Sociology Index

Social Reaction Theory

Social reaction theory or labeling theory focuses on the linguistic tendency of majority group to negatively label minority group or those seen as deviant from norms. Charles Lemert, a social reaction theorist, was the founder of the societal reaction theory approach. Social reaction theory is a vibrant area of research and theoretical development within the field of criminology. Social reaction theory's claim that the process of defining and suppressing deviance is important to social solidarity. Social reaction theory or labeling theory is concerned with how the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them, and is associated with the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy and stereotyping.

Social reaction theory is also referred to as labeling theory, which is mainly classified by how personal identities are influenced by the way authority categorizes the offenders. Societal reaction approach distinguishes between primary deviance, in which individuals do not see themselves a deviant, and secondary deviance in which there is an acceptance of a deviant status.

Social reaction theory began to be discussed in the mid- to late-1960s in the United States at a moment of tremendous political and cultural conflict, labeling theorists brought to center stage the role of government agencies, and social processes in general, in the creation of deviance and crime. Primary deviance arises for a wide variety of reasons, biological, psychological and sociological. Secondary, or intensified deviance becomes a means of defense, attack, or adaptation to the problems caused by social reaction to primary deviant behavior.