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How would you define deviance? Explain how it is not easy to identify.

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The term social deviance is used to describe any behavior, belief, or appearance that violates prevailing social norms. This covers a wide range of human behaviors and might include any of the following:

  • Smoking marijuana
  • Males wearing skirts
  • Practicing witchcraft
  • Murder
  • Drinking and driving
  • Using profanity
  • Sleeping in class
  • Talking...

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The term social deviance is used to describe any behavior, belief, or appearance that violates prevailing social norms. This covers a wide range of human behaviors and might include any of the following:

  • Smoking marijuana
  • Males wearing skirts
  • Practicing witchcraft
  • Murder
  • Drinking and driving
  • Using profanity
  • Sleeping in class
  • Talking to oneself in public

As you can see, it's easy to see why some of these violate social norms. Agreeing that it's not acceptable to murder people is an idea that a society can collectively justify. Similarly, it would be nearly impossible to find many people who would want to normalize intoxicated drivers.

However, some of these "norms" are contextual. For example, using profanity in public may fall outside the boundaries of acceptable behavior when visiting your grandmother's retirement community; however, you may find that it is not problematic at a party with friends. Smoking marijuana may be seen as deviant behavior in states that have not legalized its use; in other states, marijuana has become a normalized part of local culture.

Therein lies the problem. Deviance is dependent on a wide variety of factors, including location, culture, age, gender, and religious preference. What one group considers deviant, another group might actually advocate. Norms of behavior also change over time. This means that deviant behaviors are always shifting and being redefined as societies evolve.

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