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Social Deviance and its Behaviors

Updated on September 21, 2012

In today’s society, customs and norms are looked upon as unwritten rules that everyone is expected to follow. A person that decides to go against these customs and norms are labeled as deviants. In a way, everyone has been a deviant from time to time based off of this definition. In the next few paragraphs, I’ll explain deviance in depth, my perspective and perspectives of others in the classroom.

In a sense, deviance can be something as small as not listening to the teacher or having a strike about an issue that you think is morally wrong. Deviation may include criminal behavior , positivity, and actions that may not be prosecutable. An example of criminal behavior would be a man robbing the grocery store. This man is seen as a deviant because as a society, we are expected not to steal from others. My perspective is that this criminal behavior should be labeled as deviance, since the man in the example is going against our beliefs of what is right and wrong in society. My classmates perspective agreed with my opinion that criminal behavior is deviance and morally wrong. An example of positive deviance would be someone that is a part of a strike going against the issue of abortion. This person is standing up for something positive because abortion is also seen as deviance in the eyes of some. My perspective is that this is not deviance because the person was only standing up for something that they thought was right; there was no criminal intent involved. Some people in the class agreed with me and thought this should not been seen as deviance, while others in the classroom thought this was deviance because it goes against norms and expectations that we are expected to follow. I disagree with the classrooms overall perspective because the action performed by the individual was not prosecutable and was positive.

A theory of deviance is that the same way behavior violates norms is performed with the same mindset of those who follow norms and expectations. This theory means that instead of following the standard way of being successful, someone might think of another way to become successful, even though what they might have to do is illegal. An example of this would be robbing a bank, in order to become rich, which is America’s idea of being successful. This person is a deviant because they are robbing, which is seen as wrong in America’s society, but they are also striving to achieve America’s idea of success, which wouldn’t be deviance. This person’s behavior would put them into a category known as an innovator. An innovator is someone who accepts the goals of society such as success but tries to achieve them by doing something illegal. My perspective is that this theory is correct in a sense that it categorizes the different types of behaviors and explains them in a way that anyone can fit into them. My classmates perspective disagrees with the theory and the types of behavior because they point out that the successful are only protecting their own interests and that if we conform, we are only helping the rich maintain their success and social control. I feel that what my classmates think is somewhat true, but shouldn’t necessarily rule out the theory and behaviors as being irrelevant.

Another type of behavior is known as the ritualist. The ritualist is someone, who isn’t trying to strive for America’s idea of success, but is content simply with working and paying bills. This person is deviant in a sense that they are not following along America’s idea of success but they are at least satisfied with where they are at now in their lives. My perspective is that this shouldn’t be seen as deviance; I feel that if someone is happy with where they are at in their life then why do something they don’t want to do even though everyone else is doing it. My classmates perspective was similar to mines in that this type of behavior shouldn’t necessarily be seen as deviance.

The third type of behavior is known as the retreatist. The retreatist is someone who isn’t trying to become successful and doesn’t follow the means of society. An example of this would be a drug addict because these people aren’t trying to become successful and aren’t following the norms and customs of society. These people in a sense are seen as deviants of society. My perspective is that I agree with this type of behavior because these type of people don’t want to be involved in society and aren’t trying to be successful. My classmate perspective disagreed with this behavior because they felt that someone might have been born into that type of lifestyle and weren’t taught how to be successful and to do what is right in the eyes of society. I feel that my classmates perspective is true, but that the individual who was born into a different lifestyle doesn’t necessarily have to follow the lifestyle and become a drug addict.

The fourth type of behavior is known as a rebel. A rebel is someone who doesn’t follow social norms and the ideal of success, but try to follow some other type of social structure. This person is someone who is still a deviant in the since that they are supposed to, in an American’s perspective, follow along with everyone else by working and striving for success but decide not to. An example of rebels would be the military. These are people that do not work, don’t follow norms and expectations of society, and aren’t trying to be successful. The people that are in the military then are seen as deviants. My perspective is that I disagree with this behavior because I feel that people in the military are just individuals who want to try to to protect their country, by all means necessary. My classmates perspective over this behavior also disagree and feel that these people in the military shouldn’t be seen as deviants since they are trying to keep the country safe .

