• Entry
  • Reader's guide
  • Entries A-Z
  • Subject index

Deviance

Definition

Deviance is a broad term meant to signify behavior that violates social norms. The origins and functions of deviant behavior have long been of interest in the social sciences, with early sociological theories influencing the psychology theories that followed.

Sociological Theories
Structural Functionalism

One broad sociological approach to the study of deviance was structural functionalism. This viewpoint focused attention on social institutions in societies. Social institutions are organizations that fulfill vital roles in society and that promote the continued existence of society (e.g., the criminal justice system, the courts, the family). Institutions bind individuals together by promoting social norms that define right and wrong.

Émile Durkheim, an early structural functionalist, introduced the notion of anomie, a precursor to modern conceptions of deviance. Anomie was conceived of as a psychological ...

    • Loading...
    locked icon

    Sign in to access this content

    Get a 30 day FREE TRIAL

    • Watch videos from a variety of sources bringing classroom topics to life
    • Read modern, diverse business cases
    • Explore hundreds of books and reference titles