Labeling theory - How it explains crime

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  • Created by: Megan
  • Created on: 26-04-15 17:32
How does labeling theory explain crime?
By looking at how individuals get labelled by others in society and considering how that label may make the actor behave in a certain way
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What perspective is Labeling theory from?
Interactionism - focusing on the meanings of individuals actions
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What are labeling theorist interested in?
How and why certain acts come to be labeled as deviant or criminal. They argue no act is deviant in itself, it only comes to be so when others label it as such.
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What makes an act deviant?
It is not the nature of an act that makes it deviant but the nature of societies reaction to that act
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How did BECKER argue that social groups create deviance?
By making rules and applying those rules to certain people and labeling them as outsiders
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By BECKER's definition what is a deviant?
Someone to whom the label has been successfully applied and deviant behaviour is simply behaviour that people so label
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What did CICOUREL study?
Police and juvenile offenders in California
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What are typifications?
commonsense theories or stereotypes of what the typical delinquent is like
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What did CICOUREL find about officers typifications? What did this lead to law enforcement showing?
They all held a similar picture of the typical delinquent. This lead them to concentrate on certain 'types', which lead to law enforcement showing class bias
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What were the characteristics of the typical delinquent in CICOURELS study?
from a broken home, poor school performance, low income family
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What did CICOUREL find was likely to happen to young people who fitted the typifications?
They were more likely to be arrested and charged with a criminal offence.
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In CICOUREL's view, Justice is not fixed but what? Give an example
Negotiable. e.g when a m/c youth was arrested he was less likely to be charged. Partially because his background doesnt fit the police typification and partly because his parents are able to negotiate successfully on his behalf.
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What two types of deviance did LEMERT make a distinction between ?
Primary and Secondary deviance
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What is primary deviance? Give an example
Deviant acts that have not been publicly labelled e.g. fare dodging
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What is secondary deviance? Give an example
Acts that have been publicly labelled as deviant, it is a result of societal reaction e.g. speeding and hitting a pedestrian
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What can caught and publicly labeled as criminal involve?
being stigmatised, shamed, humiliates, shunned or excluded from normal society
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What is a Master Status?
Once an individual is labelled, others may come to see hm only in terms of the label. This becomes his controlling identity, in the eyes of the world he is no longer a father or neighbour but a junkie or ********* e.g. Jimmy Savile
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What can having a master status do to an individual?
provoke a crisis for the individuals self concept or sense of identity.
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How can master status lead to a self fulfilling prophecy?
To resolve the crisis of identity to individual may accept the deviant label and see themselves as the world sees them, thus the individual will live up to their label
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What did JOCK YOUNG (1971) Study?
used the concepts of secondary deviance and a deviant career in his study of hippie marijuana users in Notting Hill.
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Give an example of primary deviance in YOUNGS study?
Initially drugs were peripheral to the hippies' lifestyle
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How did that example become secondary deviance?
persecution and labelling by the control culture (police) led the hippies to see themselves as outsiders. They retreated into closed groups where and developed a deviant subculture, drug use became a central activity, inviting further police attentio
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What is deviance amplification ?
describes the process in which the attempt to control deviance leads to an increase in deviance. This leads to greater attempts to control it and, in turn, this produces higher levels of deviance.
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Give an example of a study which showed Deviance Amplification
Cohen's (1972) Folk devils and Moral Panics - study of the societal reaction to the 'mods and rockers' disturbances.
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Give two advantages of Labeling theory when explaining crime
1)It shows that the law is often enforced in discriminatory ways 2)Shows society's attempts to control deviance can backfire and create more deviance not less
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Give two disadvantages of Labeling theory when explaining crime?
It is deterministic, implying that once something is labeled as deviant a career is inevitable 2)Fails to explain why people commit primary deviance in the first place
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Card 2


What perspective is Labeling theory from?


Interactionism - focusing on the meanings of individuals actions

Card 3


What are labeling theorist interested in?


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Card 4


What makes an act deviant?


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Card 5


How did BECKER argue that social groups create deviance?


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