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Labelling theory
· Labelling theory derived from symbolic interactionism
· The theory suggests that most people commit deviant or
criminal acts but only some are caught or stigmatised
· Labelling theorists argue that there is no point in looking
for the difference between deviant and non deviant
people because most people commit some kind of
deviant act
· They want to understand the definition of deviance and
the reaction to it rather than the cause of the crime…read more

Slide 3

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Howard Becker (1963)
· Deviance isn't the act a person commits, instead it's
the label put on the person as a consequence.
· Deviant behaviour is only deviant behaviour because
that's what people have labelled it
Just because someone If the person is
Someone has to successfully labelled
breaks a rule, it doesn'
enforce the rule or then consequences
t mean that others will
draw attention to it follow
define it as deviant.…read more

Slide 4

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Becker's labelling theory applied ­
Malinowski (1948)
Incest wasn't
If incestuous
Youth committed uncommon on
affair was too
suicide because the island and
public the
he was publically wasn't frowned
islanders would
accused of incest upon when it was
react with abuse
discreet
Just because someone Someone has to draw The boy was
breaks a rule, it doesn' attention to/enforce successfully labelled
t mean that others will the rule - The rule was and the consequence
define it as deviant. enforced by the ex was that he committed
lover suicide…read more

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Deterministic!
· Deviant individuals have a degree of
consciousness and choice
· They know their actions are deviant
· They CHOOSE to act that way!…read more

Slide 6

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Akers (1967)!
· Deviants aren't perfectly normal people until
someone comes along and slaps a label on
them
· There must be a reason why the label is
applied to some groups/individuals and not
others
· Until labelling theory explains this it is an
incomplete theory…read more

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