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.
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