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I have been asked to address the importance of deviance as it relates to study of...

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sweet107 | Student, College Freshman | Honors

Posted October 27, 2010 at 9:45 AM via web

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I have been asked to address the importance of deviance as it relates to study of sociology.

Research and identify a behavior that would be considered deviant. How did this behavior violate the standards of conduct or expectations of a group or society? Does society define deviance?

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brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 27, 2010 at 9:56 AM (Answer #2)

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Have you ever heard the phrase "No doesn't mean anything unless you've said yes"?  The study of deviant behavior, or changing standards on what is considered deviant is critical in sociology for determining standards on what is considered "normal".  That is to say that studying deviance marks the ends of the spectrum of human behavior and allows us to study human behavior and interaction on the whole more completely and objectively.

There is no shortage of deviant behavior to choose from.  You can focus on what people wear, such as Lady Gaga recently wearing a dress made out of lunchmeat to an awards event.  Sociologists often focus on deviant sexual behavior such as fetishism.  You could focus on the inappropriate use of language.

As for whether deviance is defined by society, I would say an unequivocal yes.  What is normal, that is, the "norms" of social behavior, are also defined by society, therefore so is what deviates from those norms.  This changes over time.  Tattoos and nose rings were once considered deviant, but today are almost mainstream behavior.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 27, 2010 at 12:10 PM (Answer #3)

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With deviance in Sociology it is very important to focus on how what any given person considers to be deviant behaviour is shaped by their culture, or "socially constructed", to use the official jargon. Thus any society is going to have its set of approved behaviours determined by its norms and values. This will differ from the behaviour of other societies. Any person committing an act outside the "acceptable behaviour" of their society is going to be labelled a deviant. Just to give you one example, in Britain, where I am from, dogs are more than just a pet - they are "a man's best friend" and really become part of the family, living in the house and becoming another member of the family. However, when I went to Korea, dogs are viewed as a - you guessed it - a meat source! So one day I had stewed dog for dinner in a restaurant. It had quite a bark to it....

Now, I use this example all the time to give my students a practical example of deviant behaviour. For if I were to eat dog in Britain, it would be very very wrong and outside of the norms and values of that culture. The irony of this is that normally every year at least one student makes a complaint because they are so offended about the example I gave of eating a dog. They obviously haven't got the point about the sociological construction of deviance and how our perceptions our shaped by our society.

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lrwilliams | College Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted October 27, 2010 at 2:21 PM (Answer #4)

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I would also say that deviant behavior may even be influenced by the socio-economic status of some people in the same communities. What might be considered deviant behavior by members of the upper classes may not be considered deviant by classes below them, and vice versa.

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epollock | Valedictorian

Posted October 27, 2010 at 8:34 PM (Answer #5)

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I think deviance comes in all sorts of forms from thieves to pedophiles. That is a lot of area to cover and should offer rich opportunities to explore and develop a  well-crafted essay or research paper. You should have adequate resources from libraries, institutions, and law enforcement agencies.

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amy-lepore | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 28, 2010 at 6:52 AM (Answer #6)

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Society does define deviance.  This is why we have rules/laws.  The Ten Commandments have been around for thousands of years.  Thou shalt not kill.  Thou shalt not bear false witness against others (lie).  Thou shalt not commit adultery.  Thou shalt not steal.  Thou shalt not covet any property belonging to your neighbor.  Thou shall honor thy father and mother.  These commandments apply to all society regardless of your religious beliefs.

Other laws are created as time evolves and as needs arise.  Internet safety and credentials to carry concealed weapons, etc. haven't always been around as the technology hasn't until recently been advanced or the need to protect oneself with a deadly weapon wasn't applicable. New laws dealing with profane language in public places are popping up all over since people now are not as careful with their speech as was once expected.  As society falls deeper into moral degradation, so must new laws and rules be put into place to protect society as a whole from those who chose not to treat others as they would be treated--with honor, respect, love, and integrity.  The media, movie and music industry is largely at fault for displaying deviant behaviors and justifying it to society until society as a whole considers the behavior acceptable.

Knowing what is right, and then not doing it, would be considered sin or deviant behavior.  This would largely depend on your belief system, your values and morals as you have learned them from your family.  What is deviant to you may not be deviant to someone you know. 

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted November 1, 2010 at 8:17 PM (Answer #7)

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You have lots and lots of deviant behaviors from which to choose, of course.  Deviance is possible only in an environment which generally holds individuals accountable for their actions.  When right and wrong behavior has been given official parameters, those who break those rules and laws are displaying deviance.  Look around--the examples are everywhere. 

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 27, 2011 at 4:01 PM (Answer #8)

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Sociologists study deviance because it tells us a lot about society. What a society values, and what it accepts and does not accept, is a reflection of the society. We also study deviant behavior because we want to know what causes it and how it might be prevented.

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