Deviant behavior is defined as a behavior that contradicts established social norms. However, from the perspective of different social theories related to deviant behavior, different deviant acts can be interpreted differently in different societies and in different countries. According to Macionis & Gerber (2006):
Deviance is the recognized violation of cultural norms. It is a very broad concept, and many characteristics are used by members of society in identifying deviance. One familiar type of deviance is a crime or the violation of norms formally enacted into criminal law. (n. p.)
The deviant act is very broad in scope and can include different actions from shoplifting to engaging in criminal groups.
The relation between gender and deviant behavior has emerged in recent decades and provides that there is an as great role of sex and gender in deviant behavior, and a person’s gender can be a significant factor contributing to his/her involvement in crime or “anti-social activities.”
As Adler & Adler (2006) provide, men and women have different reasons to commit deviant acts; in addition, men are more inclined to criminal or deviant acts. It lies in the fact that men are more sociable and oftener than women (especially in the teenage age) join social groups, as they are more subjected to the influence of peers. According to Heitzeg (n. d.), “discussion of female deviance was largely ignored or limited to issues of sexual activity or sexually stereotyped mental disorders and was later explained by the influence of either men or feminism” (p. 2). Thus, deviant behavior can be considered as a way to demonstrate a woman’s power and independence. For example, smoking used to be considered as the male habit, and women’s smoking was not socially acceptable. Thus, a woman’s smoking is the result of the woman’s deviant act.
There are four major deviant theories that can be used to provide the reasons and causes of deviant behavior. They are Edwin Sutherland’s differential association theory, Robert Merton’s anomie theory, Reckless’s control theory, and labeling theory (Adler & Adler, 2006). The differential-association theory suggests that the environment is a key factor that influences the understanding of deviance in society. People learn social norms from society and from other people they interact with.
Anomie’s theory suggests that deviance behavior arises when it appears the conflict between social goals and available means to achieve them. Thus, individuals can employee the deviant acts in order to achieve personal goals (Adler & Adler, 2006). Control theory suggests that there is an inner and outer control that prevents people from deviant behavior. The lack of socialization can lead to a lack of self-control, and thus, to deviant behavior. Finally, labeling theory provides that the behavior is deviant only when the society labels it as the one.
Those theories can be used to explain the deviant actions of the “crack whores” described in chapter 39. In particular, control theory, differential-association, and anomie theories can be used to describe the reasons for their deviant behavior. Thus, women are addicted, and they have a major goal “to get drugs.” They use available means to get money to buy drugs or some other ways to get it. So, their behavior is meant to achieve goals. Second, their attitude to deviant behavior was formed under the influence of the social group in which they live; the group does not “label” the drug usage as deviant behavior. Finally, “crack whores” lack of socialization and do not have enough self-control to give up drag usage. Moreover, they consider their behavior as a way to influence men and prove their independence.
So, deviant behavior is the behavior that contradicts social norms and is often associated with crime. The rate of deviant behavior is higher within men rather than women. Deviant behavior can be used as a means to achieve personal goals and show personal power and dominance.
Adler, P. A. & Adler, P. (2006). Constructions of Deviance: Social Power, Context, and Interaction, 7th Ed. Wadsworth: Cengage Learning.
Heitzeg, Nancy A. (n. d.) Differentials in Deviance: Race, Class, Gender and Age. Web.
Macionis, J. J. & Gerber, L. M. (2006) Sociology. Web.