Secondary deviance refers to deviant behavior which flows from a stigmatized
sense of self; the deviance is thought to be consistent with the character of the self.
Any person's self can be stigmatized or tainted by public labeling.
Secondary deviance is contrasted to primary deviance which may be behaviorally identical to
secondary deviance though incorporated into a normal sense of self.
One may get drunk because one sees oneself as enjoying a
party. However, if one notices that friends are hiding their liquor, one may come to see
oneself as a drunk and then continue to get drunk because one is a drunk. The
first act is primary deviance and the second act is secondary deviance.
Primary deviance is engaging in the initial act of
deviance and secondary deviance is the stage in which one internalizes a deviant identity
by integrating the initial act of devianc into their self-concept.
Lemert suggests that deviance doesn't just happen, with a
single instance of behavior. Lemert argues that there is first
of all an act that deviates from the normatively expected behavior.
That first act probably brings a reaction from the social
context because it violates norms. The reaction very often
involves admonition not to deviate again, and even punishment. Lemert suggests that some
instances of deviance in this pattern are probably simply clumsy and unintended. Punishment and admonition for those acts may provoke a sense of
being treated unjustly.
After a series of such interdependent interactions,
eventually the person begins to employ his deviant behavior or a role based upon it as a
means of defense, attack, or adjustment to the admonitions and prohibitions that behavior
provokes. That point, Lemert refers to as "secondary deviance." - Williams III
and McShane's Criminology Theory.
Lemert (1967 ) made a further distinction between primary
deviance, the initial rule-breaking act, and secondary deviance , the labelled person's
response of defense, attack or adaptation to the problems caused by the social reactions
to their initial deviance. Thus originally there may not be a separate group of 'deviant'
(or 'shy') people, but rather we all drift in and out of deviant and conformist behaviour
(Matza 1964), and only a minority of these rule-breaking acts reach the attention of
others. When this does happen and a person is engaging in secondary deviance, it can be
said that they are following a deviant (or moral) career - a set of roles and expectations
shaped largely by the reactions of others. The individual's self identity is therefore
vulnerable to social judgements and appraisals, and once again we see the constant
interplay between mind, self and society (George Herbert
Mead). As the work of Erving Goffman (1961, 1963)
famously showed, when a person is labelled with a particularly 'discrediting' social
attribute (such as shyness, perhaps), this can serve as a permanent mark or stigma upon their character. Stigmatising labels are hugely powerful
in shaping our sense of who we are in relation to significant others and to the wider
society, and so a moral career can be one of the most defining influences upon self
Reaction and Secondary Deviance in Culture and Society: The United States and Japan (From Legacy of
Anomie Theory: Advances in Criminological Theory, Volume 6, P 329-347, 1995, Freda Adler
and William S Laufer, eds. - S G Vincentnathan
Abstract: Punitive sanctions are important in Japan where prison conditions are harsh by
western standards and some offenders are interrogated without regard for their rights.
Japan, however, has a much lower criminal recidivism
rate than the United States. In explaining recidivism in the United States, the labeling
or secondary deviance perspective has some merit. Most individuals in both countries share
common perspectives unique to their own cultures. As an aspect of the individualism emphasized in the United States, the individual
is taught to seek personal autonomy and self-importance. The individual learns that he or
she should not submit to others but should ascend over them. The defiant offender emerges
in the weak and confrontational relationship created between the individual and the
society which requires the individual to submit to authority. In order to prove that one
is free and still more important than society, the offender is inclined to test social
power and make a negative, recidivistic response. Contrary to the conventional labeling
perspective that social reaction per se promotes secondary deviance, social reaction
provides the context for aggravating secondary deviance. In Japan, the individual admires
the society of which he or she is a part. This tendency arises from cultural learning that
supports integration of the individual with society. In this context, when socially
reacted against, the offender becomes ashamed of the crime, takes the punishment as
deserving, and is motivated to prepare for unity with society. Social reaction against
offenders in Japan has less recidivistic consequences than in the United States.
Stigmatization Among Probationers
Andreas Schneider ; Wayne McKim
Journal of Offender Rehabilitation Volume:38 Issue:1 Dated:2003 Pages:19 to 31
Abstract: An identity theory perspective defines stigma as negative labeling, which may
either come from others or from within an individual. Drawing on the concepts of primary
and secondary deviance provided by labeling theory, the authors set out to determine
whether probationers experience stigmatization from within (secondary deviance) or from
others in their community (primary deviance). Personal
interviews were conducted with 97 current probationers in rural West Texas. Questions
focused on probationers perceptions of how employers, family, the community, law enforcement, and friends viewed them as a result
of their probation placement in order to establish the presence of primary deviance.
Probationers were also asked about their perceptions of themselves to establish primary
deviance. This primary stigmatization was counterbalanced by the probationers
perceptions of themselves and from the support of friends and family members. As a result,
probationers did not engage in secondary deviance to the extent expected due to the
contradictions in the different forms of stigmatization. The support of family and friends
is thus extremely important in destabilizing the stigmatization of others.
An Empirical Evidence Test of Labeling Theory
Using Longitudinal Data
MELVIN C. RAY, WILLIAM R. DOWNS
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, Vol. 23, No. 2, 169-194 (1986)
This article uses panel data and multiple regression of follow-up on baseline variables to
test direction of causality among drug use behavior, informal
labels, and formal labels. Baseline and follow-up data were collected on a random sample
of 100 adolescents (54 males) and a clinical sample of 88 adolescents (49 males). Separate
regressions were performed on male and female respondents using both samples. Slope
differences across samples were tested using interaction terms computed by multiplying
sample type (coded as 0 = random, 1 = clinical) by each regressor. Results partially
supported by the labeling theory proposition of secondary deviance among males, although
changes are suggested in this proposition. Among females, drug use behavior was causally
prior to labels, which contradicts secondary deviance. Further research is needed to
clarify reasons for this sex difference in causal processes over time. An implication for
research is to use panel data where possible in testing direction of causality. An
implication for theory in the social sciences is that theories may be sex-specific. Thus
theories must be tested separately on each sex as well as on samples including both sexes.
The Shell, the Stranger and the Competent Other -
Towards a Sociology of Shyness - Susie Scott, Cardiff University
In contemporary Western societies, shyness appears to be an increasingly common
experience, and yet its sociological relevance has been overlooked. Within psychology, the
condition has been seen as an individual pathology, and there has been little attempt to
relate this to the wider cultural context. The argument of this article is that shyness
can be interpreted as both a privately felt state of mind and a publicly recognized social
role. I revisit Meads conception of the self as an inner
conversation between the I and the Me,
arguing that the shy actor perceives themselves as relatively unskilled in interaction by
comparison to a Competent Other. It is then suggested that it is normal for
people to drift into isolated episodes of shyness as primary deviance, but that in some
cases the reactions of others can lead to a career of secondary deviance.