Simply defined, "deviance" is the violation of social norms.
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Groups, as we have seen constantly try to enforce conformity on their members through the use of sanctions-- both positive and negative; formal and informal. In this section of the course, we'll address how and why people deviate from social norms.
Deviance is the
violation of a social norm. Generally, "deviance" is regarded
in a negative light, but there are many "positive" sides to
deviance. For example, ice cream lovers in the
Stated very simply, deviance
as a violation of a norm; while crime
is defined as a violation one specific type of norm, a law. By
definition then, it would seem that "society" considers all crime
to be deviant behavior. However, members of society may not consider a
specific crime to be deviant at all. A speeding violation,
parking ticket, etc. are classified as misdemeanors under the criminal code of
On the other hand, there are individuals and groups
in society whose behavior may be regarded as very deviant according to the
norms of the "larger" society. But these individuals and groups
are not "criminals" because they are breaking no laws. (For example,
you may want to ask your parents or grand parents what they think about body
piercing. What are their opinions of pierced ears; lips, noses, nipples, etc.?)
Emile Durkheim made a very strong and controversial claim in The Rules of Sociological Method. He said that NO ACT IS INHERENTLY DEVIANT IN AND OF ITSELF. DEVIANCE IS DEFINED SOCIALLY AND WILL VARY FROM ONE GROUP TO ANOTHER. Obviously, then, the group in a given society that has a lot of power will have a major role in defining what acts are deviant. But for this to work most people must acknowledge that power. That is, they they must recognize or feel that that power is legitimate that the state, or those in control have authority over them. This is an important distinction between force and coercion (i.e. raw power without recognition or consent of the people) and legitimate authority where people recognize and acknowledge the power over them.
Certainly, we can understand and agree with this
when examining the broad varieties of societies (industrial and pre-industrial)
that exist in the world today. Cannibalism is socially approved in some
societies, while it is taboo in others-- But what about behavior that affects
society on an international level?
This raises the interesting question Are there any universal laws? It seems that in every society murder is a crime-- (But there are a very wide set of circumstances under which killing is permitted. What one society considers to be murder, another will consider to be justifiable homocide. For example, in one society in the middle east a woman can be beheaded for adultery. What American court would levy this sentence?!)
But there are some laws on the
books that large numbers of people don't recognize or pay any attention to.
While Americans would consider it both a crime and deviant to murder someone,
many don't think that a person should be arrested for smoking marajuana. (It's not the smoking that he or she will be
arrested for, it's the possession of the illegal
substance, itself). They don't consider it deviant. It doesn't violate
norms, in their opinion. (The same can be said for many of the old "blue
laws" still on the books). If the public no longer considers an act to be
seriously deviant, chances are that it will be removed from the law books. We can
still consider people who claim to be witches "deviant" (or weird)
for example, but practicing witch craft is no longer unlawful (as it once was
in Salem, Massachusetts). Another example is prohibition in the 1920's.
Although the 18th Ammendment to the U.S. Constitution
was passed on
As we have noted, deviance is generally perceived to be disruptive in society. It can weaken established social norms, and create division and disorder. But it also has other functions which are not necessarily harmful and may actually be beneficial to society.
Laws passed against witchcraft in
The late, Ayatolla Khomeni
used a different kind of witch-- one he called the "Great Satan"
Who are the deviants in our society? To some extent we all are. We break rules every day.
Who Are Society's Criminals?
The same can be said about crime. Most of us break laws frequently. Studies that asked respondents to report what they themselves had done (self-reported) indicate that between 75 to 95 percent of Americans did something serious enough that could get them at least a year in prison.
(According to the 2004-05 Statistical Abstract of the United States, there were over 6.6 million people in jail, or prison, on probation or on parole in this country in 2002). < http://www.census.gov/prod/2004pubs/04statab/law.pdf>
This raises an interesting
question: If we all perform deviant acts and even break laws from time to
time, who gets caught? Which groups are most likely to be caught (or arrested)
for criminal activity in the
Here are some statistics taken from the Bureau of Justice
Statistics web site on the characteristics of the
Characteristics of jail inmates < http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/crimoff.htm>
· Women were 12% of the local jail inmates in 2002, up from 10% in 1996.
