Biological and Social Deviance Essay

2263 Words May 13th, 2014 10 Pages
Deviance in general is seen as violating social norms. Numerous researchers and individuals such as Robert Merton (1938) and William Sheldon (1949) have tried to present ways to explain deviant behaviours in the past. The two main theories that have been developed to explain deviance are biological theories and the social constructionist theories. This essay will examine social theories such as Becker’s labelling theory, and biological theories such as Sheldon’s body type theory, and contrast between the theories mentioned. Finally this essay will examine the differences between the theories and whether the biological explanation or the social constructionist explanation can be better used to explain deviance.

Looking at social
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Labelling individuals basically gives them a new identity, as society, not the individual determines what behaviour becomes defined as deviant. This is the theory that crime varies from situation to situation, across time and place. Being a ‘criminal’ or ‘deviant’ becomes a person’s master status and can begin to control the way they are identified by the public. Whether they are a spouse, parent or worker, other people will probably see them as a criminal first. When a person self-concept changes and a deviant self image takes its place, it comes with a pressure to act deviantly to meet the criteria for the new label. Furthermore, people who are labelled deviant are more inclined to associate with individuals of the same label, encouraging deviant behaviour in a group, as well as individually. An act, like illegal downloading, while still theft, doesn’t not conclude in the people taking part being labelled as thieves, because it has become a social norm in that society. Many people take part in this, and while it is still deviance (breaking the law, which is a social norm) the vast numbers of people taking part are rarely apprehended. An example of when this labelling occurs and actually has a negative effect is the prison system. It labels people convicted of theft as a ‘thief’ and because of this they start to view themselves as incapable of change. They take on the identity and

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