Explain the effects of labeling on delinquency using Edwin Lemert theory of primary and secondary deviance.

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mizzwillie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Edwin Lemert's theory of deviance was to explain that primary deviance was anything which happened before the deviant was labeled while secondary deviance was anything which happened after the deviant was labeled.  It really was a way to describe labeling.  I personally believe that labeling only reinforces the idea that "I'm bad" or "I'm a major delinquent" to which a person lives up to.  Kids become what they are told they are over and over.  They come to believe that they are not worth anything, that delinquency is what they are, and the future holds no hope.  If behavior can be dealt with in creative ways without labeling, kids have more ability to see themselves as temporarily not functioning properly but can improve.  As I talk with at risk kids in a homeless shelter, many are there as a result of circumstances beyond their control with huge  trust issues and no one who believes in them.  When those issues are addressed without labeling, they are able to make strides forward and see hope in the future.