Deviant behavior is defined as the violation of respected values and norms in the society. Deviant behavior is a major topic of study in sociology and involves learning how and why social norms are violated by community members. Deviant behavior can be criminal or non-criminal in nature, and social institutions have to find ways to respond constructively.
College students study course programs that define deviant behavior by the help of sociological theories. Sociological theories of deviant behavior are fronted by sociologists who have invested years of research in studying social behavior. Some of the most relevant theories that explain deviant behavior include differential association theory, social strain theory, structural functionalism, conflict theory, and labeling theory.
The differential association theory is significant in understanding how deviant behavior is learned or acquired. College students are encouraged to conduct social surveys by using a specific demography to understand how environmental factors lead to deviant behavior. For example, a study of social deviance among young black men can reveal underlying factors such as social inequality and injustices, drugs, illiteracy, poverty, and unemployment.
The theory of structural functionalism helps students of sociology understand how deviant behavior is critical to a balanced and well-functioning society. Studies on deviant behavior reveal that it is essential in establishing values and norms of a society. Various research studies have associated societal change and social stability to structural functionalism.
The conflict theory is the most effective in establishing why deviant behaviors are common in individuals and in social groups. Students of sociology learn from research that people and social groups who are subjected to social, political, and economic inequalities develop deviance tendencies. It is inherently normal for people to defy values and norms that are oppressive and do not conform to personal or group beliefs.
College students learn that labeling theory is associated with a deviant label against a group of behaviors exhibiting common values, beliefs, and attitudes. In this context, people or a group of individuals who feel that an identity they do not subscribe to is imposed on them can become deviant. Deviant behavior is a consequence of stigmatization and marginalization because of an identity.
Deviant behavior can lead to criminal acts that violate the norms and are punishable in a court of law. College students use deviant behavior as a topic in sociology to research on the impact of actions that cause harm and injustices in a society. For example, deviant behavior among youth can lead to violence, robbery, and other injurious activities that are a security risk to the public. Some forms of deviance such as strikes and civil disobedience are not criminal in nature but impact society in ways meant to create positive change.
College students who pursue a course in sociology are expected to explain how sociological theories of deviance apply to deviant behavior and respective control measures. Students are to conduct research studies and establish factors that influence deviant behavior and how such is related to defining and changing societal values and norms.
The subject of deviance in sociology is closely associated with issues of social control. In this regard, social control is viewed as deliberate efforts of intervening against deviant behavior. Sociologists and students learn various strategies referred to as sanctions or interventions used for ensuring individuals and social groups conform to rules or are punished for violating norms.
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