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rows Navigate Study Guide Medicalization of Deviance This article examines the medicalization of deviance through a sociological lens. A definition of deviance is offered in terms of behavioral conduct, and indicates potential reasons individuals behave in a deviant manner. Next, a description of the medicalization of deviance is offered that describes ways deviant behaviors have been re­categorized as medical conditions that can be treated through the use of pharmacological interventions. Accompanying applications are offered through the lens of alcohol and substance abuse. Issues are discussed that relate to treatment and conflicting philosophies. Subsequent areas of research for sociologists examining this phenomenon are suggested. Keywords Deviance; Medicalization of Deviance; Social Constructionism Theory; Social Learning Theory; Socialization The Medicalization of Deviance Overview From a historical perspective, the study of deviant behavior and social control began in the late 1960s. Interest emerged in ways categories of deviance are created, how the conflict among interest groups shapes the definition of what is considered deviant, and detailed ways that social policy about deviance develop and change over time (Horwitz, 1981, p. 750). From a reflective perspective, Higgins (1998) observes that "many of us take for granted" that those who engage in deviant behavior "are different kinds of people than we are" (p. 141). This belief is reinforced by stereotypical images of crime and deviance promulgated by the mass media, which often portray offenders as immoral, impulsive, insane, or otherwise unique (Donziger, 1996). From a definitional perspective, Brezina (2000) indicates that deviance and conformity can best be described as "labels or definitions that are differentially applied to various individuals and their behaviors—not in terms of the personal attributes of the individuals, nor in terms of the intrinsic qualities of the behaviors individuals display… Second,
sociological theories of deviant involvement are based on the implicit or explicit rejection of explanations focusing on unique personal characteristics, especially abnormal traits of a biological or psychological nature" (p. 72). Akers (1994) indicates that sociological theorists tend to assume that biological and psychological variations are "more or less within the normal range" and that little or no deviance is directly caused by abnormal physiology or psychology (p. 69). Merton (1938) had previously indicated that strain theorists provide the most forceful argument in this regard by stating that participation in deviant behavior most often represents "the normal reaction, by normal persons, to abnormal conditions" (p. 672). Moreover, Orcutt (1978) indicates that deviance is socially constructed and exists in relation to "interactional processes through which acts and actors are socially defined as deviant" (p. 346). According to researchers, deviant behavior emerged in society after “component elements of the social and cultural structures existed

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