Labelling theory - crime and deviance

  • Created by: maxward
  • Created on: 08-04-16 13:30

The social construction of deviance

For labelling theorists, no act is deviant in itself: deviance is simply a social construct. 

- According to Becker (1963), social gorups create deviance by creating rules and applying them to particular people whom they label as 'outsiders'.

- Thus an act or a person only becomes deviant when labelled by others as deviant.

Differential enforcement 

- Labelling theorists argue that social control agencies (police, courts etc.) tend to label certain groups as criminal.


Cicourel (1976) argues that police use typifications (stereotypes) of the 'typical delinquent'.

- Working-class and ethnic minority juveniles are more likely to get arrested.

- Middle-class juveniles are less likely to fit the typification, and have parents who can negotiate successfully on their behalf. They are less likely to be charged. 

Crime statistics: a topic not a resource

Working-class people fit police typifications, so police patroll working-class areas, resulting in more working-class arrests.

- Thus crime statistics are not valid.

The effects of labelling

Lemert (1972…


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