Compare the psychological and sociological theories explaining deviance.

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The major difference between the two disciplines is that psychology is concerned with people as individuals while sociology is concerned with how people act in groups. For this reason, the methods by which deviance is studied in these two fields are very different.

Sociologists look at how societies define and...

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The major difference between the two disciplines is that psychology is concerned with people as individuals while sociology is concerned with how people act in groups. For this reason, the methods by which deviance is studied in these two fields are very different.

Sociologists look at how societies define and respond to deviance. They might study how behaviors considered deviant at one period might become normalized as societies evolve. They might also look at how studying what is considered deviant behavior in a society might help researchers understand the values and norms of that culture. Sociological theories consider deviance to be rooted in the impetus for a society to create norms as guides to behavior and to increase social cohesion. Some see deviance as grounded in power asymmetry with the powerful creating norms and imposing labels of deviance on outsiders.

Psychologists study individuals. A psychologist might be concerned with what causes a given individual to act in a manner considered deviant. Some psychologists might be interested in clinical practice in which they help people modify deviant behaviors to help them adapt better to their societies while other clinicians may emphasize helping patients learn how to create successful lives despite having personal preferences or attitudes that are unconventional. Psychologists can explain deviance in terms of inadequate socialization or variations in cognitive development.

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Sociological theories that explain deviance look at the interaction between an individual and his or her society. For example, conflict theory explains deviance as arising from the inequalities that exist in that society. A person from a group that suffers from discrimination might turn to deviant behavior as a way to access what the society denies him or her. Labeling theory posits that the labels that are put on someone might make him or her more likely to be deviant. There are other branches of sociology that explain deviant behavior; the sociological theories all share the approach of looking at a person's interaction with society.

Psychological theories, on the other hand, look for explanations of deviance that arise within the person or within his or her family of origin. For example, conduct disorder, which arises in childhood, is characterized by deviant behavior and a refusal to abide by societal standards. This disorder arises because of an individual's psychological development, which includes his or her interaction with his or her family. Other psychological theories suggest that trauma plays a role in creating deviant behavior, while other theories look at the role that brain development and brain chemistry play in the development of deviant behavior. The psychological approach puts more emphasis on the individual's experience, not his or her interaction with the society as a whole.

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In the basic premise of the question lies the difference between Psychology and Sociology.  Psychology is the study of the self, the ego, the individual.  Sociology is the study of group dynamics. 

One deviance theory is differential association theory.  In this theory, outside forces, or those with whom an individual associates, help create the deviant behavior by role modeling. This is a sociological theory.

Another is the Anomie theory.  In this theory, individuals learn the socially acceptable goals of society, yet have no means of attaining them without utilizing deviant behaviors.

Yet another theory is labeling theory, definitely a sociological concept, in which society labels certain acts or ways of being as deviant; therefore, anyone displaying this behavior is deviant.

A more psychological theory of deviance is the control theory of deviance.  In this theory there is the actual battle of wills within oneself and whether they consider an act deviant or not. In this theory one is battling with oneself and the beliefs and values he or she independently holds.

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