What is Lemerts labeling theory of delinquency?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In gist, the theory states that there are two types of crime committed by juveniles: One is the Primary deviance, which is basically a crime that the youth commits that does not affect anyone specifically (for example, under aged drinking, etc) which are things a juvenile does to himself. Yet, he states that when a juvenile is labeled a criminal, when authorities insult or criticize the youth by labeling him a "punk" or  "junkie" or any other name, the youth internalizes that and his behavior during crime sprees becomes secondary deviance.

The theory basically offers that criminal behavior is learned, that the youths feel a self fulfilling prophecy that makes them further commit more crimes because they feel that the insult is befitting to them.