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Sociological Theories of Deviance: Definitions & ConsiderationsNCSS Strands: Individuals, Groups, and InstitutionsTime, Continuity, and ChangeGrade level: 9-12Class periods needed: 1.5- 50 minute periodsPurpose, Background, and ContextSociologists seek to understand how and why deviance occurs within asociety. They do this by developing theories that explain factors impactingdeviance on a wide scale such as social frustrations, socialization, sociallearning, and the impact of labeling. Four main theories have developed in thelast 50 years. Anomie: Deviance is caused by anomie, or the feeling that society’s goalsor the means to achieve them are closed to the person Control: Deviance exists because of improper socialization, which resultsin a lack of self-control for the person Differential association: People learn deviance from associating withothers who act in deviant ways Labeling: Deviant behavior depends on who is defining it, and the peoplein our society who define deviance are usually those in positions of powerStudents will participate in a “jigsaw” where they will become knowledgeablein one theory and then share their knowledge with the rest of the class. After alltheories have been presented, the class will use the theories to explain anhistoric example of socially deviant behavior: Zoot Suit Riots.Objectives & Student OutcomesStudents will: Be able to define the concepts of social norms and deviance1

Brainstorm behaviors that fit along a continuum from informal to formaldeviance Learn four sociological theories of deviance by reading, listening,constructing hypotheticals, and questioning classmates Apply theories of deviance to Zoot Suit Riots that occurred in the 1943 Examine the role of social norms for individuals, groups, and institutionsand how they are reinforced to maintain a order within a society; examinedisorder/deviance within a society (NCSS Standards, p. 42-43)Materials Handouts for each theory Worksheet for recording information about three other theories “Irish women drinking” image (from a greeting card) Zoot Suit desktop documentary found at:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v 2-BhkhOAt1IProceduresDay OneProcedure 1: Hook and definitionsDisplay the St. Patrick’s Day greeting card depicting two Irish immigrantwomen drinking beer with the caption “To heck with corn beef and cabbage!”Ask students to explain why the card is humorous. Point out the time period, theactivities depicted in the photo and alluded to by the caption, and ask studentsabout societal expectations for women during the time period.Move on to the definition of societal norms and deviance, explaining thatdeviance takes place when an individual(s) enact behaviors that disturb a socialsystem in ways that threaten the stability of that system. While we find humorousthe women drinking beer, “real” women of the time would have been regarded asdeviant for behaving irresponsibly and violating society’s expectations forwomen.2

Procedure 2: Learn a theoryDivide students into carefully formed groups of three or four. Distributeone of the four theories or concepts to each group: anomie; control; differentialassociation and labeling.Explain to the students that we will now study some theories thatsociologists have used to explain why deviance occurs in a society. In theirgroups, students should examine one theory of deviance by reading theworksheet and collectively answering the questions. Groups will be responsiblefor briefly describing their theory to the rest of the class.Procedure 3: Share theoriesEach group will use the Smartboard to briefly present their theory to therest of the class. Presentations should include key ideas, definitions, ordiagrams along with a one-sentence statement of the theory and an explanationof eradicating deviance according to the theory. Student audience members willrecord information presented by their classmates on a “Theories of Deviance”worksheet.Day TwoProcedure 4: Zoot Suit RiotsThe Zoot Suit Riots of 1943 provide an historic example of deviance forwhich multiple sociological theories apply. A counterculture emerged during the1930s and 1940s that included new music, dancing, and dress- the zoot suit.Mexican American youth in Los Angeles and African American youth in NewYork City adopted the ostentatious zoot style that included draped pants, widebrimmed hats, long jackets, shiny shoes, and (sometimes) bold colors. Wearingthe zoot suit was a source of pride for many minority youth, providing a sense ofidentity and belonging. This type of dress ran counter to the notion that a nationat war needed to practice conservatism and its citizens should focus on“producing” for the war effort through work (and not leisure). However, due toprejudice and discrimination, many employers throughout Los Angeles wouldn’thire Mexican American or African American workers. Further, minorities who3

joined the military were often relegated to the lowest ranks; in fact, AfricanAmericans were barred from joining the Marines.These tensions became violent on weekends in Los Angeles whenthousands of Navy men on-leave crowded into the city’s entertainment venues,mixing with zoot-suiters. Allegations of provocation from both sides ensued and,in short, these animosities erupted in riots that lasted for about a week whereMexican American youth wearing zoot attire were beaten by whites and strippedof their clothing.After watching a brief desktop documentary called “The Power of the ZootSuit,” students will engage in class discussion of two key questions: “Whatbehaviors could be classified as deviant during the Zoot Suit Riots?” and “Howmight sociologists explain the deviance that occurred in 1943?”Assessment of OutcomesStudents will: Contribute to group work by discussing a theory of deviance andpresenting to the rest of the class Record the presentations on three other theories on a worksheet to behanded in for assessment Participate in class discussion that applies the sociological theories ofdeviance to an historic event: the Zoot Suit Riots Journal about one or more theory of deviance, citing examples from theirown life or choosing a typical adolescent behavior deemed “deviant” byadultsExtensions and AdaptationsStudents can write a fictional account from the perspective of an adolescentthat describes deviant behavior and a reflection on its causes in the spirit of aparticular sociological theory of deviance.Students can seek an additional historical example of deviance, gather photosof the event, and record narration that explains the deviance in terms of sociologicaltheory.4

