A summary and assessment of labelling theory

Labeling theory scholarly articles

For this reason it cannot be largely affected by labelling and self-fulfilling prophecies. The first stage is the decision by the police to stop and interrogate an individual. Goffman substantiates the idea of labelling theory via his study of a deviant career in mental illness. An act only becomes deviant when others perceive it as such. He writes: "To be cast as a thief, as a prostitute, or more generally, a deviant, is to further compound and hasten the process of becoming that very thing When a person begins to employ his deviant behavior or a role based on it as a means of defense, attack, or adjustment to the overt and covert problems created by the consequent societal reaction to him, his deviation is secondary". However one set of theorists that would contend this assumption strongly are labelling theorists. He later studied the identity formation of marijuana smokers.

In most Western countries, adultery is not a crime. Their studies show that agencies of social control are more likely to label certain groups of people as deviant or criminal. Victims are encouraged to forgive the person, but not the act, and the offender is welcomed back into the community, thus avoiding the negative consequences associated with secondary deviance.

This is the power of the group: to designate breaches of their rules as deviant and to treat the person differently depending on the seriousness of the breach.

A summary and assessment of labelling theory

Once these have been studied in greater depth and further empirical evidence collected, it may be possible to make more general statements about labelling effects. They become criminals as children, and as life progresses become involved in greater levels of crime. He wrote that sociologists, while dedicated to studying society, are often careful not to look too closely. This could be interpreted as forming a criminal subculture, and hence the individual is forced deeper into their 'criminal career'. For example if a person is in trouble with the police then they are more likely to resort to criminal activity or criminal behaviour. Others may have transgressed but have not been caught in their transgression - these people remain unlabelled. Those who are assigned those roles will be seen as less human and reliable. The growth of the theory and its current application, both practical and theoretical, provide a solid foundation for continued popularity.

The overall effect of labelling therefore still remains slightly unclear, possibly because researchers have not yet worked out the factors that determine crime levels in relation to state intervention via the criminal justice system. Related Posts My main page of links to crime and deviance posts.

labeling theory psychology

According to Mead, thought is both a social and pragmatic process, based on the model of two persons discussing how to solve a problem. It does however explain why some people or actions are described as deviant, and can help in understanding crime and deviance.

To illustrate this, Lemert studied the the coastal Inuit of Canada, who had a long-rooted problem of chronic stuttering or stammering. Mead's central concept is the self, the part of an individual's personality composed of self-awareness and self-image.

Labeling theory pros and cons

Primary being when deviance is not publicly labelled as much; secondary is deviance that follows once a person has been publicly labelled as deviant. Failure to speak well was a great humiliation. Further research would be invaluable to determine the full effect of other social factors on an individual's susceptibility to labelling, factors such as strength of bond to family and friends, social background and stage in criminal career. Labelling theorists argue that the process of labelling is a very powerful force when turning new offenders into 'career criminals' and that as it is so rarely acknowledged as a cause of crime, it will continue to exacerbate the problem as the government implement tougher policies involving more prison sentences and resulting paradoxically in higher crime rates. This is the stage at which the label may become a master status, overriding all other forms of relationship outside the deviant group. Those who did felt a stronger tie to society than the unemployed and so were less likely to risk the social shame of further arrest. This belief has been present in criminology before the rise of labelling theory in the 60s.

When a person begins to employ his deviant behavior or a role based on it as a means of defense, attack, or adjustment to the overt and covert problems created by the consequent societal reaction to him, his deviation is secondary".

Becker clearly lays out labelling theory in his book Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance. Labelling theory has been criticised on a number of grounds. He stated that everyone in the society learns the stereotyped imagery of mental disorder through ordinary social interaction.

labelling theory pdf

A more general criticism is its compatibility with social determinism, the idea that people may have no choice, or at least little choice, in their behaviour.

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The Labelling Theory of Crime