Deviance

1. Deviance includes unconventional beliefs or behavior that violates social norms in the society in which it occurs. While people who express radical beliefs may be considered deviant, so too are people who commit heinous crimes; thus, not all deviance violates criminal law. In this exercise, research InfoTrac College Edition for those deviant behaviors which do not necessarily violate criminal law; search the database using the keywords "deviance not crime." Peruse the selections identified and list the deviant behaviors that are discussed. What social norms do these behaviors or beliefs violate? How serious are the violations? What are the social sanctions imposed on those individuals committing this type of deviant behavior to attempt to induce them to return to normal?


2. Youth gangs constitute a more serious form of deviance, and often involve violation of criminal law. Who are the adolescents joining gangs and why do they join? What types of gangs are there? How different are "girl gangs" from those involving boys and young men? What types of deviance do these gangs perpetrate? What types of deviant crimes? What are the social consequences of gang participation? What happens to adolescents who "age out" of gangs, or otherwise quit? Using InfoTrac College Edition and the keywords "youth gangs" or "gangs," research these issues, and profile youth gangs, using the above questions as guides for your research. Draw on what you learned in the last chapter on "Groups and Organizations" to suggest how gang participation and activity is both deviant (in terms of the dominant group norms) and conforming (in terms of the gang group norms).


3. How is deviance socially constructed? Consider the example of tattoos, which used to be considered completely deviant and which are now becoming quite commonplace among both adolescents and adults. What is there about the phenomenon of tattoos that has made it less deviant and more in line with social norms? Research tattoos in InfoTrac College Edition, looking for the ways that the practice has moved from the status of deviant behavior to mainstream practice. Drawing on the selections found in InfoTrac College Edition, why do you think this has occurred? Using this information, write a brief paper on the social construction of deviance, using the example of tattoos.


4. Deviant behavior is relative; that is, it becomes deviant when it is socially defined as such. Deviant behavior is also contextual; it is deviant within a particular social context. Deviant behavior, then, is usually labeled and defined according to dominant group expectations for what is to be considered as acceptable behavior and belief. Labeling what is deviant and keeping people in line with dominant group expectations is what is known as social control. Use InfoTrac College Edition and the keywords "social control" to answer the question of how social control operates to bring deviants into compliance with dominant group norms. What forms of social control operate in your own life? Do you comply with them? Why or why not?


5. One theory applied to deviance is "labeling theory," which states that social control agents apply a label of "deviant" to certain individuals, who accept the label and then act accordingly. This theory derives from what has come to be known as the "Thomas Theorem," a statement made in 1928 by sociologists W. I. Thomas and Dorothy Swaine Thomas, which said: "If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences." Labeling theory draws on this statement to suggest that if people are labeled as deviant, they will act in deviant ways. Read the following article in the InfoTrac College Edition database, which discusses both control theory and labeling theory as they apply to deviance, and be prepared to discuss how labeling theory plays a role in the social construction of deviance.

Downs, William R., Joan F. Robertson, and Larry R. Harrison. 1997. "Control Theory, Labeling Theory, and the Delivery of Services for Drug Abuse to Adolescents." Adolescence 32(125):1-24. Article A19417313.

What examples of labeling theory as applied to deviance to do you see operating around you? Do you think control theory or labeling theory is a more effective way to discuss deviance?