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Is Deviance Normal?

Uploaded by friar on Dec 05, 2001

Normal behaviour is defined as conforming to a standard: usual, typical, or expected (Soanes, 2001). Deviant behaviour is a divergence from normal standards: usually social or sexual. Therefore, by definition, deviance is not normal. This essay will discuss deviance in depth, looking at several theories: interactionist, biological, and functionalist. The essay shall begin by discussing types of deviance. The aim is to show whether or not deviance is normal.

Deviance is non-conformity to a set of social norms or expectations widely accepted (Fulcher & Scott, 1999; Giddens, 1997). According to Haralambos and Holborn (1995), deviance is relative. It can only be defined in relation to a set of standards - since no standards are fixed, deviance is not absolute. For example, social standards in Britain have changed. It was once socially acceptable to smoke cannabis - it was even used for medicinal purposes - but it is now considered deviant behaviour. Although, again, this is changing.

There are two types of deviance: primary and secondary (Fulcher & Scott, 1999). Primary deviation is behaviour that is normative to expectations of a group, but which is 'normalised' by them.

"…while marijuana smokers might regard their smoking as acceptable, normal behaviour in the company they move in, they are fully aware that this behaviour is regarded as deviant in the wider society" (Taylor, Walton & Young, 1973 cited by Haralambos & Holborn, 1995).

Many justifications for the normalisation of deviant behaviour are employed (Fulcher & Scott, 1999). For instance, a young man may expose himself in the street late at night. His behaviour is normalised: he has consumed a lot of alcohol and has 'no idea what he is doing'.

Secondary deviation arises when deviation is no longer normalised (Fulcher & Scott, 1999). It becomes stigmatised or punishable and its consequences can shape a person's future (Fulcher & Scott, 1999; Giddens, 1997). For example, a child who disrupts a class a couple of times may be labelled as a deviant by his/her teacher and may then continue to act in a deviant way.

Labelling (interactionist) is an important theory in the study of deviance. Labelling theorists interpret deviance as a process of interaction between deviants and non-deviants (Giddens, 1997).

"Social groups create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitutes deviance…The deviant is one to whom the label has successfully been applied; deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label." (Becker, 1963 cited by Haralambos & Holborn, 1995, p.405)


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Uploaded by:   friar

Date:   12/05/2001

Category:   Social Issues

Length:   6 pages (1,401 words)

Views:   2320

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