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Deviant Behavior

A study of deviant behavior as an inescapable feature of modern, complex society. Incorporates contemporary issues with theories od deviant behavior. Include some case information.

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Deviant behaviour can be considered as that behaviour which is distinct from the accepted standards of social norms and expectations as well. Some of these deviant behaviours often termed as formal deviant behaviours are punishable by law. Deviant behaviour has become inescapable in the modern society, the complexities of the society, the stresses people are facing at present in the society as well as the incorporations and their day to day routine processes and issues are making individuals get deviated from the socially accepted behavior. Crimes like robberies, rape and murders fall in this category of the formal deviant behavior classes. There are diverse theories establishing the causes of occurrence of this deviant behavior. Structural functionalism, Symbolic interaction and Conflict theories are the theories explaining this deviant behavior of the human beings. Broadly speaking it can be simply said that all the deviant behavior is not good and not acceptable. The acceptance of the deviant theory needs to be evaluated from case to case and hence it can be generalized as either good or bad in general. Hence it is a different behavior or simply it is a type of unexpected behavior.
Deviant behavior and its aspects:

However there is need to consider the specific framework classifying the behavior as deviant as well. If a particular behavior is deviant at present, it may be not in the future, since the society is evolving and change is part of this development, current deviant behavior may be considered normal in future. In legal sense, the deviant behavior makes up the unlawful activities as well the behavior which is strictly considered as positive only outside the society. In any case the causes responsible for exhibition of deviant behavior are diverse. Some of the causes may be family factors, Lack of moral and religious education, neighbourhood rejection, parentless child, impact of the neighbourhoods like slum, impact of mass media and so and so forth. Mostly the causes are diverse and do vary from case to case as well. The following write-up is about the parameters responsible for creating this deviant behavior as an inescapable feature of the modern and complex society. Also there is discussion on the contemporary issues as well as the theories explaining the evolution of the deviant behavior. The hypothesis of the report indicates that it is quite natural for the current inescapable modern complex society to create deviant behavior in individuals. Case illustrations are also provided as appropriate.

Deviant behavior is a relative issue:

Deviance in its nascent sense is the set of the activities or the specific activity that goes against the accepted standards of the society or against the vision or mission of the organization simply against the established norms or values of the society. Though the deviant behavior can be observed in numerous spheres of the people activities. The most significant focus of the deviant behavior can be experienced in the cultural deviance, situational deviance aspect as well it is also observed in the historical deviance aspect. Even if a particular activity is legally considered deviant in one society like a recognized crime, may be not deviant in the other society as well in other locations. Hence deviant behavior is mainly an issue that depend on the local circumstances as well depend on the regional circumstances; is simply a relative issue. A crime committed in self defence is not a deviant behavior. Formal agents of social control like the government practices and the enactments have much to do with classifying a particular activity as deviance or not. Any absence of thes social controls will augment deviance (Wells,2017) Apart from the factors like the location, space there are also other factors like time, which defines the deviance and its level of acceptance. In the past there is global outcry against the homosexuality and it is deemed to be highly deviant behavior, however now it is accepted in several parts of the world. Even there are several cases where the same sex marriages are accepted and even legally recognized.

Hence the time factor is also impacting in defining the limits and acceptability of the social deviant behavior in general. The factors of the culture and society are significant in developing a framework to indicate whether a particular activity is deviant or not. For example, there can be an instance where eating with hands is accepted like in a typical south Indian culture, this is deviant and not accepted as normal in the western cultures. It is accepted to have more number of wives in Islamic culture, but monogamy is only allowed as per the religion and social norms in Hindu culture. Child marriages are allowed in certain cultures, but they are considered deviant in several other cultures across the globe. Broadly speaking the sentiments and the norms of most of the cultures across the world is common, however still there are certain areas where there is difference and not following the common style and procedures are considered deviant(Newman & Wolfgang,2017).

Deviant behavior cases and Study:

Deviant behavior can be considered to happen both form external as well as due to internal reasons. An individual can behave eccentrically or deviantly due to genitical reasons. A false gene in a person can be responsible to make a person to behave in a deviant manner. At the same time, there are several attributable external reasons that can impact the person behavior as deviant (Inderbitzin, Bates and Gainey, 2016). Typical external factors include hereditary of the person, the environment in which the person is functioning, the social interactions, the learning patterns, neutralization, the control, the conflict, labelling etc. All these factors will make up important factors facilitating the behavior of the person. The reasons that can be attributed to the deviant factor or factors are quite difficult to identify and they may vary from case to case very profoundly (Matza & Bloomberg, 2017).