· Jail inmates were older on average in 2002 than 1996: 38% were age 35 or older, up from 32% in 1996.
· More than 6 in 10 persons in local jails in 2002 were racial or ethnic minorities, unchanged from 1996.
· An estimated 40% were black; 19%, Hispanic, 1% American Indian; 1% Asian; and 3% of more than one race/ethnicity.
· Half of jail inmates in 2002 were held for a violent or drug offense, almost unchanged from 1996.
· Drug offenders, up 37%, represented the largest source of jail population growth between 1996 and 2002.
· More than two-thirds of the growth in inmates held in local jails for drug law violations was due to an increase in persons charged with drug trafficking.
· Thirty-seven percent of jail inmates were convicted on a new charge; 18% were convicted on prior charges following revocation of probation or parole; 16% were both convicted of a prior charge and awaiting trial on a new charge; and 28% were unconvicted.
· Fifty-three percent of jail inmates were on probation, parole or pretrial release at the time of arrest.
· Four in 10 jail inmates had a current or past sentence for a violent offense.
· Thirty-nine percent of jail inmates in 2002 had served 3 or more prior sentences to incarceration or probation, down from 44% in 1996.
Substance Use and Treatment
· Half (50%) of convicted jail inmates were under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the offense, down from 59% in 1996.
· Three out of every four convicted jail inmates were alcohol or drugs-involved at the time of their current offense.
· Alcohol use at the time of the offense dropped from 41% (1996) to 35% (2002), while drug use dropped from 35% to 29%.
· Average sentence length of inmates serving their time in a local jail increased from 22 months in 1996 to 24 months in 2002.
· Time expected to be served in jail dropped from 10 months in 1996 to 9 months, in 2002
· Thirty-one percent of jail inmates had grown up with a parent or guardian who abused alcohol or drugs
· About 12 percent had lived in a foster home or institution.
· Forty-six percent had a family member who had been incarcerated.
· More than 50% of the women in jail said they had been physically or sexually abused in the past, compared to more than 10% of the men.
Biological Theories American popular culture contains themes that play
upon physical and mental abnormalities as determinants of deviance and crime,
(especially in the large number of "slasher"
movies that abounded in recent decades). During the first half of this
century, there were many attempts to develop
biological theories of crime. Here are a few examples:
Cesare Lombroso (1836-1909) Body Types and Phrenology (Lombroso's text, Crime: Its Causes and Remedies), published in 1911, was very popular in its time. An Italian physician ( and prison doctor) he was the founder of the field of "criminal anthropology" (Gould, 1996). After an extensive examination of prisoners' physiology he advanced a theory that criminals were atavists-- that is, throw-backs to an earlier evolutionary human form. Furthermore, these individuals displayed discernable physiological characteristics that could be used to identify them as deviant. Eventually this theory was debunked when further research was unable to support the claim that prisoners differed in physical characteristics from the the general population of non-criminals. (In short, he failed to use a control group in his research).
Sheldon; Theory of body types and crime (1940's and 1950s).
Sheldon's work advanced the somatotype or
"body build" school of criminological theory. Based upon a
study of juvenile delinquents in
Chromosomes and Crime (XYY) In the
1960s with the further development of the science of genetics, attention
shifted to the role that genetic structure might plan in pre-disposing people
to deviance and crime. It had been noted that a small proportion of males have
an extra "Y" chromosome-- These individuals are sometimes
referred to as "super males." (normal
males = XY; normal females = XX) Some research (which was later refuted)
suggested that these "super males" were disproportionately
represented in the prison population. (Again, these findings were based
on studies that lacked proper control groups). It was hypothesized that
the extra Y chromosome predisposed them to violent behavior. Media
attention was focused on the theory when it was incorrectly reported that
Richard Speck, convicted in 1966 of murdering eight student-nurses in
Functionalism American sociologist, Robert K. Merton developed a theory that focused on strain in society that emerges when individuals and groups desire approved social goals (the good things in life), but find themselves unable to attain them through socially approved means. For example, a college education may be the first step in achieving material success in life, but many individuals find this avenue closed to them. As a result, they may send money off to one of several "diploma mills" in this country that will happily print a "sheep skin" with whatever degree they desire on it! Merton's theory uses "neutral" terminology to describe people who violate social norms to achieve socially approved goals. In the above example, our person holding a "fake" degree would be classified as an "innovator."
