Deviant Behaviour, Primary Deviance
Secondary deviance refers to deviant behaviour 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
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 (cf. Mead 1934). As the work of 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.
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 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. The results indicate that probationers perceived
stigmatization to originate mainly from employers, and also from law enforcement officials
and the community in general. 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
An Empirical 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