Deviance In Sociology Essay Examples

The approval of a certain behaviors depends on the societal culture, which essentially gives approval, or otherwise, to certain behavior. Consequently, it is obligatory to delineate deviance as behavior that violates some of the social norms, including some of the rules that follow formal enactments. To consider a behavior as a deviant behavior, it is necessary to take into account the societal norms. Newman (2011) categorizes deviant behavior as deeds that assault the morals and norms of the society, of which the society must not endorse (Newman, 2011). Some of the behaviors that society does not approve of are crime related, which are not necessarily deviant, but do not conform to the norms of society. Some of the deviant behaviors are manipulative in nature, others elicit mistrust between the people that interact and others are devious, but not criminal.

In relation to the United States’ society, it is possible to consider behavior like suicide, abortion, bystander apathy, wearing clothes meant for the opposite sex or picking your nose then wiping the nasal mucus on the wall as deviant. These behaviors are considered deviant since they do not conform to the expectation of the American society. When society considers the behavior of an individual as deviant, the consideration traps the person through some condemnations or labels the society attaches to them. In order to have an adequate understanding of deviance, the paper will focus on the behavior of nose picking, then wiping the nasal mucus on the wall. The paper will analyze some of the elements of the behavior in relation to labeling theory, while taking a constructionist approach in the analysis.

Nose picking is not a strange habit to the society since quite a number of people engage in it. However, when an individual goes to the extent of wiping the nasal mucus on the walls of a building, which might be a public utility building, then this behavior is a deviation from the expectations of the society. This behavior might offend some of the people witnessing the act, which is also an unhygienic behavior. The offended might act by condemning the behavior since it does not conform to their expectation. According to the expectation of the society, an individual should be able to use a handkerchief to pick the nose, which is the culturally acceptable and hygienic behavior that is recognizable in the American society.

Violations of some of the societal norms are punishable legally, with some of the institutions involved including correctional institutions, the judiciary and the police (Goode, 2011). However, the involvement of such institutions is applicable when the behavior is criminal in nature. For the behavior in focus, correcting the offender might be possible through condemning the act verbally, which is a consideration that seeks to prevent the continuity of the behavior. The absence of societal laws that prevent this behavior is likely to subject the society at a state of disarray, which means that deviating from the norms of the society by participating in such an act might affect the population negatively. This gives an impression that the societal culture does not approve of this behavior, thereby considering it as deviant behavior.

With the consideration that the analysis of the paper takes the constructionist approach, it is vital to take into account the three assumptions of the approach. The assumptions include relativism, subjectivism and voluntarism. The relativist view of the constructionist approach holds that the deviant behavior does not exhibit intrinsic characteristics, unless there are thoughts that these characteristics exist (Goode, 2011). Consequently, when an individual picks his or her nose, then wipes the nasal mucus on the wall, the behavior is not inherent in the individual. This means that the individual’s action might appear deviant since other people refer to it as such. For this reason, people against such a behavior will assign a label to it, which discourages others from engaging in such behavior.

On the other hand, voluntarism holds that when a person engages in deviant behavior, he or she does so willingly. This assumption takes recognition of the fact that factors that might influence the individual to act in defiance to the societal norms are neither from the internal nor external environment. It is through the will of the individual that he or she will behave in such a manner. Consequently, subjectivism portrays the action as subjective in nature. The aim of subjectivism is to have an understanding of the personal view of the deviant in order to have the knowledge of how they see the world (Goode, 2011). When the deviant picks his or her nose and wipes the mucus on the walls, it is necessary to have an understanding of how they view the action through getting their personal view on the act. This might give some information on their perception of the same.

When relating the behavior in focus to labeling theory, it is necessary to consider the fact that this behavior is applicable as a deviant behavior only when the society labels it as deviant. The members of the society responsible for interpreting specified behaviors in the society as deviant attach the label to the corresponding individuals to determine the feature between deviance and non-deviance. In this case, the labeled person is the one who engages in the deviant behavior. Social research has relative indications that the individuals with negative labels on regular occasions have exposure to lower self-image and may reject themselves because of the label. Giving a label to such behavior is one way of ensuring the continuity of the societal culture, which is vital for curbing any form of divergence to the societal norms.

The aspect of sociology focuses on the perspective of societal cause and effects of deviance. Labeling theory is applicable in delineating the causes of such behavior with a process by which both formal and informal labels affect behavior over time through self-concept (Browning, 2008). The theory suggests that the imposition of deviant behavior emanates from social group constructs, which define the norms and values that guide behavior. From the assumptions of the theory, it is possible to label people who violate the norms as outsiders. The labeling of an individual as a deviant is possible only if there is a reaction from the society that negates the behavior (Browning, 2008)…

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Sociology: A Research Paper on Social Deviance

Social Deviance can be defined as activities and behaviours that are not at par within the known and expected social standards. Social deviance is also known to engender anger and resentment and in many occasions also engenders the desire for punishment usually in a significant segment of a particular culture or society. Most people consider a deviant behaviour to be a behaviour that takes place in a negative manner or that breaks the law. In sociology, however, a deviant behaviour is usually referred to as an ‘unexpected' or a ‘different' behaviour, and that departs from the norms of a particular cultural group or society. Crimes can be deviant or non-deviant depending on a society or a cultural group. An example is speeding which is considered as deviant by most people but in certain states in the United States, it is considered completely normal (CliffsNotes, 2015).

