Sociology Index


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. Secondary deviance is contrasted to primary deviance which may be behaviorally identical to secondary deviance though incorporated into a ‘normal’ sense of self.

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 deviance into their self-concept. Charles 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. Punishment and admonition for those acts may provoke a sense of being treated unjustly. 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.

Lemert made a distinction between primary deviance, the initial rule-breaking act, and secondary deviance, the labelled person's response of defense. When a person is engaging in secondary deviance, it can be said that they are following a deviant career, roles and expectations shaped by the reactions of others. We see the constant interplay between mind, self and society (George Herbert Mead). As the work of Erving Goffman famously showed, when a person is labelled with a particularly 'discrediting' social attribute, this can serve as a permanent mark or stigma upon their character.

Social Reaction and Secondary Deviance in Culture and Society: The United States and Japan (From Legacy of Anomie Theory: Advances in Criminological Theory, Freda Adler and William S Laufer, eds. - S G Vincentnathan.
Japan 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. As an aspect of the individualism emphasized in the United States, the individual is taught to seek personal autonomy and self-importance. 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.

Stigmatization Among Probationers
Andreas Schneider ; Wayne McKim - Journal of Offender Rehabilitation Volume:38 Issue:1 Dated:2003.
Drawing on the concepts of primary deviance and secondary deviance provided by labeling theory, the authors determine whether probationers experience stigmatization from within, secondary deviance or from others in their community, primary deviance. Probationers did not engage in secondary deviance to the extent expected due to the contradictions in the different forms of stigmatization.

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)
To test direction of causality among drug use behavior, informal labels, and formal labels. Results partially supported by the labeling theory proposition of secondary deviance among males. Among females, drug use behavior was causally prior to labels, which contradicts secondary deviance.

The Shell, the Stranger and the Competent Other - Towards a Sociology of Shyness - Susie Scott, Cardiff Univ.
Within psychology, the condition has been seen as an individual pathology. 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 Mead’s 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 suggested that people drift into episodes of shyness as primary deviance, but that in some cases the reactions of others can lead to a career of secondary deviance.