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Deviant behavior as both dysfunctional and functional for a society

According to this view, these terms have no scientific value and no legitimate status as sociological concepts. Such nihilism and counsel of despair are not justified. True, there is no consensus on the meaning of these terms, and they are, indeed, burdened with value connotations. However, they point to a number of distinctions that sociology must take into account.

Turning first to the concept of deviant behavior, we must distinguish among the several definitions of the term, which are discussed below. Behavior that violates norms. Deviant behavior is behavior that violates the normative rules, understandings, or expectations of social systems. This is the most common usage of the term and the sense in which it will be used here.

Crime is the prototype of deviance in this sense, and theory and research in deviant behavior have been concerned overwhelmingly with crime. However, normative rules are inherent in the nature of all social systems, whether they be friendship groups, engaged couples, families, work teams, factories, or national societies.

Legal norms are then but one type of norm whose violation constitutes deviant behavior. For sociological purposes deviance is seldom defined exclusively in terms of psychopathology, mental illness, or personality dis-organization, although it is commonly assumed that these phenomena are at least included within the scope of deviance. However, behavior is deviant in the first, or normative, sense because it departs from the normative rules of some social system, whereas behavior is pathological because it proceeds from a sick, damaged, or defective personality.

It is probable that most deviant behavior in the normative sense is produced by personalities that are clinically normal and that most behavior that is symptomatic of personality defect or mental illness does not violate normative expectations.

In short, the two are independently defined, and the relationship between them is a matter for empirical investigation. It should be made clear that the distinction just drawn is not that between the psychological and the sociological levels of investigation. In viewing any human behavior we can ask, on the one hand, how it depends upon the history and structure of the personality that authors it.

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On the other hand, we can ask how it depends on the history and structure of the social system in which it is an event. Such questions can be asked about both mental illness and deviant behavior. However, inquiry on the psychological and sociological levels cannot proceed altogether independently, for each must make some assumptions about the other. Durkheim 1897in his classic treatment of suicide, made clear the analytical independence of the sociological level by demonstrating that variations in rates of a given class of behavior within and between systems are a reality sui generis that cannot be explained simply in terms of the psychological properties of human beings but rather depend on the properties of the social system itself.

However, he overstated his case and left the impression, whether it was his intention or not, that psychology has little to contribute to the understanding of suicide. Socially disvalued behavior and states. Deviant behavior may also be defined as socially disvalued behavior and states in general. This blemish, or stigma, is an important constituent of all social encounters in which it is present.

It poses problems to the stigmatized actor and his alters and has consequences for the development of personality and for social interaction.

Goffman 1963 has demonstrated that it is possible to generalize about the phenomenon of stigma and its consequences on a level that abstracts from the diversity of its concrete manifestations. Clearly, stigma is a legitimate and important object of investigation in its own right.

Furthermore, it is ordinarily an attribute of normatively deviant behavior; it may play a part in its genesis and control.

It must therefore figure in a theory of deviant behavior. However, the fact that behavior is stigmatized or disvalued is one thing; the fact that it violates normative rules is another.

Not all disvalued behavior violates normative rules; nor is it certain that all behavior that violates normative rules is disvalued.

Explaining stigma is not the same as explaining why people deviant behavior as both dysfunctional and functional for a society normative rules. Deviant behavior and deviant roles. It is necessary to distinguish between what a person has done and how he is publicly defined and categorized by members of his social world. It is mainly the latter—the social role attributed to him—that determines how others will respond to him.

Behavior that violates social rules may or may not become visible and, if visible, may or may not result in attribution of a deviant role. Furthermore, deviant roles may be attributed even in the absence of violations of normative rules. This distinction mirrors one of the perennial dilemmas of criminology. Is criminology concerned with all violations of criminal law or only with those violations that result in a legal adjudication of criminality?

The former are infinitely more numerous than the latter, and data on their frequency and distribution are difficult to come by. Furthermore, even legal attributions of criminality do not necessarily result in attributions of criminal roles in the world of everyday life. The distinction between violating normative rules and being socially assigned to a deviant role is important.

To explain one is not necessarily to explain the other. On the other hand, they interact in such ways that each must be taken into account in explaining the other. For example, to be adjudicated as an offender or even to be legally processed short of adjudication may have important effects on actual careers in criminal behavior Tannenbaum 1938.

It seems best to think of the field of deviant behavior as concerned with deviance in both these senses and with their interaction. The relativity of deviant behavior. It is commonplace that normative rules vary enormously from one social system to another. It follows that no behavior is deviant in itself but only insofar as it violates the norms of some social system. This implies that the sociology of deviant behavior is not concerned with the encyclopedic study of prostitution, drug addictionetc.

