said that they showed if you were a criminal or a non-criminal (Sabbatini 1997:1). Lombroso described stigma as things like large jaws and cheekbones, long arms, abnormally big or small ears, weird looking teeth and a general hairiness of the body (Burfeind and Bartusch 2011:119). His ideas came from a man called Franz Gall who created Phrenology, a study that said you were a criminal if you had a large head. Lombroso’s thesis was that you could tell the difference between a criminal and a non-criminal by his physical appearance, that criminals were a different physical type. He used the term “atavism” to describe these people, and said that they were not fully evolved (Burfeind and Bartusch 2011:119). Nowadays, Lombroso’s theories have been scientifically discredited with good reason. Lombroso’s studies did have a positive effect as they gave researchers the new idea of studying the criminal instead of just the crime.

Thomas Scheff is interested in social psychology and emotions. He believed in a very different approach of how a person becomes deviant, to Lombroso. Scheff refers to the mental illness part of deviance. His take on deviance was very much a social constructionist explanation. Scheff believed that if a mentally ill person is labelled they respond to the label and take on the role. The person’s identity will then develop around the label of being mentally ill (Dew 2011:Lecture 8). It does not mean that all of a sudden the person is mentally ill; they are just acting the part. But, if a mentally ill person is not labelled, however, they do not respond and there are no consequences (Reznek, 1991:105).

Howard Becker is another Sociologist that agrees with the theory that “labelling” causes a person to become a deviant. Becker studied at the University of Chicago. He believed that there was no such thing as deviancy and that it only existed because it was a behaviour that had been created in people’s heads. They would then “label” other people, “The deviant is one to whom the label has successfully been applied…” is a famous quote said by Howard Becker (Slattery 2003:134,135). This quote shows his perspective that a deviant only acts as he does because of the label. He says that deviance is an interaction between the person who performs the act and the people who respond to it. Things like killing a person can give you a label as a murderer or a label as a hero (if it was performed during a war). Only some people...

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