ResourcesCliffsNotes.com. Theories of Deviance. 21 Feb2012 http://www.cliffsnotes.com/study guide/topicArticleId26957,articleId-26873.html .National Council for the Social Studies. (2010). National Curriculum Standardsfor Social Studies: A framework for teaching, learning, and assessment.Silver Springs, MD: NCSS.“Social Strain Theory.” tons social strain theory.svg.5

Sociological Theories of DevianceAnomie theoryAnomie refers to the confusion that arises when social norms conflict or don'teven exist. In the 1960s, Robert Merton used the term to describe thedifferences between socially accepted goals and the availability of means toachieve those goals. Merton stressed, for instance, that attaining wealth is amajor goal of Americans, but not all Americans possess the means to do this,especially members of minority and disadvantaged groups. Those who find the“road to riches” closed to them experience anomie, because an obstacle hasthwarted their pursuit of a socially approved goal. When this happens, theseindividuals may employ deviant behaviors to attain their goals, retaliate againstsociety, or merely “make a point.If we consider the goal of achieving wealth, Merton would say that a banker fitsunder the typology of conformity. What type of person might fit into the bellion-According to this theory, how might society eradicate deviance?Explain this theory of deviance in one sentence.

Sociological Theories of DevianceControl theoryAccording to Walter Reckless' control theory, both inner and outer controlswork against deviant tendencies. People may want—at least some of the time—toact in deviant ways, but most do not. They have various restraints: internal controls,such as conscience, values, integrity, morality, and the desire to be a “goodperson”; and outer controls, such as police, family, friends, and religious authorities.Travis Hirschi noted that these inner and outer restraints form a person's selfcontrol, which prevents acting against social norms. The key to developing selfcontrol is proper socialization, especially early in childhood. Children who lack thisself-control, then, may grow up to commit crimes and other deviant behaviors.What kinds of social situations might lead to the lack of internal or external controls?According to this theory, how might society eradicate deviance?Explain this theory of deviance in one sentence.

Sociological Theories of DevianceDifferential-association theoryEdwin Sutherland coined the phrase differential association to addressthe issue of how people learn deviance. According to this theory, the environmentplays a major role in deciding which norms people learn to violate. Specifically,people within a particular reference group provide norms of conformity anddeviance, and thus heavily influence the way other people look at the world,including how they react. People also learn their norms from various socializingagents—parents, teachers, ministers, family, friends, co-workers, and the media. Inshort, people learn criminal behavior, like other behaviors, from their interactionswith others, especially in intimate groups.The differential-association theory applies to many types of deviant behavior.For example, juvenile gangs provide an environment in which young people learn tobecome criminals. These gangs define themselves as countercultural and glorifyviolence, retaliation, and crime as means to achieving social status. Gang memberslearn to be deviant as they embrace and conform to their gang's norms.Differential-association theory has contributed to the field of criminology in itsfocus on the developmental nature of criminality. People learn deviance from thepeople with whom they associate. Critics of the differential-association theory, onthe other hand, claim the vagueness of the theory's terminology does not lend itselfto social science research methods or empirical validation.Describe a fictional situation that takes place in Iowa City where deviance could beexplained using this theory.According to this theory, how might society eradicate deviance?Explain this theory of deviance in one sentence.

Sociological Theories of DevianceLabeling theoryA type of symbolic interaction, labeling theory concerns the meaningspeople derive from one another's labels, symbols, actions, and reactions. Thistheory holds that behaviors are deviant only when society labels them as deviant.As such, conforming members of society, who interpret certain behaviors as deviantand then attach this label to individuals, determine the distinction between devianceand non-deviance. Labeling theory questions who applies what label to whom, whythey do this, and what happens as a result of this labeling.Powerful individuals within society—politicians, judges, police officers,medical doctors, and so forth—typically impose the most significant labels. Labeledpersons may include drug addicts, alcoholics, criminals, delinquents, prostitutes,sex offenders, and psychiatric patients, to mention a few. The consequences ofbeing labeled as deviant can be far-reaching. Social research indicates that thosewho have negative labels usually have lower self-images, are more likely to rejectthemselves, and may even act more deviantly as a result of the label. Unfortunately,people who accept the labeling of others—be it correct or incorrect—have a difficulttime changing their opinions of the labeled person, even in light of evidence to thecontrary.Describe two hypothetical situations, one in which the labeling of deviance helpssociety and another where it hurts society.According to this theory, how might society eradicate deviance?Explain this theory of deviance in one sentence.

Sociological Theories of DevianceRecord the three theories your group did not receive and their key componentsNametheory:Inoneofsentence:Devianceis eradicated byNametheory:In oneofsentence:Devianceis eradicatedbyNametheory:Inoneofsentence:Devianceis eradicatedbyKey componentsKey componentsKey components