In general, a person comes under the jurisdiction of a system of normative rules when he is ascribed or successfully claims the role of member of a collectivity. This is equally true of subcollectivities—associations, cliques, academic institutions—within a larger collectivity. More generally, the same may be said of any role, not of collectivity roles alone.

The expectations attaching to a role differentiate it from other roles and define the terms on which a person can be deviant.

Deviant Behavior

That this is true for such roles as husband and wife, doctor and patient, child and adult is elementary. It is equally true, but not so obvious, for such transient roles as those of the sick and the bereaved. To occupy either of these roles is to be exempted from some rules otherwise applicable, to be subjected to other rules, and to create special obligations for others in the role set of deviant behavior as both dysfunctional and functional for a society sick or bereaved person. In any case, however, membership in those roles must be validated in terms of those criteria.

In speaking of deviance one must specify the system of reference. The same behavior may be both deviant and nondeviant, relative to different systems in which the actor is implicated. However, we are still left with the question: Whose notions of right and wrong define the rules of the system?

It is not entirely satisfactory to say that the rules of the system are those which are institutionalized—that is, agreed upon, internalized, and sanctioned Johnson 1960, p. Alternative responses to normative rules. The difficulty may arise partly from a failure to recognize the importantly different ways in which people may be oriented to normative rules. People sometimes seem to violate rules without guilt and without even the necessity for some mechanism for neutralizing guilt.

The inference is typically drawn that such people do not recognize the rules, that—as far as they are concerned—these are not the rules of the system, except, perhaps, in the sense of a probability that others will react in a hostile way to certain behavior. Then the question does indeed arise: This distinction suggests a distinction made by Merton [1949] 1957, pp.

However, not all who would change a rule necessarily feel justified in doing so by violating it. In fact, it could be argued that the basis of social order is not consensus on what ought to be the rules, indeed that dissensus in this regard is the normal state, especially in modern society.

Rather, the basis of order is agreement on the criteria of what the rules are and on the mechanisms for changing them. The intention of this discussion is to suggest that if we take account of these different ways of orienting to normative rules, disagreement on what the rules are is not so great as is commonly assumed.

The sociology of normative rules. Acts are deviant by virtue of normative rules that make them so. Therefore, the forms and rates of deviance change as the rules themselves change. The study of such changes has been severely neglected, with some noteworthy exceptions in the sociology of law Hall 1935. It should be stressed that changes in normative rules cannot be fruitfully investigated apart from the study of behavior oriented toward these normative rules. On the one hand, normative rules shape behavior; on the other hand, behavior is always testing, probing, and challenging normative rules, and in response to such behavior normative rules are continually being redefined, shored up, or abandoned Mills 1959; Cohen 1965.

The study of this interaction process is an integral part of the sociology of deviance. Deviant behavior of collectivities. Whatever may be the metaphysical status of collectivities, for sociological purposes they are actors. They are social objects having names, public images, reputations, and statuses.

They are publicly identified as authors of acts, and they are subject to rules. From the perspective of everyday life, collectivities, such as governments, corporations, fraternities, armies, labor unions, and churches, do things, and some of these things violate laws or other normative rules.

Little is known about the cultural understandings on the basis of which acts deviant and otherwise are imputed to collectivities as distinct from their members severally, because the matter has received practically no systematic study except in the field of corporation law. It is true that the status of an event as the act of a collectivity is a definition imposed upon the situation by some public and depends upon a set of culturally given criteria for attributing acts to authors.

However, this is equally true of the attribution of acts to individuals, and much of the law is concerned precisely with specifying and making explicit the criteria for such attribution.

All social acts are the outcomes of interaction processes. Whether they will be attributed to this concrete individual or that, or to a concrete individual or a collectivity, always depends on some culturally given schema through which action is viewed. Therefore, the neglect of deviant behavior of collectivities cannot be justified on sociological grounds.

Theories of deviant behavior. We will make no attempt here to inventory the theories bearing upon one or another variety of deviance, but will limit ourselves to identifying the main features of the two traditions that most closely approach a generalized theory of deviance.

The discussion will deal with contrasting emphases.

  • The difficulty may arise partly from a failure to recognize the importantly different ways in which people may be oriented to normative rules;
  • Whether they will be attributed to this concrete individual or that, or to a concrete individual or a collectivity, always depends on some culturally given schema through which action is viewed;
  • First, there is a rise in social cohesion and social solidarity, a sense of coming together as a community Benokraitis 2017;
  • The same behavior may be both deviant and nondeviant, relative to different systems in which the actor is implicated.

It does not intend to offer a rounded picture of either tradition or to suggest that they are incompatible. The anomie tradition stems from the work of Durkheim 1897especially his analysis of suicide. Its emphasis is structural and comparative, that is, it is concerned with explaining how variations in deviant behavior within and between societies depend on social structure.

It is typically concerned with accounting for rates in contrast to individual differences.