Theories of Social Deviance

There are various theories that have been used in the attempt to explain the different social deviances that have been experienced in the society and different cultural groups. The first theory is Edwin Suntherland's "Differential Association Theory". In this theory, a reference group is formed, and the people within this particular group provide norms of conformity and deviance. This particular group usually influences how people commonly look at the world as well as how they react. This theory applies to many deviant behavioural types such as in Juvenile Gangs. In this situation, the recruited gang members learn how to be deviant to the society and instead conform to the norms of the gang (CliffsNotes, 2015).

The second theory is the Robert Merton’s “Anomie Theory". The theory usually occurs when confusion arises due to conflicting social norms or in the lack of existence of a social norm. This theory has contributed majorly to the explanation of the forms of deviance in many societies and social group. It is particularly very important especially considering that new behaviours come up all the time that have not been placed on social norms already (CliffsNotes, 2015).

The third theory is Walter Reckless's "control Theory". In this theory, the outer and inner controls work against the deviant tendencies. A lot of people in many occasions want to act in deviant ways, but internal forces such as their conscious, morality and integrity and external factors such as family, police and friends hold them back. These people, therefore, end up doing what the society requires from them and not their personal desires such as Politicians (CliffsNotes, 2015).

The final theory is the “Labeling Theory”. This theory concerns the meanings that are driven by people from actions, symbols, labels and reactions of each other. In this theory, behaviours are considered deviant only if the society lists them as deviant without which, they are considered as non-deviant. Examples of labeled persons include sex offenders, alcoholics, criminals and prostitutes (CliffsNotes, 2015)


Non-Criminal to Criminal

A major behaviour within the society and most cultural groups that was considered non-criminal earlier but is now a criminal offense is slavery. Slavery in the United States was legal in the 18th and the 19th century. It was practiced in the British North of America during the early colonial periods and was accepted by all the 13 colonies, which were present at the time of the declaration of independence in 1776. The Unites States government shipped their slaves from the continent of Africa. Most of the slaves in the United States government were African Americans, and they were forced to work in the plantations and in production companies as gardeners and blacksmiths respectively (History, 2015).

In the current world however after independence of the African countries the act of Slavery has stopped and is considered as a very big criminal act. Slavery is considered as an act that is morally wrong and also against the law. The United States government has illegalized these activities, and heavy penalties are given to any individual who exercises slavery of any kind. However, this act is still going on among world's biggest gangs with sex slavery topping the list (History, 2015).

This behaviour reflects the "Labeling Theory". This is because the United States government as illegal has labeled the act of slavery. Also, this behaviour partly depicts the "Differential Association Theory" in which the people who still take part in actions of slavery are gangs. These gangs operate under their own social norms, and the gang members have been incorporated to believe in these norms. This is regardless of whether the other society views them as wrong or not. These gangs have in the current world been seen to manage especially prostitution in various locations (CliffsNotes, 2015).

Criminal to Non-Criminal

A major act that was a crime in the past but has now been considered as a non-criminal act is killing in self-defense. The act of killing has generally been considered as a great criminal offense in a number societies and cultural groups. However, recent developments argue that killing in self-defense is not a crime. This has been adopted by several law courts and a lot of people who are accused of murder while in fact it was an act of self-defense have been let out on bail or given light charges (Findlaw, 2015).

Initially, murder was murder and whoever committed it and for whatever reasons faced heavy penalties. It has been listed by the laws in many countries, the United States of America inclusive as "Justifiable Homicide". Currently, killing is self-defense is universally accepted principle that a person is allowed to protect him or herself even if it means committing a crime such as murder (FindLaw, 2015).

This behaviour also brings out the aspect of “Labeling Theory”. This is because the law has listed that killing in self-defense is a justifiable homicide. A part of this behaviour also depicts the control theory especially inner control. The people who commit these crimes of killing in self-defense in a number of occasions usually have a feeling that they will be in greater danger, hurt or killed if they don’t kill their attackers first (CliffsNotes, 2015).


Different societies and cultural groups have different norms that they live by. These norms usually vary from community to community depending on social, political and religious backgrounds. An action that may be considered to be in agreement with one particular society may be deviant for another society's norms. Some behaviours also have not been listed within the social norms and are guided by the internal controls of the people who take part in them. The social norms are generally necessary for the smooth operations of the activities within the society.


CliffsNotes. (2015, May 27). Sociology: Theories of Deviance. Retrieved from
FindLaw. (2015, May 27). Self-Defense Overview. Retrieved from
History. (2015, May 27). Slavery In America. Retrieved from

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