The Labeling Theory And Its Effect On Devience

692 words - 3 pages

According to labeling theory, deviance is a product of a societal reaction to behaviour. A label is created as a reaction to an isolated incident by agents of social control. The recipient then internalizes the label and absorbs it into their self identity. Once they identify with the label, the individual will act in ways that fulfill the label. The focus of labeling theory is on the process of how the label leads to further delinquent behaviour. The cause of the initial act of deviance is of less concern than how societies reaction to the act creates a condition for further deviance. Thus the focus of study on labeling theory is more concerned with secondary deviance. While the initial deviant act is known as the primary deviance, all deviant acts following the absorption of the label are known as secondary deviance. Primary deviance may be committed for a variety of different reasons and labeling theory looks not to provide a cause for the initial act but for any act of deviance caused by the internalization of a label. Labels can be formally or informally imposed. A formal label will be placed on the individual by an agent of social control such as a police officer or the courts. Informal labels are those applied by parents or teachers. Formal labels tend to be more damaging to the individual as they have no power to resist or control the label. With informal labels the individual at least has opportunity to change the labelers perception. Once a formal label is applied, the labeled is left with no control over it and absorbs the label into their self identity. In terms of juvenile delinquency, the young person will commit an initial act that society deems deviant. The youth will then be labeled and absorb this into their self image. This leads to more deviant behaviour as the youth ascribes to the deviant self identity.
As aforementioned, labeling theory is used not to describe why an individual commits an initial act of deviance, but continued deviance (secondary deviance). Its focus is on the process of how societies reaction to a...

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