Deviant behavior is behavior that deviates from the norm (negative and positive deviations), acts and actions that deviate from social norms.
Positive deviation is a deviant behavior that, despite on perceiving by many as unusual, strange (abnormal), does not cause disapproval (super-labor, heroism, etc.).
Negative deviation is a deviant behavior that categorically causes condemnation from most people (crime, drunkenness and alcoholism, drug addiction, prostitution, vagrancy, etc.).
Causes of deviant behavior:
- the imperfection of existing norms and laws;
- the imperfection of human nature (egotism, vices, desire to stand out);
- biological and psychological characteristics of the individual (genetic abnormalities, psychopathy, mental defects);
- social conditions of the person's life (upbringing, education, environment, the opportunity to work well and rest).
There are following forms of deviant behavior:
1. Individual / group
2. Primary / secondary deviation (introduced by H. Becker)
Individual deviations - an individual deviation from the norms within a single subculture. Group deviations - deviations of the group from the conventional morals (subculture).
Primary deviation - the deviant behavior of the individual, which generally corresponds to the cultural norms accepted in society - such a rejection is perceived by society as a small prank, eccentricity or a mistake.
Secondary deviation is a deviation that is socially defined as deviant.
Theories of deviant behavior:
1. The theory of physical types;
2. Psychoanalytic theory;
3. Sociological or cultural theories;
4. Theory of anomie (introduced by E. Durkheim).
The violation of formal norms is called delinquent (criminal) behavior, and violation of informal norms - deviant (deviant) behavior. The first is relative, and the second is absolute. What for one person or group is a deviation that for another or another it can be a habit is; the upper class considers its behavior to be the norm and the behavior of other classes representatives, especially the lower classes declension. The deviant behavior is relative, because it relates only to the cultural norms of concrete group. However, delinquent behavior is absolute in relation to the laws of the country. Street robbery committed by representatives of social bottoms can, from their point of view, be considered as normal kind of earnings or a way of social justice rebound. Nevertheless, this is not a deviation, but a crime, since there is an absolute norm - a legal law that qualifies robbery as a crime.
Features of deviant behavior:
§ its relativity (what for one group is deviation, for another - the norm, for example, intimate relations in the family is the norm, in the labor collective – the deviation);
§ historical character (what was considered a deviation before, now is the norm, and vice versa, for example, private business in the Soviet Union and nowadays);
§ Ambivalence (deviation can be positive (heroism) and negative (laziness)).
The negative effect of deviation is obvious. If individuals are not able to fulfill certain social norms or consider their implementation optional, their actions damage the society (they harm other people, distort and even interrupt significant social connections and relationships, disrupt the life of a group or society in whole).
Nevertheless, researchers also list the following socially significant functions of deviant behavior:
§ it is able to strengthen compliance with the norms (punishment or even mere public censure that follows the violation is the factor that causes most people to strive for normative behavior);
§ the deviation allows to more accurately determine the criteria (boundaries) of the norm (what is good - what's bad, what is allowed – what permitted) and equip with them other people (that's why in the ancient times public punishments were arranged, and nowadays there are TV shows like "Man and Law" ");
§ The deviation contributes to the strengthening of the group unity, which strives to protect itself from deviants (people who are prone to pathological or simply behavior that differs from the behavior adopted in this group) (we unite by the criterion "ours – not ours", meaning compliance or inconsistency of the person with the norms we recognize);
§ Deviation is a factor of social change (firstly, because deviation from the norm is a signal about the problems in society that should be eliminated, and secondly, because it indicates the changes that have taken place in society and the need to revise obsolete norms).
The most socially dangerous form of deviation is criminal behavior, which in sociology is called delinquent. The most important feature of delinquent behavior is that, unlike the deviant one, it is absolute (that is, inadmissible in all social groups of society).
It is impossible to give a definitive answer about the reasons for the deviant behavior. The variety of deviation is too great and too many factors lie at their base. Nevertheless, the researchers name several, in their opinion, the most important reasons forcing each of us from time to time to violate social norms, and a significant part of people - commit crimes.
According to E. Durkheim, the social anomie causes the deviation - a state of society characterized by the disintegration of the value system, the crisis of the whole society and its social institutions. In this situation, people cannot understand how to behave and how not to behave. The level of deviant behavior increases dramatically (during wars, revolutions and other social cataclysms).