Labelling theory

Theorists and their theories on labelling

5 Key theorists and 2 extra further reading

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  • Created by: samantha
  • Created on: 15-05-12 10:51

Labelling theory

The police have stereotypes about what the typical delinquent looks like - class types and bias to WC areas

Their idea of the typical delinquent led to more arrests made in WC areas

CICOUREL - Typical deinquent


MC youths were less likely to be arrested as their parents 'could talk their way out of it'

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Labelling theory

Deviance is the the eye of the beholder - a deviant is someone who the label has been successfully applied. Nurses giving patients drugs is proper in this context and publically viewed as acceptable - however a heroin addict is not publically labelled as acceptable and given a negative label

BECKER - Defining deviance


The nurse giving heroin to a patient is publically labelled as acceptable behaviour

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Labelling theory

Primary deviance - acts that havent been publically labelled because they're often too trivial E.G. not paying a bus fare

LEMERT - Primary and Seconday deviance

Secondary deviance - Publically labelled acts of deviance which create a societal reaction of shame, humiliation leading to them gaining a master status E.G. someone steals from a shop, then are publically shamed and accept the label and master status of a theif.

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Labelling theory

drugs were normal to hippie lifestyle - the police labelled and persecuted them leading to them being marginalised.

They then developed a deviant subculture as drugs became central to their activities as furture reaction from the police lead to the self fulfilling prophecy

YOUNG - Secondary deviance  



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Labelling theory

mods and rockers = youth groups who differe by dress music etc. Disturbances between the two took place and the mass media presented it as confuntation between 'rival gangs'

COHEN - Deviancy amplification, Moral panic and Folk devils


the media painted a distorted picture - DEVIANCY AMPLIFICATION SPIRAL occured as the media led to public concern and the police made more arrests to sensitise the situation. Other youths could identify with the unjustified and heavy handed police arrests which led to more deviance. A moral panic took place as they had been seen as a threat to societal values & Mods& Rockers were singled as 'FOLK DEVILS'  whoes behaviour was a threat to society.

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Labelling theory

Not only is the act labelled as deviant but he actor is labelled also

'he did a bad thing' - 'he is a bad person' - Reintegrative shaming avoids stigmatising the offender as evil however makes them aware of their actions among others.

Futher Reading: BRAITHWAITE - Reintegrative shaming


Gary Glitter is an example of someone who has been publically labelled

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Labelling theory

an increasing tendency to see young offenders as evil and to be less tolerant of minor offences.

The Criminal Justice System (CJS)  have relabelled minor offences as more serious E.G. Truancy has recieved harshed punishment

Further Reading: TRIPLETT - Relabelling minor offences


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