The problem of crime and deviance is most often analyzed in the field of sociology whereas social factors are the crucial ones. They cause deviant behavior more often than psychological factors do. If you have decided to research the issue on crime and deviance, you should focus on the study of cultural norms. The same type of behavior can be treated like deviant and regular in different countries. The problem of deviance is not static. It changes and develops all the time. Social norms and various types of deviance alter within communities, nations, cultures and even time. No wonder, modern sociologists begin paying more attention to the factors that cause this change in human mind. Why are the specific types of regular behavior (in one society) accepted like the deviant ones (in another society)?
What is deviance? Deviance is the behavior that breaks the rules of the particular society. This phenomenon differs from nonconformity because deviance has much more radical expression. Without question, it is possible to find individual factors in deviant behavior. There are people whose nervous system is less stable or who prefer solving their problems stormily and passionately. In fact, this trait of their character is not the major one concerning the problem of deviance. Social factors are stronger.
Let us start the research from the simplest examples of deviance. In the majority of countries, piercing, tattooing, alcohol and drug abuse are supposed to be the examples of deviance. However, in many African and Asian countries tattooing and piercing are the regular things. Furthermore, the people who do not have tattoos are treated like the abnormal ones. I was astonished when I learnt that there are cultures that treat suicide normally while the majority of cultures believe that suicide is the radical form of deviance. Next, we can observe this issue on the level of a group of people or community. There are many subcultures among the youth who try to differ from the society with the help of tattooing, piercing and aggressive behavior. Thus, deviance exists not only between different nations and cultures but also between the different social groups existing within one culture.
We can define four main theories that try to explain the factors that make people behave in the deviant way and commit crimes. Robert K. Merton offered his structure strain theory. This theory is based on the belief that a human being begins to behave irregularly if the society cannot provide people with the desired goals. For example, people strike, protest and crush automobiles and windows in the streets to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the laws and actions of the government. When one does not have money for food, he takes this food with the help of brutal force.
Many sociologists observe the problem of deviance from the side of the functionalist theory. This theory is related to the name of Emile Durkheim who studied the structure of the society and the role of every social group in it. Therefore, there are deviant individuals who break laws and violate norms playing their paramount role in the society. When other people look at their negative actions, they begin to appreciate the existing norms and laws. In brief, the major role of deviants is to show the advantages of the existing social structure with the help of contrast.
There is also the conflict theory that studies crimes and deviance from the side of social conflicts. Most often, such conflicts occur in politics, economy and different social groups. When one cannot survive in the current society because of political or economic reasons, he begins committing crimes to supply his living.
The last and the most interesting theory is labelling theory. According to its content, people characterize representatives of other nations, ethnicities and races with numerous specific feature. For instance, Asians are believed to be the best mathematicians. The Dutch are the most famous merchants. However, there are negative prejudices that illustrate foreigners in the bad light. For example, Gypsies and African-Americans were believed to be inborn criminals. Thus, it is possible that a young Gypsy who has heard a lot of negative words about his ethnicity begins to act negatively. He begins committing crimes automatically. This negative information was recorded in his mind. This theory is quite disputable whereas many people are nonconformists and their lifestyle is not influenced by the points of view of other people about them.
As you see, there are many theories that try to explain the source of crime and deviance but no one has managed to generate the best answer to this question.
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