Literature Review

Charles Darwin proposed the theory of natural selection that comprises the selection, variation and retention as the three significant proponents that define the traits of the species and their transfer from one generation to the other (Newman and Wolfgang, 2017). Cesare Lombroso an Italian medical criminologist proposed that individuals do have hereditary propensity to exhibit deviance. He postulated that some of the individuals do have genetic pre-disposition towards deviance. Sheldon has proposed a theory of physical appearance and the impact and linkage of the same with the deviant behavior. Bruce(2016) cited that mesomorphs do have more tendency to exhibit delinquency. Physiological theorist proposed that the chromosome abnormality is the cause of drastic deviance in people. For example XYY chromosome is considered to be responsible for deviance due to increased male properties and subsequent aggressive and delinquency in people. Psycho genetics theories proposed that there is considerable relationship between the genes and behaviours of the people(McCaghy et al.,2017). Abnormality in genes creates abnormality in the behavior of the people. Sociology causes like inequality status will make the people succumb to the deviance and illegal activities. Social structure and integration deficiencies are also considered as causes of deviant behavior in individuals.

The three inherent elements of the social structure, Viz., institutional, relational and embodied components (Akers,2017) are responsible for social deviance behavior in individuals. Institutional factors include low social support sources, relational structures include low social capital and deviant networks, embodied structures include stress and related elements as the causes of the deviant behavior.

Theories expanding the deviant behavior

There are several theories explaining the deviant behavior the following are some of the prominent theories explaining the causes of the deviant behaviour.

As per the social strain theory (Downes et al.,2016), the culture and structure are supplementary aspects in society in general. The culture of the society will set the goals for people and the social structures in the society will set means and channels for achieving the same. As long as there is balance between the social structure and culture, there won't be any scope for deviance. If there is imbalance between the two, it is more likely that the social strain do create deviant behavior in individuals.

Labelling theory is a different type of outlook that is actually created in society by enactments and laws created by the powerful segments or the ruling segments of the society. The theory is mainly related with the criminology and it indicates that there is no act intrinsically criminal, this is labelling that makes it deviant(Sjostrom,2017).

Social control theory(Tittle,2018) is about the social bonds and the relations which the people do possess with others. When these bonds are stronger, it is more likely that the people will be controlled and behaves as expected by social norms, if there is no such social relationship existing in the society, people will behave deviantly(Stark & Barinbridge,2013).Social control makes up a key trait in deviance(Inderbitzin et al.,2016)

Differential association theory (Akers,2017) emphasizes the social contacts and the interactions in the society. The theory indicates that it is this association in the society that will make the people learn, understand the attitudes and motives for criminal behavior. More these interactions more will be chances of deviant behavior.

Conflict theory is concerned with the social and economic forces acting in the society. These two forces are considered to be the main forces drivers of interactions of the human beings. When the institutional ability comes into the conflict with the individual capabilities, as well if the legal rights of the poor are ignored due to the mighty and powerful in the society, the conflict occurs and this will result in the formation of deviant behavior in the individuals(Clinard and Meier,2015).

Symbolic interactionalism is related to the social relations, what the social relations taught the individual will result in the formation of personality of the individual. Power inequalities and subsequent social stratifications are considering to be the causes of deviant behavior as per this theory. Symbolic interactions based on symbolic developments and these elements and the interpretations of the same are basis for establishment of the deviant behavior in the human-beings(Rock,2016).

Deviance in the context of modern, complex society:

Society and the characteristics of the society are very much important in any social theory. Social interpretations do depend on these dynamic characteristics of the society. As long as the individual's own value system is in coherence with the society value patterns, there won't be any friction and the social behavior of the individual can be considered to be normal. However the strains being generated in terms of the individual's capacities and the society expectations results in deviance.

Contemporary society possesses power inequalities which continuously fuels the differences in individual interactions and identities in the society. When there is mismatch between the expectations and the capabilities; practices and the accepted norms; cultural aims and facilitating social structures, it is more likely to face deviance in the behavior. Whether the deviance is going to be criminal oriented or some other format which is different from accepted practices, it is more likely that the behavioral changes do happen in the society.

Social constructs are key enablers of certain types of behavior in individuals as well in the groups. For example the culture of gangs is not new in the American society; they were there since a long time. Entrepreneurial interests of classified personnel have patronaged the gang culture in the society. Gangs became integral part of the society, however still the actions of gangs were classified as criminal oriented and gangs are labelled as criminals and their behavior is considered deviant by legal bodies. Functional usage of gangs by legitimate entities from a long time in the society has made them integral part of the society. This development can be considered as one of the evidential feature and example of modern and complex society manifestations. Social deviance of this group has become an inevitable functionality and it is being patronaged by legally accepted entities, though are labelled as illegal and deviant.

