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What is Labeling Theory as Related to Deviance?

Social labeling is a wide spread phenomena. That is why on order to understand society it is important to focus on stereotypes. Labeling theory is also called the interactionist perspective, focuses on the consequences of deviant’s interactions with conventional society, particularly with official agents of social control (Clinard, 2011). As the result, those people, who are being labeled as deviants are facing problems, based on different negative stereotypes.

First of all, there are many labels, which become stigmatized. Deviant labels are associated with stigma, which means that the mainstream culture has attached specific, negative images or stereotypes to deviant labels (Krohn, 2009). Individuals, who are labeled as deviants are perceived differently from others. They can also be described in books, movies and in mass media. In addition, if the person continues to commit the violation of law the stigmatizing effect can become spiral. The persons may continue to commit acts of deviance associated with the label, perhaps even developing a deviant career through the secondary deviance (Clinard, 2011). As the result, the person is already being perceived exclusively as a member of deviant group.

Secondly, people are also impacted by definitions of deviant behavior. For example, Sutherland argues that a person becomes delinquent because of an excess of definitions favorable to violation of law (Krohn, 2009). It means that people, who perceive these definitions as favorable are more likely to engage in criminal behavior. Nevertheless, according to Hirsch, delinquency results from the tendency or propensity of the individual to seek short term, immediate pleasure (Clinard, 2011). In fact, medicalization can be very helpful in such situations. For example, psychiatrists can examine children and identify different symptoms and consequences of disease, which can change the patient’s character (Clinard, 2011).

All in all, labeling plays an important role in our social life. Of course, criminals are facing problems, based on different negative stereotypes. In addition, these labels can be reflected in the mainstream culture, such as in movies or mass media. Some scholars assume that deviant behavior results from the excess of favorable definitions towards violation of law. Others claim that it is common among people, who are seeking pleasure. Nevertheless, it is important to be careful with labeling, because people are all different and cannot be judged the same way.

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