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 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. 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 identity.
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
Stigmatization Among Probationers
Evidence Test of Labeling Theory Using Longitudinal Data
The Shell, the Stranger and the Competent Other -
Towards a Sociology of Shyness - Susie Scott, Cardiff Univ.