The Interactionist Approach to Crime and Deviance

Some theories on the interactionist Approach

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  • Created by: Mabel
  • Created on: 21-05-12 19:45

Becker, 'Outsiders' (1963)

  • Evaluates the relationship between the deviant act and the impact of labels by agencies of social control e.g. police, media, family
  • Sees that no act is particulary criminal or deviant by nature until it is labelled as such by "moral entrepenuers" who control definitions of what is wrong, deviant or indeed criminal.
  • cites an example from Malinowski's anthropological study to illustrate his argument - a young man was pubicly accused of incest and shame and disgust was placed on him which persuaded the man to commit suicide becuase of the label which treated him like a deviant outsider of the community despite the fact that many other islanders committed the same deviant acts secretly. 
  • Believes that once a person is labelled as deviant, it becomes the " master status" - overrulling other chartcirstsic of the person e.g. being a parent, teacher etc. There is a strong tendency that the label will become a "self fufilling prophecy" in whcih the person merely accepts the label and actively acts out the behaviour, becoming worse that the individual act e.g. being a troublemaker, drug addict etc
  • talks about the possibility once labelled, for individuals to live out a "deviant career" where
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Becker (continued)


"Deviance is not a quality of the act...but rather a consequence of the application by others of the rules and sanctions to an 'offender'"

A deviant act label largely depends on societal reaction!

Identifies four stages leading to the formation of an 'deviant career':

1. The act is labelled deviant leading to rejection

2. Further deviance is encouraged.

3. A deviant career begins

4. A deviant subculture emerges, where the indiviudal gains support from others from its isolation and social exclusion from society, reinforcing devaiant identites and qualities.



























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Identified two types of deviance:

  • Primary devience - This is the orginal act beofre it is labelled.
  • Secondary devience - is a reaction to the label.
  • in "Stuttering in the North Pacific Coastal Indians", he used the example of the problem of chronic stuttering amongst Canadian children to illustrate the relationship between primary and secondary deviance.
  • Stuttering, to Lemert, was a result of the emphasis so ceremonial speaking which left them sensitive to any speech defects. So when children had some minor speech defects, their response of shame and dishonour heightened the problem to Chronic stuttering.
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Rosenhern (1973)

  • deomstrated the poor that a label can carry
  • he admitted fake 'pseudo' patients into a clinic for the mentally ill.
  • All actors were admitted on the grounds that they were schizophrenic.
  • In reality, none of them were but the health professionals agreed with the dgainois.
  • This implies that they had certain preconceptions about the behaviour of mental patients based on the process of labelling.

Scott, "The Making of Blind Men"

  • suggests that a master status of disability can be a problem, for both society and the individual.
  • An individual's blindness can become a worse condition if others view him/her as having a problem, becoming more reliant on other for help.
  • Overall, this implies that reactions to deviance or behaviours produces more deviance than it prevents!
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Charlotte Tyler


Rosenhan not rosenhern other than that awesome :)




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