What is the Sociology of Crime and Deviance?


The sociology of crime and deviance is the examination of what society views as criminal and deviant behaviours and why. 

When sociologists study deviance, they look at people or groups who violate social norms, such as drug addicts, murderers, child molesters, Satanists, Nazis, etc, and then observe to see why society deems these people/groups as deviants. Sociologists also try to figure out how these individuals/groups became full-fledged deviants.

As well, some sociologists also consider people with conditions such as mental illness, disabilities, obesity, etc, as deviants. But not because of the person's personal self, but rather because of how society looks at and treats them; they are not acceptable in the eyes of their fellow humans.

Crime is a type of deviance and sociologists define it as the violation of formal state laws. Examples would be stealing from a store or getting into a street fight. But there are some who prefer the use of natural law, where a criminal would be considered so if he/she broke the universal secular laws of human rights, over the former. 

An example of this would be when the leaders of Nazi Germany were trialed in the Nuremberg court case. Because there were no German laws against killing masses of Jewish people at that time, the Judge had to use a natural law approach or else they wouldn't have found the Nazis guilty.

Sociologists also like to look at social control. This is a method that society uses to encourage people to conform to social norms. An example would be school officials punishing a student for beating up and stealing from another student.

Some Sociological Explanations for Deviance and Crime

The first theory will be differential association theory by Edwin Sutherland. He explains that people learn deviant behavior by associating themselves with deviants. This theory suggests that deviance is learned in small intimate groups. However, if these potential deviants were to spend their time with conformists, then the chances of them turning into delinquents are significantly reduced.

The second theory is labelling theory by Edwin Lemert. This theory suggests that deviance is not acknowledged by what happens, but rather by how people react to what happens. Sometimes, a deviant behavior may not get disapproved and will only cause little comment. But when it extracts full disapproval, the person may come to label them self as such and commit more deviant acts.

As well, deviants can be formed through labeling from others. An example would be a dad who constantly calls his daughter a cheater. Since a cheater is what people refer to her as on a regular basis, she may start (or amp up) cheating on her homework and exams. Because what her family says is important to her, she has now conditioned herself to identify with the identity that they have given her.

I will leave it here. If you have any questions or comments, be sure to leave it in the comments section. As well, remember to follow me on Twitter @EverythingSLGY and on Facebook to be in the know when new articles are posted, and to find out my thoughts on current social issues.


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