Labeling Youths...And The Consequences Thereof Essay

1452 words - 6 pages

A child’s self-esteem often times comes from their status in a group of their peers, their family, school life and in society. With that in mind, society still decides to label youths as deviants, delinquents and status offenders ultimately changing their own views on their self-image. This affects the way youths think about themselves and how they will play a role in society. It also affects the way society will later treat them and whether or not they become an outsider. Labeling youths is an unnecessary evil that often times changes children into criminals.
To understand labeling we must first look at its definition. Labeling Theory is a theoretical approach to deviant behavior, basically stating that applying formal definitions to an individual results in a negative self-concept that may subsequently provide motivation for further acts of deviance. (Rush 203) Labeling became a popular perspective during the 1960s and 1970s but it has proven to be influential in current times as well. This theory was developed over the course of years by three prominent theorists: Frank Tannenbaum, Edwin M. Lemert and Howard Becker. It is also known as Interactional Theory of Deviance and Social Reaction Perspective.
Frank Tannenbaum is noted with the first use of labeling theory within his book Crime and Community in 1938. “The process of making the criminal, therefore, is a process of tagging, defining, identifying, segregating, describing, emphasizing, making conscious and self-conscious; it becomes a way of stimulating, suggesting, emphasizing and evoking the very traits that are complained of.” (Tannenbaum) Labeling separates juveniles from their counterparts and changes their self-image and how society and the justice system handles them; this Tannenbaum called the “Dramatization of Evil”. (Bartollas 128) He suggests that labeling a youth has a negative effect and often time leads the youth to engage with other delinquents and more delinquent behavior. The reason for this being that youths will try to escape the way society has negatively labeled them but because of low self-esteem they return to what first labeled them or a similar crime or status offense.
Edwin M. Lemert is the founder of Social Reaction Perspective (or Social Reaction Theory to some). In Lemert’s theory there is primary deviation, which consists of the individual’s behavior and secondary deviation, which is society’s response to that behavior. (Bartollas 129) Lemert focused on society’s view on the juvenile because of a delinquent act. This in turn transformed the youth’s view on their identity. As a child growing up is a confusing process. School work becomes harder, your body changes due to puberty and your values and morals are tested due to peer pressure. There may also be pressure at home for better grades or a lack of attention because of other siblings. Regardless being a child between the ages of 10 and 17 is difficult enough on its own. Most children strive to fit into...

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