Deviance Theories (Basic Definitions)

Created by BethW009 

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Functionalist Theory

Emile Durkheim (1915): deviance benefits society by enhancing conformity, strengthening social solidarity, safely releasing discontent. and inducing social change

Strain Theory

Robert Merton (1930's): the U.S. crime rate is high because society emphasizes the importance of success without providing equal opportunities for achieving it

Control Theory

Travis Hirschi (1969): the absence of social bonds causes deviance

Shaming Theory

John Braithwaite (1989): disintegrative shaming causes deviance

Conflict Theory

William Chambliss (1969): law enforcement favors the rich and the powerful over the poor and the weak. Richard Quinney (1974): the dominant class produces crime by making laws, enforcing laws, oppressing the subordinate class, and spreading crime ideology. Marxists: deviance and crime stem from the exploitative nature of capitalism.

Power Theory

Because of stronger deviant motivation, greater deviant opportunity, and weaker social control, the powerful are more likely to engage in profitable deviance than the powerless are in unprofitable deviance

Feminist Theory

Critical of conventional theories for being largely inapplicable to women; suggests that the status of women as victims and offenders reflects the continuing subordination of women in patriarchal society

Labeling Theory

Being labeled deviant by society leads people to see themselves as deviant and to live up to this self-image by committing more deviant acts

Phenomenological Theory

Looking into people's subjective interpretation of their own experiences is key to understanding their deviant behavior

Differential Association

Deviance arises if prodeviant definitions outweigh antideviant definitions acquired in social interactions

Window Pane Theory (of Deviance)

One broken window that's not fixed leads to multiple broken windows; one deviant act leads to more if not fixed.


Any act that violates a social norm, relative to situation and each person's unique definition

Biological Theories

Deviance is caused by physical issues (hormones, race, etc)

Cesare Lombroso

Deviants= apes and criminals who haven't evolved

William Sheldon

3 body types, each with a personality


Chubby, happy, jolly


Tall, thin, brainy


Huge brutes who commit crimes

Chromosome Theory

(XYY Theory) two y's makes a person violent, with criminal behavior (NOT scientifically true)


anxiety based, minor issues, person stays in touch with reality, personality stays the same


extreme disorder; reality is distorted, personality disintegrates, bipolar, majorly depressed, schizophrenia


rate of people going back to jail after being there once (re-deviance)

safety value

acceptable level of minor deviance that prevents major deviance

agents of safety control

people who work to control/prevent deviance (police)

borderline personality disorder/sociopath

both lead to deviance (in many cases)

primary deviance

when something is done wrong for the first time, not always aware that it's deviant

secondary deviance

when something is done wrong a second time, knowing that it is deviant

relative deprivation

envy/jealousy- people can look at others, see if they have less/more

medicalization of deviance

treats deviance like a medical model; it is a "sickness"; takes morals out of it

marginal surplus population

deviance may arise in a group of marginalized, powerless people (marx/conflict theory)

disintegrative shaming

wrongdoer is punished in such a way to be rejected or ostracized, banished from society

reintegrative shaming

makes wrongdoer feel guilty, but also shows them understanding, forgiveness, even respect

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