The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Sociology of deviance

The sociology of deviance is the sociological study of deviant behavior, the recognized violation of cultural norms, and the creation and enforcement of cultural norms. The Sociology of deviance is related to, but also distinct from the field of Criminology.

The field of deviance is primarily defined by the theories used to explain deviance. Listed below are some theories and perspectives used by sociologists to explain deviance:

Labeling Theory

Howard S. Becker, a leading sociologist in this field, theorized in 1963 that "social groups create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance."

Strain Theory

Robert K. Merton discussed deviance in terms of goals and means as part of his strain/anomie theory. He postulated that an individual's response to societal expectations and the means by which the indivual pursued those goals were useful in understanding deviance. Acceptance of both goals and means is defined as conformity (e.g. founding a business to achieve the American goal of wealth and materialism). Acceptance of the goals and rejection of the means is described as innovation, which can be positive or negative (e.g. acquiring wealth by robbery would be negative, while inventing a new business method would be positive). Rejection of the goal and acceptance of the means is ritualism - going through the motions, such as the disillusioned Milton in the movie Office Space (although his ritualism later changed to a mix of innovation and rebellion). Rejection of both the goal and means is retreatism - a homeless person is often cited as an example. Rebellion is a special case, where the individual rejects both the goal and means and actively attempts to replace them with other systems which are more acceptable. Anything other than conformity is a form of deviance from the accepted societal norms of behavior.

Last updated: 05-07-2005 10:33:26
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04