A deviant behavior can be defined as actions that depart from the usual or accepted standards, and violate the social, cultural and contextual norms. Despite the demerits that have been associated with deviance, it has a few advantages. It promotes societal changes, strengthens solidarity and helps people to adapt to changes. These can be very instrumental in certain situations such as struggle for liberation or campaigns for constitutional amendments. So, what exactly is the relationship between deviance and crime? Criminal deviance is an illegal misbehavior that promotes the violation of constitutional laws that govern the society (DeKeseredy, Ellis & Alvi, 2005). Examples of these crimes include rape, robbery, murder, child and drug trafficking. Criminal deviance is wide spread, and cuts across various social categories such as gender, race, ethnicity, age, class and region.
Every society has individuals who fail to meet set standards. Some people would unintentionally engage in criminal activities because they are unaware of all the laws and regulations that govern the location their live in. Even though ignorance is no defense, this group of people will pledge guilty and receive lighter sentences for their actions. However, in most instances, criminals will engage in deviant activities despite having full knowledge their expectations according to the law. Social identity theory can be used to explain their abnormal conduct.
In a way, deviance promotes solidarity among criminals because it introduces the ideology of ‘us’ versus ‘them.’ In many societies, people who engage in illegal activities have been categorized as outlaws. Even after serving time in prison, many people in the society fail to embrace former convicts back into the society. In rebellion, ex-convicts will form their own group to distinguish themselves from the rest of the society. Such groups might evolve into mafias, gangs and cults. Due to the negative reception from the rest of the community, and the high tendencies for group members to engage in illegal activities, the rate of recidivism and crime will tend to increase. The group might retaliate by engaging in illegal activities to gain recognition or punish the community for the neglect. According to the labeling theory, criminals will become deviant by joining an outlawed identity.
Two approaches can be used to study deviance based on social norms. They include objective and subjective approaches. In objective approach, focus would be primarily placed on the characteristics of the societal conditions that gave rise to deviant acts. Objective approach has three main assumptions. Firstly, it assumes that the society has a widespread consensus regarding their norms (Banks, 2013). As a result, it is very easy to identify deviances. Secondly, sanction by the society, which might take the form of gossips, legal lawsuits or prejudice, will be exercised upon those engaged in deviant activities (Banks, 2013). Finally, punishment for deviance reaffirms the society that it is bound by its norms (Banks, 2013).
With these assumptions in mind, it is crucial that society should identify the socio-cultural conditions that necessitate deviance, and why it continues to thrive despite the negative sanctions that have been introduced as punishment. Examples of social-cultural factors that might lead to deviance include religion, rituals, ethnicity, race, childhood experiences and cultural change. Disparities among these factors might result to the differences in their interpretation by members of a society. Therefore, it is important for the society to identify measures that will eliminate or minimize deviance. For instance, constitutional amendments might be carried out to represent a broader representation of socio-cultural interpretations.
Subjective approach focuses on the definition of deviance, and the social interaction between the deviants and people who labels a group as an outlaw. As people within a society communicate, they tend to use shared symbols. These symbolic communications enable them to differentiate and stigmatize people who have been labeled as deviants. Based on their definition of deviance, a group of people might treat those who have been labeled as outcasts differently compared to other individuals. The labeled deviant group might also react to their own definition as seen in criminal deviance.
Focus should be kept on how social interactions are
influenced by the disparities regarding the definition of deviance. This would
eliminate any enmity with in the society and enhance tolerance. Improved
communication would enable people to have a better understanding of the values
held by other people. Attention should also be placed on how the society treats
people labeled as deviants, and how the victims react to the labeling. This
would be very vital in reducing the negative impacts of deviance, such as increase
crime rate and recidivism. It would help identify solutions that would address
problems facing people who have been labeled as deviants. It is also important
to note that the number of people with a society will determine the acceptable
definition of deviance. The definition that will have the majority support from
the society will have greater impact on people’s views on deviance. A good example
of how the society defines deviance is through democratic referendums. The law
classifies an act as acceptable or unacceptable based on the decision made by
the majority during a constitutional referendum.
Banks, C. (2013). Youth, Crime and Justice. New York, NY: Routledge.
DeKeseredy, W. S., Ellis, D., & Alvi, S. (2005). Deviance and Crime: Theory, Research and Policy. Burlington: Elsevier Science.