Theories in Criminal Justice
If one were to look up the definition of the word theory, they might find a meaning that pertains to words such as philosophy or a hypothesis. Theories exist in all aspects of life in order to give us explanations of why a certain phenomenon exists. This is extremely evident in the area of criminal justice. One phenomenon I am interested in is the human element during the juvenile years. Throughout I will examine why at an early age some juveniles choose one option that leads to a life of no crime and others choose an option that leads to criminal activity at an early age and then eventually as an adult. Throughout I will bring to the attention some theories of this varied behavior that have been discussed over the years and explain why I agree or disagree with such theories.
In order to understand these theories that I will address, one must look at the issue of deviance. In order to grasp the concepts of these theories, it is necessary to look at deviance on deeper level. Deviance, after all, is the basis of what these theories are based upon. Normal behavior is defined as conforming to a standard, usual, typical, or expected (Soanes, 2001). Deviant behavior is a divergence from normal standards, usually social or sexual. Therefore, by definition, deviance is not normal.
Deviance is non-conformity to a set of social norms or expectations widely accepted (Fulcher & Scott, 1999; Giddens, 1997). According to Haralambos and Holborn (1995), deviance is relative. It can only be defined in relation to a set of standards. Since no standards are fixed, deviance is not absolute.
There are two types of deviance, primary and secondary (Fulcher & Scott, 1999). Primary deviation is behavior that is normative to expectations of a group, but which is “normalized” by them. “While marijuana smokers might regard their smoking as acceptable, normal behavior in the company they move in, they are fully aware that this behavior is regarded as deviant in the wider society” (Taylor, Walton &Young, 1973 cited by Haralambos & Holborn, 1995).
Many justifications for the normalization of deviant behavior are employed (Fulcher & Scott, 1999). Secondary deviation arises when deviation is no longer normalized (Fulcher & Scott, 1999). It becomes stigmatized or punishable and its consequences can shape a person’s future (Fulcher &Schott, 1999; Giddens, 1997). For example, a child who disrupts a class a couple of times may be labeled as a deviant by his or her teacher and may then continue to act in a deviant way.
Labeling is an important theory in the study of deviance. Labeling theorists interpret deviance as a process of interaction between deviants and non-deviants (Giddens, 1997). “Social groups create deviance by making the rules whose...