SOCIOLOGY 100 • Survey of General Sociology


Theoretical Perspectives on Deviance





Functionalist Perspectives

Robert Merton



Cloward and Ohlin



Strain theory



Opportunity theory

  • Deviance occurs when access to the approved means of reaching culturally approved goals is blocked.  Innovation may result, where the individual accepts culturally approved goals and adopts disapproved means of achieving them

  • Crime is a reflection of our opportunity structure


Karl Marx



Kathleen Daly
Meda Chesney-Lind



Critical approach



Feminist approach

  • The powerful use law and the criminal justice system to protect their own class interests.
  • Deviance is an expression of inequality

  • Liberal feminism views women’s deviance as arising from gender discrimination; radical feminism focuses on patriarchy; and socialist feminism emphasizes the effects of capitalism and patriarchy on women’s deviance.

Symbolic Interactionist Perspectives

Edwin Sutherland

Travis Hirschi

Howard Becker


Edwin Lemert


Differential Association theory

Social control/social bonding

Labeling theory


Primary and Secondary deviance

  • Deviant behavior is learned in interaction with others.  A person becomes delinquent when exposure to law-breaking attitudes is more extensive than exposure to law-abiding attitudes.

  • Social bonds keep people from becoming criminals.  When ties to family, friends, and others become weak, an individual is most likely to engage in criminal behavior.

  • Acts are deviant or criminal because they have been labeled as such.  Powerful groups often label less-powerful individuals.

  • Primary deviance is the initial act.  Secondary deviance occurs when a person accepts the label of “deviant” and continues to engage in the behavior that initially produced the label. 





Date Last Changed: October 23, 2019

Contact Kathleen French