Labelling Theory

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Labelling theorist argue labelling certain people as criminal or deviant encourages them to become so.

Lemert 1951 - Primary Deviance = deviant acts that have not been publicly labelled. Widespread, unlikely to have single cause, often trivial. e.g fare dodging. Little significance for the individuals status or self concept, don't generally see themselves as deviant. 

Secondary Deviance = result of societal reaction, labelling. Can involve being stigmatized, shamed, humiliated etc... Once an individual has been labelled others see them in terms of the label. Becomes their, master status - controlling identity, overriding all others. e.g no longer father, colleague ect but thief, ********* etc.

This can lead to crisis for individual's self concept so in order to resolve this crisis is for individual to accept deviant label and see themselves as the world sees them.

Self fulfilling prophecy - individual lives up to their label therefore becoming what the label says there are. Further deviance results from acting out the label as secondary deviance. This is likely to provoke further hostility from society and thus reinforcing individual outsider status. Leads to further deviance an a deviant career. E.g. ex convict finds it difficult to get work so joins deviant subculture that offers deviant career opportunities that rewards deviant behavior and confirms his deviant identity.

Young 1971study of hippy marijuana users in Notting hill. Initially drugs was peripheral to hippies lifestyle - Primary deviance. Labelling and persecution from police led hippies to feel like outsiders and they developed a deviant subculture which drug activity became central. Led to further attention from police creating self fulfilling prophecy.

Work from Lemert


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