Conformity is an adaption that is the opposite of deviance. This is when someone accepts the goals of society and strives to work hard. An example of this would be a college student, who is trying to receive a higher education, in order to obtain a better job, to make more money, and eventually becoming successful. My perspective is that I agree with this adaption because there are some individuals who would like to be successful and who would love to have a carefree lifestyle. My classmates perspective agreed with this adaption and that we should all strive to become successful by following norms and expectations.

Finally, social control is relationships, commitment, and norms that would stop you from being a deviant. For example, someone you care about stops you from fighting/arguing with someone. Another example would be how the wealthy are trying to maintain their wealth by setting up laws, norms, and expectations of the lower class to follow. This means that the wealthy are only caring about themselves but can only maintain their materialistic possessions, if there are people who are beneath them, such as the middle class and the lower class. The middle class and lower class are people who do the jobs that the rich do not have to do. So, there is a hierarchy here where the rich are at the top and maintain social control over the middle and lower class. My perspective is that I agree with this adaption because it will keep society balanced because if everyone is rich then no one would work and the circulation of money would stop, cutting off the rich from making money. My classmates perspective also agreed with mine in that their needs ot be social control in order to maintain some sort of equilibrium.

Overall, I do not agree with the entire concept of social deviance and control. I feel that minor things that people do such as disagree with someone of higher family ranking shouldn’t be seen as deviant. I feel that deviance should only be seen as something that involves some sort of criminal intent. The behavior I agree with the most is conformity because conformity is helping us Americans to better ourselves financially and economically.


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    • torrilynn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @DDE yes i believe that there are more deviants in our society than there were in the past. It is ridiculous but true. I fear that this will become worse as time progresses. The gangs drunk driving texting while driving people being killed for disagreeing with someone else and innocent people being killed for no reason has led me to this predicament.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      8 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Most interesting and so well thought of. Our society is riddled with all kinds of people whichever way you see it we have it

    • torrilynn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      @james555 thank you for your comment

    • james555 profile image

      James Mandolare 

      8 years ago from Hudson Falls New York USA

      A very thought provoking article. Congratulations. I would like to add: The term "deviant" carries a negative connotation and determining the validity of what you are writing by the closed set of you and your college classmates is limiting.

      The ethical standard is not that "being different is wrong" but is "harming others is wrong." There are conformists who not so long ago thought it was deviant to have compassion for other races and appreciation of other cultures. To lynch black people was considered "the norm" in some cultures. The Nazi's completely accepted as normal to hate Jewish people.

      The artist is a most important aspect of this as an observer and commentator on what passes for societal norms. Artist often anticipate the future of society (i.e. "Avant Garde" or "ahead of their time.") The artist is often the "rebel" who has a perception that broadens these limits. JFK said just before the Status Quo took him out: "Because of their concern for true justice the artist sees where our society falls short of its highest potential. As Robert Frost said 'He (or she) has a lover's quarrel with the world." " As JFK also said, "The Artist is the last champion of the individual sensibility against an intrusive society and an officious state."

    • torrilynn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      Wow interesting comment. After reading it, Ive realized your viewpoints and see that you are right about conforming in certain areas. Thank you.

    • Au fait profile image

      C E Clark 

      8 years ago from North Texas

      Personally, I disagree with conformity for the most part. There are some areas one should conform with for safety and health reasons, but there are also many areas that conformity only serve to slow the positive progression of society. The largest block of people to whom everyone is expected to conform is usually the least informed, least educated.

      Einstein was not a conformist and was often criticized by his teachers for being stupid. It is common for people who can't learn to imagine that if they do not understand something and they and their friends (who cannot learn either) do not agree it is worthwhile, then it is not.

      Since ignorant people, intellectually challenged people, are the largest segment of society, they prevent society from moving forward. It is only a miracle that Einstein was able to overcome the repression of the majority and bring forth his ideas.

    • torrilynn profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago

      i thank you both for your comments and your opinions about my story. i also believe that we are deviants in our own way depending on what we've done and to what extent.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      You are a really good writer , and it sounds like you will one day do a a lot of good in life , [chosen career] . Excellent hub .....Oh and i just found out I am a "retreatist "by not nessesarily a devient one lol......Ed

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 

      8 years ago from Minnesota

      Nicely written article on concepts your learning in school. I'm at a point in my life where I do not care for such labels. We are all deviants like you said in one way or another and we are all conformist's in other ways. I hit many buttons and voted up. Nice job


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