Merton's Anomie Theory ("Crime and Anomie", 1938)
Accepts Socially Approved Norms of Success
Rejects Socially Approved Norms of Success
Uses Approved Means to Achieve Goals
Uses Non-Approved Means to Achieve Goals
Merton's theory is broad enough to handle all categories of deviance, ranging from cheating on tests to pre-meditated murder, but are there any problems with it?
Sutherland's Differential Association Theory (Sutherland, 1939) advanced a theory that specified how cultural transmission takes place, identifying a few key factors:
The Societal Reaction Approach
"primary" vs "secondary" deviance
Chambliss's "Saints and Roughnecks"
Sykes and Matza's
"Techniques of Neutralization" as
justifications for deviant behavior.
The role of power and privilege in the criminal justice system. (class example: "Pinto Madness")
The Text: Professional; Organized; White-Collar and Technology Based; Victimless
FBI Index Crimes: There are 8 Index Crimes. The first four are often called violent crimes against person. The second four are called property crime.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program (From the FBI Web cited below).
“The Uniform Crime Reporting Program classifies offenses into two groups, Part I and Part II crimes. Each month, contributing agencies submit information on the number of Part I offenses (Crime Index) known to law enforcement; those offenses cleared by arrest or exceptional means; and the age, sex, and race of persons arrested. Contributors provide only arrest data for Part II offenses.
The Part I offenses, those that comprise the Crime Index due to their seriousness and frequency, are defined below:
Criminal homicide—a.) Murder and nonnegligent manslaughter: the willful (nonnegligent) killing of one human being by another. Deaths caused by negligence, attempts to kill, assaults to kill, suicides, and accidental deaths are excluded. The Program classifies justifiable homicides separately and limits the definition to: (1) the killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty; or (2) the killing of a felon, during the commission of a felony, by a private citizen. b.) Manslaughter by negligence: the killing of another person through gross negligence. Traffic fatalities are excluded. While manslaughter by negligence is a Part I crime, it is not included in the Crime Index.
Forcible rape—The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will. Rapes by force and attempts or assaults to rape regardless of the age of the victim are included. Statutory offenses (no force used—victim under age of consent) are excluded.
Robbery—The taking or attempting to take anything of value from the care, custody, or control of a person or persons by force or threat of force or violence and/or by putting the victim in fear.
Aggravated assault—An unlawful attack by one person upon another for the purpose of inflicting severe or aggravated bodily injury. This type of assault usually is accompanied by the use of a weapon or by means likely to produce death or great bodily harm. Simple assaults are excluded.
Burglary (breaking or entering)—The unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or a theft. Attempted forcible entry is included.
Larceny-theft (except motor vehicle theft)—The unlawful taking, carrying, leading, or riding away of property from the possession or constructive possession of another. Examples are thefts of bicycles or automobile accessories, shoplifting, pocket-picking, or the stealing of any property or article which is not taken by force and violence or by fraud. Attempted larcenies are included. Embezzlement, confidence games, forgery, worthless checks, etc., are excluded.
Motor vehicle theft—The theft or attempted theft of a motor vehicle. A motor vehicle is self-propelled and runs on the surface and not on rails. Motorboats, construction equipment, airplanes, and farming equipment are specifically excluded from this category.
Arson—Any willful or malicious burning or attempt to burn, with or without intent to defraud, a dwelling house, public building, motor vehicle or aircraft, personal property of another, etc.”
Source: FBI. <http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius_02/html/web/appendices/07-append02.html>