Defining Crime and Deviance

This is a good place to start if you're revising for your exam on crime and deviance

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Defining Crime and Deviance any key words will be defined at the end
of section.
Crime = behaviour which breaks laws and is punished by the legal system
Deviance = behaviour which goes against the norms, values and expectations
of a social group or society
Crime is mostly deviant, however not all deviance is crime. For example it is
hard to think of a criminal act which isn't deviant; however it is easy to think of
non-criminal deviant acts. For example, picking your nose in public,
cross-dressing, cheating at poker, etc
Downes and Rock '88 gave this definition of deviance ­ "Deviance may be
considered as banned or controlled behaviour which is likely to attract
punishment or disapproval."
Crime and Deviance are socially constructed
Both crime and deviance and culturally constructed. What is considered
criminal is less than what's considered deviant.
Michael Foucault wrote about how criminal deviance, sexual deviance
and madness change over time, for example 100 years ago it was
unacceptable for women to wear trousers whereas now it is acceptable.
Deviance changes with time and place as values, norms and social
expectations change ­ it is relative.
It must also be noted that what's deviance for some groups/societies is
conformity for others. Subcultures have different norms to mainstream
Plummer '79 said that an act can be seen as deviant or non-deviant depending
on the situation:
Societal deviance means acts which are seen by most of society as deviant, in
most situations, for example: Swearing at an authority figure, Random acts of
extreme violence and child abuse.

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Situational deviance means acts which can be defined as deviant or normal,
depending on the circumstances, for example: Being naked ­ this is ok in your
own home but would be deviant on the high street.
Culturally constructed ­ a perspective based on cultural assumptions - for
example marriage is a cultural construct, it is not biologically necessary for
men to marry women.
Social Norms/values or expectations ­ a culturally established "rule"
which are usually expected and well-known.…read more

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Positive sanctions ­ Negative sanctions ­
these reward people for these punish people for
conforming to a norm. deviating a norm.
Formal sanctions ­ A certificate for A Fine for breaking
carried out by an passing an A level the law
Official agency. exam Points on a driving
A medal for licence.…read more

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What is the extent of crime?
Studying deviance is less clear, because there's deviance and social control in
all areas of sociological study.
Here are some practice questions:
1. Give an example of a behaviour which is deviant but not criminal.
2. What is situational deviance?
3. Give an example of a formal negative sanction and an example of an
informal positive sanction.…read more


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