The essence of this essay is to critically analyses the statement, “Discuss the role played by the social environment in the creation of deviance in society according to differential association and labeling theory’. It will begin by defining the key terminology being deviance and a discussion on the role that the social environment plays in creation of deviance according to Discuss the according to differential association and labeling theory. Lastly a conclusion will be drawn. Deviance is any behavior that violates social norms, and is usually of sufficient severity to warrant disapproval from the majority of society.

Deviance can be criminal or non-criminal. The sociological discipline that deals with crime (behavior that violates laws) is criminology (also known as criminal justice). Today some societies consider activities such as alcoholism, excessive gambling, being nude in public places, lying to name only a few as deviant. Thus people who engage in deviant behavior are referred to as deviants. Deviance is looked at in terms of group processes, definitions, and judgments and not just as unusual individual acts. Sociologists also recognize that not all behaviors are judged similarly by all groups.

What is deviant to one group may not be considered deviant to another. Further, sociologists recognize that established rules and norms are socially created, not just morally decided or individually imposed. That is, deviance lies not just in the behavior itself, but in the social responses of groups to behavior by others Differential association and labeling theory are the two theories that will be used to explain the role social environment plays in creation of deviance. The theory of differential association is a learning theory that focuses on the processes by which individuals come to commit Viviane or criminal acts.

According to the theory, created by Edwin H. Sutherland, criminal behavior is learned through interactions with other people. Through this interaction and communication, people learn the values, attitudes, techniques, and motives for criminal behavior. This theory emphasizes the interaction people have with their peers and others in their environment. Those who associate with delinquents, deviants, or criminals learn to value deviance. The greater the frequency, duration, and intensity of their immersion in deviant environments, the more likely it is that they will come deviant.

This theory really focuses on how people become criminals, not why they become criminals Differential association is the process of learning some types of deviant behavior requiring specialized knowledge and skill as well as the inclination to take advantage of opportunities to use them in deviant ways. All of this is learned and promoted primarily within groups such as urban gangs or business groups that condone fraud, tax evasion, or insider trading on the stock market. Edwin Sutherland coined the phrase differential association to address the issue Of how people learn deviance.

According to this theory, the environment plays a major role in deciding which norms people learn to violate. Specifically, people within a particular reference group provide norms of conformity and deviance, and thus heavily influence the way other people look at the world, including how they react. People also learn their norms from various socializing agents: parents, teachers, ministers, family, friends, co-workers, and the media. In short, people learn criminal behavior, like other behaviors, from their interactions with others, especially in intimate groups.

Sutherland stated differential association theory as a set of nine propositions, which introduced three concepts – normative conflict, differential association, and differential group organization -? that explain crime at the levels of the society, the individual, and the group. At the level of the society, crime in society is rooted in normative conflict. For Sutherland, primitive, undifferentiated societies are characterized by harmony, solidarity, and consensus over basic values and beliefs.

Such societies have little conflict over appropriate behaviors. They also have little crime. With the industrial revolution, however, modern industrial societies developed, with advanced divisions of labor, market economies, and increased conflict. Such societies become segmented into groups that conflict over interests, values, and behavior patterns. These societies are characterized by specialization rather than similarity, conflict rather than harmony, coercion rather than consensus. Moreover, they tend to have high rates of crime.

From these observations, Sutherland hypothesized that high crime rates are rooted in normative conflict, which he defined as a condition in which society is segmented into groups that conflict over the function of appropriate behavior. More precisely, normative conflict refers to conflict over the appropriateness of the law: some groups define the law as a set of rules to be followed under virtually all circumstances, while others define the law as a set of rules to be violated under certain circumstances.

Therefore, when normative conflict is absent in a society, crime rates will be low; when normative conflict is high, societal crime rates will be high. In this way, crime is ultimately rooted in normative conflict. At the level of the individual, the process of differential association provides a social psychological explanation of how normative conflict in society translates into individual criminal acts. According to differential association, criminal behavior is learned in a process of communication in intimate groups.

The content of learning includes two important elements. First are the requisite skills and technique uses for committing crime, which can range from complicated, specialized skills of computer fraud, insider trading, and confidence games to the simple, readily available skills of assault, purse- snatching, and drunk driving. Such techniques are necessary but insufficient to produce crime. Second are definitions favorable and unfavorable to crime. These definitions are motives, overvaluations, or rationalizations that make crime justified or unjustified.

For example, definitions favorable to income tax fraud include everyone cheats on their taxes, its not a real crime, and the government has no right to tax its citizens. Definitions favorable to drunk driving include, can drive fine after a few beers, only have a couple of miles to drive home and I won’t get caught this time. Definitions favorable to violence include, if your manhood is threatened, you have to fight back, you to to have the backs of your boys, even if it means violence, to maintain respect, you can never back down from a fight.

These definitions favorable to crime help organize and justify a criminal line of action in a particular situation. They are offset by definitions unfavorable to crime, such as “Income tax fraud is wrong and immoral, tax fraud deprives Americans of important programs that benefit the commonwealth, all fraud and theft is immoral, turn the other cheek, friends do not let friends drink and drive, any violation of the law is wrong.

These examples illustrate several points about definitions of rime. First, some definitions pertain to specific offenses only, such as Friends do not let friends drink and drive, whereas others refer to a class of offenses, such as all fraud and theft is immoral, and others refer to virtually all law violation, such as any violation of the law is wrong. Second, each definition serves to justify or motivate either committing criminal acts or refraining from criminal acts.

