CRM 2302 FINAL.doc - Social Reaction Theories in...

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Social Reaction Theories in Criminology FinalMathilda TerroUniversity of OttawaCRM 2302 B
2IntroductionAccording to experts in the field of sociology, a social problem is a generic phenomenon.It is the process whereby societies or groups of people define a considered situation as aproblem. According to Kitsuse (1980), a social problem is described in “A four stage naturalhistory,” (p. 146). The first step involves the process where groups assert the offensiveness of acondition, followed by an official agency responding to the claims made by the group, then theexpression of dissatisfaction with the official response following the re-emergence of the claimand finally, the establishment of parallel counter-institutions (Kitsuse, 1980. p. 146).The four stages of describing a social problem indicate that the definition of a socialproblem is based on a group’s activity perception of a condition as a problem and thus demandfor changes. It is the nature of every society to have deviancy. It is for this reasons thatresearchers in the field of sociology, as well as psychology, have used Social Reaction Theory tobring out the societal understanding of deviance and crime.Social Reaction theory also known as label theory is associated with both the formal andinformal labeling of crime and deviant behavior. Experts have described the approach as one ofthe most important approaches used to understand criminality (Lemert, 1981. p. 286). The theorystates that the society is responsible for assigning labels such as criminals or that of deviantthereof. The label, however, comes when the society judges an individual or an individual’sactions which are considered out of the norm. Furthermore, is the fact that what is considered adeviant act today or in a certain community may not be the case in a different time or a differentcommunity.
3The theory further states that one who is labeled as deviant has a high likelihood ofcommitting the act again due to the stigma from the consequences of having committed thedeviant act (Lemert, 1981. p. 290). This means that when an individual is given a particular labelby the society, the person is likely to accept and own this label as a part of themselves. For thisreason, they start thinking of themselves as criminals which prompt them to continue with thecriminal activities. The Theory of Social Reaction explores the social deviance as primary andsecondary deviance (Lemert, 1981.p. 291). The two stages are distinguished by the ownership ofthe label given by the society. For the primary stage, a person commits a criminal act for the firsttime and may be labeled as criminals, but they do not necessarily have to accept the label. Thesecondary stage, however, comes in when the individual accepts the label. The primary state willmore likely remain like that if the person is strong enough to look at the label as a positive thingrather than negative one.

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