Deviance is a term that is used to describe disobedience and violated norms of behavior of a society. For instance, in Canada, gamblers, drug and alcohol addicted, and mentally abnormal people represent the types of deviants. Coming late for work or class as well as dressing too extraordinary are also referred to as deviance. According to sociological definition, all people in nowadays world are deviant to some extent (Andersen, & Taylor, 2009).
Deviance can be positive as well as negative. Negative deviance tends to refuse appropriate and accepted norms of behavior. Moreover, people can also misunderstand, disagree, or simply be unaware of these norms. To the contrary, there is another kind of deviance. Positive deviance includes redundant conformity to norms of behavior, which usually leads to imbalance and excess of perfectionism. Indeed, positive deviants idealize the standards, which can result in constant disparity and discontent of behavior (Berry, Ones, & Sackett, 2007).
There exist various theories about the causes of origin of deviant behavior, such as psychological explication, biological explication, and sociological explanation. In this essay, it is a matter of sociological explication which is going to be presented by means of analysis and descriptive method of research.
To begin with, it is vital to mention Robert K. Merton and his structural strain theory which he had established as a growth of the functional perspective on deviance. This theory explains deviance as an imbalance and fracture between cultural aims and the ways in which people maintain those aims. In accordance with the structural strain theory, communities are distinguished by culture as well as by social structure. While culture establishes aims for human in society, social structure provides (or does not provide) ways for people to maintain those aims.
In well-organized societies, people follow appropriate and admissible methods in order to attain the aims which society forms. Consequently, the aims and the methods which society uses are in balance. However, the imbalance can appear in cases when the aims and the methods break the usual norms. As a result of it, the deviant behavior occurs (Crossman, 2012).
Robert K. Merton also classified people into five groups according to their connection to the aims and the methods of achieving those aims:
- Ritualists. They do not believe in the established cultural aims, however, they accept and even follow the ways of achieving those aims.
- Innovators. They believe in cultural aims of society, nevertheless, they refuse to achieve those aims. They usually ignore the established methods and follow those that are considered to be criminal ones.
- Retreatists. These are people who refuse to follow both cultural aims and methods of maintaining those aims. They tend to avoid them and even do not replace established aims and methods with their own.
- Rebels. They tend to refuse following both aims and methods; however, they offer to change them with new ones in order to improve the situation.
- Conformists. They are people who accept both established cultural goals and standard methods for maintaining those aims. Familiarly, they comply with the rules of society (Crossman, 2011).
The next theory of origin of deviance that is worth mentioning is called labeling theory. Moreover, it is one of the most crucial means of comprehension of deviant and criminal behavior within sociology. Labeling theory adherents assume that there are no acts that are criminal. Definitions of criminality are fixed by means of formulation of laws and the explanation of those laws by special institutions such as police or court. Thus, deviance is not a number of features of groups or individuals; however, it is an interaction amidst deviants and non-deviants and the conditions under which criminality is explicated. Many rules that interpret deviance are broken by men for women, by older for younger, by wealthy for poor, and by ethnic majority for minority. It means that those who are more powerful dominate over those who are weak, and in such a way they create deviant labels.
One more theory was developed by Travis Hirschi, and it is called social control theory. It presumes that deviance appears when social relationships in groups are weakened. In accordance with this theory, people pay attention to everything what others talk and think about them. However, when the bond is broken, social connection fails to be appropriate, and then deviance occurs. This theory also claims that most people may experience some signal towards deviant behavior, however, in some cases, their bonds with social standards secure them from taking part in deviant behavior (Andersen, & Taylor, 2009).
Furthermore, Hirschi combines conformity in four various kinds of social control, which are:
- Attachment. Determined and powerful social attachment supports conformity. To the contrary, inappropriate relationships within family circle, school, or friends lead to deviance.
- Opportunity. When a person has a great approach to legal opportunity, he/ she has a big benefit from conformity. Contrariwise, somebody who has little faith in future is more likely to be involved in deviance.
- Involvement. Being fully involved into legal activities like working, studying, or playing sports, one can prevent deviance. And conversely, those who do not have any serious purpose in their life can be easily involved into deviant activities.
- Belief. Intense belief in traditional morality and regard for those who are in charge keep the tendency toward deviance under control. To the contrary, those who do not realize this rule and who are unsupervised are more likely to resort to deviance. An additional theory belongs to Richard Quinney, and it is named conflict theory. According to Quinney, the higher class of society is considered to be a deviant due to its threatening behavior. Hence, the lower class is given limited opportunity, and that is why it is forced into deviant behavior. Moreover, in order to secure themselves, higher class establishes an ideology that makes deviance an issue in the lower class. According to the conflict theory, law compulsion is directed to the types of crimes that are committed by lower class. Additionally, people who have less power tend to commit less crime than those who are in power.
To base oneself upon the structural-functional analysis, Emile Durkheim made a conclusion that there is nothing unusual in deviance. Moreover, he affirmed that deviance is a key element of social structure and performs few pivotal functions:
- Deviance declares cultural ethics and standards. Being moral individuals, people should select some behavior over others. However, any definition of morality lies in an opposing idea of immorality: there is no good without evil, and there is no justice without crime. That is why deviance explains and supports morality.
- Replying to deviance explains moral boundaries. When people call someone as deviant, they automatically make a boundary amidst right and wrong. For instance, the universities draw the boundary between those students who are honest and those who usually cheat on exams.
- Replying to deviance joins people. Generally, people respond to a serious deviance with a huge scandal. Durkheim explained that they reaffirm the moral connection amidst them. For instance, after the attack on September 11,2001, people all over the United States combined in order to secure the country and themselves.
- Deviance supports social changes. Deviant people make the society think about some alternatives, encouraging some changes within the moral boundaries. Those who are deviant today can become moral personalities tomorrow. Indeed, everybody recollects the situation with rock-and-roll, which was considered to be immoral in 1950s. Surprisingly enough, in a few years it became a multibillion-dollar industry (Henle, 2005).
In order to prevent deviance all over the world, all nations have to give promotion to stability, order, and assurance in social life. People must be confident that every driver will stop for red lights, shop assistants will not sell spoiled products, children will not shoplift, those who are in power will not humiliate the weak and so on. The only way to predict all this is to establish the social control – an appropriate way to build conformity to rules and standards. There are two types of social control: external and internal.
External social control is rested upon social sanctions, so called recompense and penalties, which were created to reach the eligible behavior. Positive sanctions, such as promotions, grants, and bonuses, are utilized to support conformity. To the contrary, negative sanctions, such as fines, dismissals, rebukes, or imprisonments, tend to prevent socially inappropriate behavior.
Internal social control is based on the individual. It is evolved within the socialization process. One can practice internal social control in cases when he/ she thinks it is the right thing to do, and vice versa, he/she does not do anything, since there is no need to do it. For instance, the vast majority of people do not commit crime. They avoid doing this not because they are afraid of being caught, but because they realize that this is wrong. The standard against crime became a part of them. This is called the internalization of social standards (Zerihun, 2005).
All in all, deviance is grounded upon maintenance and infringement of norms of behavior. It exists in every nation; however, the type of it depends on the moral issues that people hold. Both positive and negative deviance is very harmful for the society. However, there are numerous means that can be useful for preventing or excluding deviance from everyday life.