Deviance and Social Control



Sociologists try to understand how societies define normal behavior and deviance, behavior that strays from expectations of standard behavior. Deviant behavior is not negative behavior; rather, it is nonconformist behavior (behavior that does not follow norms). Social control refers to the ways a society attempts to prevent deviance and to encourage conformity. Sociologists use a variety of theoretical approaches to frame and analyze deviance. Of particular interest is how factors such as class, age, gender, and race impact deviance. Crime is a particular form of deviant behavior. Crime and criminal justice systems are influenced by social structure and cultural values and beliefs. Comparison of global perspectives on deviance, crime, and criminal justice helps to illustrate how all these concepts are socially constructed.

At A Glance

  • Deviance is behavior that is different than standard behavior. Deviant behavior is not negative; it is behavior that does not follow a social norm.
  • A sanction is a response that reinforces accepted behavior and encourages conformity.
  • Sociology emphasizes the social context of crime and inequalities in society, as well as how they influence the behavior of different groups.
  • Functionalism defines crime and deviance as a result of the structural tensions and a lack of morality within society.
  • Reinforcement theory focuses on deviance as a learned behavior.
  • Conflict theory views deviance as a response to structured inequality and oppression.
  • Strain theory looks at the kinds of gaps that exist between the goals promoted by a culture and people's ability to pursue and achieve those goals.
  • Symbolic interactionism considers the role of social interactions in deviance and deviant identities.
  • Crime is deviant behavior that breaks a law and is punishable using legally codified sanctions.
  • The Uniform Crime Report (UCR) and the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) provide data about crime in the United States.
  • Sociologists use data to study different categories of crime, such as violent crime, property crime, street crime, and white-collar crime.
  • Approaches to criminal justice are rooted in social and cultural values such as due process, impartiality, retribution, and rehabilitation.
  • The prison-industrial complex is related to the growth of private prisons and the capitalist profit motive.
  • Factors such as class, age, gender, and race impact the issues related to deviance and crime.
  • Global perspectives on deviance, crime, and criminal justice reveal the socially constructed nature of these concepts.