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Perspectives on deviance: Differential association, labeling theory, and strain theory

Video transcript

in the last video we define norms and outline some basic ways that a person could violate a norm when a norm is violated it's referred to as deviance and though the word deviance seems negative it's not it simply means that individuals behaving differently from what society feels is normal behavior if a person is deviant from norms that doesn't necessarily mean that they are doing something bad or immoral as an example most Americans eat meat on a regular basis and they feel that doing so is normal behavior someone who doesn't eat meat someone who's a vegetarian they would be considered deviant their behavior is different than what the majority considers acceptable or normal and just like norms are relative deviance is relative as well it is dependent on the context individual group or location the world and standards for deviance change based on those factors sociologists often use symbolic interactionist perspective when studying deviance the perspective basically states that society is a product of everyday social interactions of individuals this means that looking at how people behave in normal everyday situations helps us to better understand and define deviance one view of deviance from this perspective is a theory of differential association in differential Association states that deviance is a learned behavior that results from continued exposure to others who violate norms and laws so in this situation individuals who commit deviant behavior learn values and norms that are different from the dominant culture so you can think of this as monkey-see monkey-do but also the monkey believes this is acceptable behavior so imagine an elite athlete this athlete grows up with coaches and teammates who believe that cheating is wrong and to be a successful athlete one must train hard avoid drugs and alcohol and be respectful to opponents now imagine the athlete switches teams and his new team members believe that using steroids partying heckling are the best way to be successful in the sport from his new team members the athlete learns that drug use partying and heckling are acceptable even though they were not acceptable before the new team members may even show the athlete how to be deviant by demonstrating how to take a particular drug or introducing the athlete to a new type of steroid the athlete rejects his norms and values and accepts the new deviant behaviors with this in mind the theory of differential Association asserts that the relationships a person forms are very important if a person form strong relationships with someone who is incredibly deviant and provides constant exposure to violated norms they are more likely to learn deviance however if they form relationships with someone who follows norms they are less likely to learn deviant behavior another view of deviance that's supported by the symbolic interactionist perspective associ ology is labeling theory in labeling theory a behavior is deviant if people have judged the behavior and labeled it as deviant so think back on our elite athlete if you use the steroids is that deviant well the answer depends on what is considered acceptable within that specific team sporting league or even within the greater society so using steroids isn't necessarily right or wrong it is possible that in some situations steroids are medically necessary however in the context of professional sports steroid use can be labeled as wrong or unfair and thus be considered deviant and subject to criticism from others a society's reaction to and its labels for the deviant behavior and the person who committed the deviant behavior are very important an act labeled as primary deviance does not have huge consequences this act produces very little societal pushback the reaction to the deviant behavior is very mild and doesn't affect the person's self-esteem the individual is able to continue to behave in the same way without feeling immoral or wrong as an example imagine our athlete took steroids as teammates found out since they all use steroids the athlete is not labeled as deviant and his actions go unnoticed his deviance doesn't matter however an act labeled as secondary deviance can produce more serious consequences secondary deviance is characterized by a severe negative reaction that produces a stigmatizing label that can result in even more deviant behavior so imagine the teammate of our athlete labeled his behavior as deviant and they exclude him from practices and tell him that he's a terrible player the reactions may cause him to feel like he needs to continue to use steroids to be a better player he may even escalate in use steroids more often or try more dangerous forms of the drug his repeated deviance gives him a reputation and the stigma of deviance stays with him for the rest of his career and the last theory of deviance that we'll cover is called strain theory and strain theory suggests that if a person is blocked from attaining a culturally accepted goal they become frustrated or strained in turn to deviance so in this viewpoint individuals in a group are pushed to attain certain goals but they may not have the means or legitimate way to achieve success though society values a certain behavior they do not make the opportunity to successful available to everyone in some situations the lack of equal opportunity results in increase access to illegal means to achieve success so if we think about our athlete example imagine that he attends a school that doesn't have access to proper training equipment or doesn't have access to a qualified coach or solid funding that he becomes frustrated with his inability to become an elite athlete and so he turns the deviant behavior or maybe because the school's athletic program lacks the proper resources to be successful there are more steroid dealers in the area and our athlete turns the steroids to try to level a playing field these behaviors are deviant but they provide the athlete with a way to achieve the socially acceptable goal of being a successful strong and talented player so that's a strain theory