Third, these definitions are not merely ex-post facto rationalizations of crime, but rather operate to cause criminal behavior. Sutherland recognized that definitions favorable to crime can be offset by functions unfavorable to crime, and therefore, he hypothesized that criminal behavior is determined by the ratio of definitions favorable to crime versus unfavorable to crime. Furthermore, he recognized that definitions are not all equal; some are more important.

Sutherland identified at least four dimensions (or modalities) on which definitions vary in importance or weight: frequency (the number of times a definition is presented), duration (the length of time a person is exposed to a definition), priority (the earlier a definition is presented in a person’s life), and intensity (the more intense legislations or prestigious the person presenting the definition). Therefore, the individual-level hypothesis of differential association theory states that a person will engage in criminal behavior if the following three conditions are met. 1) The person has learned the requisite skills and techniques for committing crime. (2) The person has learned an excess of definitions favorable to crime over unfavorable to crime. (3) The person has the objective opportunity to carry out the crime. According to Sutherland, if all three conditions are present and crime does not occur, or a crime occurs in the absence of any one condition, the theory would be wrong and in need of revision.

The process of differential association with definitions favorable and unfavorable to crime does not occur in a vacuum, but is structured by the broader social organization in which individuals are embedded. This includes the structures and organization of families, neighborhoods, schools, and labor markets. This organization is captured by the concept Of differential social organization. The differential-association theory applies to many types of deviant behavior. For example, juvenile gangs provide an environment in which young people learn to become criminals.

These gangs define themselves as countercultures and glorify violence, retaliation, and crime as means to achieving social status. Gang members learn to be deviant as they embrace and conform to their gang’s norms. It has contributed to the field of criminology in its focus on the developmental nature of criminality. People learn deviance from the people with whom they associate. Critics of the differential-association theory, on the other hand, claim the vagueness of the theory’s terminology does not lend itself to social science research methods or empirical validation.

Labeling theory on the other hand is a type of symbolic interaction, it concerns the meanings people derive form one another’s labels, symbols, actions and reactions. This theory holds that behaviors are deviant only when society labels them as deviant. As such, conforming members of society, who interpret certain behaviors as deviant and then attach this label to individuals, determine the distinction between deviance and non-deviance. Labeling theory questions who applies what label to whom, why they do this and what happens as a result of this labeling.

Thus powerful individuals within society like politicians, judges, police officers, deiced doctors typically impose the most significant labels. Labeled persons may include drug addicts, alcoholics, criminals, delinquents, prostitutes, sex offenders, retarded people and psychiatric patients, to mention a few. The consequences of being labeled as deviant can be far-reaching. Social research indicates that those who have negative labels usually have lower self images, are more likely to reject themselves and may even act more defiantly as a result of the label.

Unfortunately, people who accept the labeling of others be it correct or incorrect have a difficult time changing their opinions of the babbled person, even in light of evidence to the contrary Even if the labeled individual does not commit any further deviant acts than the one that caused them to be labeled, getting rid Of that label can be very hard and time- consuming. For example, it is usually very difficult for a convicted criminal to find employment after release from prison because of their label as ex- criminal.

They have been formally and publicly labeled a wrongdoer and are treated with suspicion likely for the remainder of their lives Labeling theory is one of the most important approaches to understanding deviant and criminal behavior. It stems from the work of W. I. Thomas who, in 1928, wrote, “If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences. ” Many of the rules that define deviance and the contexts in which deviant behavior is labeled as deviant are framed by the wealthy for the poor, by men for women, by older people for younger people, and by ethnic minorities for minority groups.

In other words, the more powerful and dominant groups in society create and apply deviant labels to the subordinate groups For example, many children engage in activities such as breaking windows, telling fruit from other people’s trees, climbing into other people’s yards, or playing hooky from school. In affluent neighborhoods, these acts may be regarded by parents, teachers, and police as innocent aspects of the process of growing up. In poor areas, on the other hand, these same activities might be seen as tendencies towards juvenile delinquency.

William Chemicals in 1073 conducted a classic study into the effects of labeling. His two groups of white male high school students were both frequently involved in delinquent acts of theft, vandalism, drinking and truancy. The police never arrested the embers of one group, which Chemicals labeled the “Saints” but the police did have frequent run-ins with members of the other group, which he labeled the “Roughnecks. ” The boys in the saints came from respectable families, had good reputations and grades in school, and were careful not to get caught when breaking the law.

By being polite, cordial and apologetic whenever confronted by the police, the saints escaped labeling themselves as deviants. In contrasts, the Roughnecks came from families of lower socioeconomic status, had poor reputations and grades in school and were not careful about Ewing caught when breaking the law. By being hostile and insolent whenever confronted by the police, the Roughnecks were easily labeled by others and themselves as deviants.

In other words, while both groups committed crimes, the saints were perceived to be good because of their polite behavior (which was attributed to their upper-class backgrounds) and the Roughnecks were seen as bad because of their insolent behavior (which was attributed to their lower-class backgrounds). As a result, the police always took action against the Roughnecks, but never against the Saints Labeling theory emphasizes the interactive process of labeling and ignores the processes that lead to the deviant acts.

Such processes might include differences in colonization, attitudes, and opportunities. It is still not clear whether or not labeling actually has the effect of increasing deviant behavior. Delinquent behavior tends to increase following conviction, but is this the result of labeling itself as the theory suggests? It is very difficult to say, since many other factors may be involved, including increased interaction with other delinquents and learning new criminal opportunities.

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