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Lecture 13. Sociology of deviant behavior

1. The content of the categories of "deviant behavior",

2. Social control as a regulatory mechanism of deviant behavior

3. The theories of deviant behavior


1. Social norms are the behaviors and cues within a society or group. This sociological term has been defined as "the rules that a group uses for appropriate and inappropriate values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors. These rules may be explicit or implicit. Failure to follow the rules can result in severe punishments, including exclusion from the group." They have also been described as the "customary rules of behavior that coordinate our interactions with others."

The social norms indicate the established and approved ways of doing things, of dress, of speech and of appearance. These vary and evolve not only through time but also vary from one age group to another and between social classes and social groups. What is deemed to be acceptable dress, speech or behavior in one social group may not be accepted in another.

Deference to the social norms maintains one's acceptance and popularity within a particular group; ignoring the social norms risks one becoming unacceptable, unpopular or even an outcast from a group. Social norms tend to be tacitly established and maintained through body language and non-verbal communication between people in their normal social discourse.

We need to know when and where it is appropriate to say certain things, to use certain words, to discuss certain topics or wear certain clothes, and when not to. Such knowledge about cultural norms is important for impression management, which is an individual's regulation of their nonverbal behaviour. We also may know through experience what types of people we can and cannot discuss certain topics with or wear certain types of dress around. Mostly this knowledge is derived experientially.

Social norms can also be viewed as statements that regulate behavior and act as informal social controls. They are usually based in some degree of consensus and are maintained through social sanctions. Three models explain normative rule content:

  • Focus on the actions of one's personal ego
  • Focus on ego's reactions to actions of alternative
  • Negotiation between ego and alternative.

Norms are rules of behavior. They exist as both formal and informal norms, but often the latter is found to be more strong and reinforced. These informal norms are divided into two:

  • Folkways: Informal rules and norms whose violation is not offensive, but expected to be followed. It's a kind of adjusting, accommodating type of habits. It does not invite any punishment or sanctions, but some reprimands or warnings.
  • Mores: They are also informal rules that are not written, but result in severe punishments and social sanction upon the individuals like social and religious exclusions.

The word deviance connotes odd or unacceptable behavior, but in the sociological sense of the word, deviance is simply any violation of society’s norms. Deviance can range from something minor, such as a traffic violation, to something major, such as murder.

Each society defines what is deviant and what is not, and definitions of deviance differ widely between societies. For example, some societies have much more stringent rules regarding gender roles than we have in the United States, and still other societies’ rules governing gender roles are less stringent than ours.

Gender and Deviance

In the United States, women who cry in public in response to emotional situations are not generally considered deviant—even women who cry frequently and easily. This view of women has remained relatively constant. Over the past fifty years, however, society’s perception of men who cry has changed. A man who cried publicly in the 1950s would have been considered deviant. Today, men who cry in response to extreme emotional situations are acting within society’s norms. Male politicians cry when announcing defeat, male athletes cry after winning a championship, and male actors cry after winning an award. By today’s standards, none of these men is committing a deviant act.

Date: 2016-03-03; view: 130

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