(redirected from deviancy)
Also found in: Dictionary, Thesaurus, Medical, Legal, Wikipedia.


any social behaviour which departs from that regarded as ‘normal’ or socially acceptable within a society or social context. Whilst deviance includes criminal behaviour, its sphere is far wider than this. Furthermore, not all criminal behaviour will always be labelled as deviance, e.g. minor traffic offences (see also CRIME, CRIMINOLOGY).

Although there are some recurring elements among the forms of social behaviour regarded as deviant within society, for the most part social deviance must be seen as a socially relative phenomenon, in that conceptions of normality and deviance are relative to social context and highly variable between different societies, different subcultures, etc.

As emphasized by Erving GOFFMAN, there is also an important sense in which all social actors are deviant in that no one conforms to all the canons of socially acceptable behaviour, none of us entirely fits any social ideal, and we are all sometimes in situations in which we are socially deviant.

A further crucial question is, ‘What or who within society determines “deviance"?’ As stressed by BECKER (1963), ‘deviance is not a quality of the act… but rather a consequence of the application by others of rules and sanctions’. Thus, the question of by whom, and how, deviance is ‘labelled’ becomes crucial to its explanation (see LABELLING THEORY).

Two main sociological approaches to the study of deviant behaviour can be identified. The first approach includes functionalist accounts of deviance. For example, in the work of DURKHEIM, two complementary usages of the term ‘deviance’ are found. In The Rules of Sociological Method (1895), he describes crime as ‘normal’, in that it is a universal phenomenon in societies, and is functional in that the concepts and ceremonies surrounding crime provide a ‘social reaction’ to crime and a ritual ‘reaffirmation’ of social values which strengthens the social order. In Suicide (1897), Durkheim focuses on deviance as a social problem arising from ‘abnormal’ or ‘pathological’ forms of social solidarity particularly excessive individualism (‘egoism’) and ANOMIE.

Modern functionalist accounts of crime have largely followed Durkheim's. For example, for Parsons, deviance results from inadequate socialization, while Merton directly builds on Durkheim's concept of‘anomie’.

The second approach has developed, in particular, in opposition to the ‘positivism’ seen as underlying orthodox criminology and related approaches to the study of deviance. The starting point of such an alternative approach was the LABELLING THEORY of Becker and others. This was combined, especially in the work of the Radical Deviance Theorists (e.g. Taylor et al., 1973), with a revival of general critical debates about deviance and social control, including Marxian theories of crime. See also PRIMARY AND SECONDARY DEVIANCE, DEVIANCE AMPLIFICATION. NATIONAL DEVIANCY CONFERENCE. Compare FOUCAULT.

Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000
References in periodicals archive ?
Although most schizophrenia patients without a history of sexual offenses do not exhibit sexual deviancy, sexual content in hallucinations and delusions is common.
Deviancy has clearly been established in relation to sexuality in the literature.
Here he seems to be on a quest to offend a nation with a speech he helps to pen (under the influence of illegal substances) which brings up Australia's criminal past and the groom's possible sexual deviancy.
Manchester Crown Court heard that Read, who admitted indecent exposure, had already committed a string of "sexual deviancy'' offences, including obscene phone calls and groping a woman.
It is certainly a deliciously incongruous place - former magistrates' court and council chamber - to be hearing these tales of urban deviancy in small-town Cumbria.
" It is obligatory on the part of the AIIMS authorities to see that no one in the institution shows any kind of deviancy by taking recourse to strikes, protests or demonstrations and he who engages in such activity would be liable for disciplinary proceeding and also for the contempt of this Court," ruled the bench headed by chief justice Dipak Misra.
Redesigned, this edition incorporates chapters on integrating the program with school-wide response to intervention and positive behavioral supports, intervening with girls and culturally diverse students, research on peer-to-peer deviancy effects, monitoring progress and evaluating the program, and working with individuals.
and Israel on one hand and Iran on the other." He criticized Iran's influence in Yemen and he accused it of spreading a "doctrine of deviancy" to Yemen.
- Urge political parties, men of culture and intellectuals to instill in youths the noble universal values, so that they no longer be exposed to deviancy or self-retrenchment and resist the bad habits of consumer's society.
When you're put off by deviancy, your dream job is not at a sex shop.
"The program presents anomalies and deviancy in society that are unacceptable and immoral and should be punished according to sharia," Ahmad Qasim al-Ghamdi, Mecca head of the Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, the religious police, said.
"Deviancy in thinking is like certain dangerous diseases that can be cured if we are able to diagnose and treat them properly before they reach an advanced stage," he explained.