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kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In sociology, deviance is defined as a type of behavior which elicits a negative response from society. In other words, when a person violates a norm (a social and cultural expectation), we call this a deviant act.

Some examples of deviance include rape, murder, arson and robbery. Not all deviance is this serious, however. Binge drinking or being sexually promiscuous, for example, are not against the law, but they are considered to be deviant acts because they elicit a strong moral response from society since they violate socially acceptable standards of behavior.

Deviance does, however, vary across time and place. What one society judges to be deviant, for instance, might not be considered deviant in another. Similarly, our ideas about deviance can change over time. In the 19th century, for example, women were negatively judged for dressing in anything but a modest way. In modern society, however, women are not held to the same standards.

Deviance, therefore, is an action which violates social norms and which provokes a strong moral reaction. Deviance also varies from time and place. 

For more information on deviance, please see the reference link provided.