Deviance and crime
You need to distinguish between deviant behaviour and criminal behaviour.
Crime consists of behaviour that breaks the law (e.g. murder, theft)
Deviancy consists of behaviour that differs from the norms and values of wider society
Those who exhibit deviant behaviour act and dress in a way that differs to the norms and values of wider society. One example of a deviant group is goths. Most cases of deviant behaviour are legal, but in some cases their behaviour can result in criminal activity. A group of people who exhibit deviant behaviour share their own norms and values that form a distinct subculture.
Deviant groups are often labelled by the media in a negative manner. Tabloid newspapers tend to take a more overtly biased approach towards labelling deviant groups, although labelling is not simply confined to the ‘red-top’ press. TV also plays a role in labelling certain groups.
Deviancy amplification occurs when the media focuses upon the negative aspects of behaviour amongst deviant groups. One example would be the recent focus upon young people who wear hoods, who are often associated with causing trouble and engaging in criminal activity. The media’s portrayal of certain groups can even create a moral panic within society, which can result in those groups becoming modern-day ‘folk devils’ – groups that become a scapegoat for problems within society (e.g. asylum seekers).
When groups are labelled, society will expect certain forms of behaviour from a particular group, such as people from an ethnic minority. These labels are often based upon stereotypes, and can be either positive or (in most cases) negative. For example negative labels of certain ethnic groups can be based upon racism. You also need to be aware of the potential impact of labels, such as a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The behaviour of most people conforms to the norms and values of society. Our behaviour is heavily influenced by agents of social control; which can be classified as either formal or informal.
Agents of formal control
Agents of informal control
Agents that enforce the rules of society, such as the police and the judiciary.
Includes most agents of secondary socialisation, such as peer groups and religious institutions. Parents are also a significant agent of informal control.
Crime and society
You need to know about the causes and impact of criminal behaviour. For example, people may commit crime for several reasons;
Criminals have not been taught the difference between ‘right and wrong.’ This argument is closely associated with the New Right
Mental illness. The majority of prisoners have mental health problems