Youth Deviance (Vries et al., 2016) is another important form of social deviance, which arised due to the difference in the social conditions and the changed life styles. Adolescent deviation is prevailing mostly in the western societies due to the complex society patterns and the freedom these people do attain. At the same time, youth deviance in the Asian countries due to the societal reason is very less. However still there is significant consideration to be given to the fact that the youth deviance is an issue of social convention too. Youth deviance labelled as per the convenience of the social constructing entities and legitimate legal bodies in one region, does not consider the same as deviance in some other regions. Also the structural problems and the associated complexities are often considered as causes of youth deviance.

Innovators (Tittle, 2018) and innovation based social deviation is another important evolution of the individuals which is purely created by the increased levels of social pressures and tensions at present. When compared with the past, the goals set by the culture are higher and higher for all individuals. The changed in lifestyles made it quite natural for people to expect more however the still existing social constructs differences, the social status differences are making it is difficult for individuals to achieve the objectives with conformist norms and framework of actions. In this regard, Innovators are working for innovating new strategies and techniques to achieve these objectives with socially deviant behavior and action procedures. Innovators otherwise accept the goals and objectives of the society; however the means to achieve them are not socially acceptable. The increased complexities and the social differences created this situation in society.

It is evidently clear that people when faced with utter realities of hardship involved in realizing the much larger culturally accepted goals, they start ignoring them and confining only to the best what they can. This is a typical ritualism, the difficulties in achieving the bigger means in life and realities involved in achieving these objectives constrained people to get deviant from the larger goals however they still reside within the framework of institutionalized framework.

Increased pressures of the complex society in achieving the goals, lack of opportunities to achieve the same and inability to take up the hardship to achieve the goals developing people to embrace deviant behavior containing renouncement of the goals as well the means to achieve the same. Retreatism is the typical social deviance observed due to the current social traits, making people to renounce both the socially accepted goals as well as the socially accepted means to achieve them and simply making them involve in the activities which do not go along with the society values at all. Retreatism can be observed in the instances people succumbing to certain cults and socially unacceptable societies and associations (Harvey et al., 2017).

Rebellion is the extreme type of social deviance as per the sociologist. This deviance involves crimes, illegal activities, terroristic actions etc. They do evolve from extreme social inequalities and mismatch between individual value systems and the environmental factors. Contemporary visualization of Islamic terrorism (Tasgin & Cam, 2016) can be visualized as due to mismatch between individual values and sentiments and the westernization of the world (Martins et al., 2018).

Changed complex political conditions in the global scenarios are destructing the society and accepted social values and norms. War ridden regions resulting in social life damage. Recent times, Oil wars in Middle East, war on terrorism in Syria etc. Civil wars in Sudan and other parts of African Countries creating no option but to succumb to social deviation by most of the civilians.

Due to variety of reasons like changes in the social values, Social power and the changed life styles along with political reasons broken families have become increased these days. These changes are creating scope for deviation in the individual by making them deprived of needs satisfaction, lack of love and affection. Also decreased prominence of moralities and religious preaching making people get quickly vulnerable to the deviant behavior. Lack of socialization due to the gaps in relationship with neighbourhood with increased urbanization, proximity to get interaction with the socially deviant groups, lack of basic facilities, lack of parents to take care of children, misuse and wrong messaging from the mass media and criminalization of the urban slums are some of the several reasons of social deviant behavior of individuals.

Last but not least the vulnerability towards social deviance is also propelled by the increased complexities, changes in the framework of society as well by increased opportunities in the society at large at present. Information technology revolution has given access and capabilities to people to destruct the formal resources or to gain illegitimate access to the resources (Turel, 2017). Hacking, cyber crimes etc fall in this category and easy vulnerability of the society and the opportunities available for exploitation has inevitably created scope for social deviance in individuals. Access to guns and weapons made it easier for individuals to involve in socially destructive and rebellion activities. Increased proximity and vulnerable opportunities are creating social deviance much possibly happen in the society.


To some extent, Deviant behavior is just an element of labelling and it is not fixed with respect to the space, time and environmental factors. However still the deviant behavior is emanating from the contemporary shift in the society life styles and the value systems as well. Further increased social inequalities in the society and the differences in the access to the means and tools for achieving the socially recognized objectives have increased. Differences in opportunities but prevailing pressure to achieve the goals have created a particular framework making individuals vulnerable to the deviant behavior. Deviant behavior can be in the form of innovation, retreatism or even rebellion but the roots of these causes still exist in the social constructs and the social functional structures. However the increased complexity of society has made individuals succumb to social deviant activities. Both the proximity and the necessities compelling deviance and the intense social inequalities and social structural and functional deficiencies are augmenting these traits more seriously than ever before.

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