Labelling theory



SWK 1002

Outline labelling theory and consider its effectiveness in understanding junior criminal offense and anti-social behaviour in Britain today.

Labelling theory is the action of naming, the deployment of language to confer and fix the meanings of behaviour and symbolic internationalism and phenomenology. Tannenbaum, (1938) defines labelling as the process of earning the criminal by employing processes of tagging, determining, identifying, segregating, describing, emphasising, making conscious and self conscious.

Labelling theory says that deviance and conformity results not really much from what people do but from how others respond to those actions, it highlights public responses to crime and deviance Macionis and Plummer, (2005). Deviant behavior is therefore socially constructed. This article will describe completely the labelling theory and touch upon the value of the idea to the deviant behavior of the young ones and the anti-social behaviour of the youth in Britain today.

The labelling theory becomes dominant in the early 1960s and the past due 1970s when it was used as a sociological theory of criminal offenses influential in challenging orthodox positivity criminology. The main element visitors to this theory were Becker and Lement. The foundations of the view of deviance are thought to have been first proven by Lement, (1951) and were eventually developed by Becker, (1963). As a matter of known fact the labelling theory has eventually become a dominant paradigm in the reason of devience. The symbolic relationship point of view was extremely active in the early foundations of the labelling theory. The labelling theory is constituted by the assumption that deviant behavior is to be seen not simply as the violation of any norm but as any behavior which is successfully identified or labelled as deviant. Deviance is not the function itself however the response others give to that act which means deviance is in the eye of the beholder. Actually the labelling theory was built on Becker, (1963:9) assertion that "Social organizations create deviance by making the rules whose infraction constitute deviance, and by applying those guidelines to particular people and labelling them as outsiders----deviance is not a quality of the act of your person commits, but instead a repercussions of the application by others of rules and sanctions to the 'offender' The deviant is one to whom that label has effectively been applied.

Deviant behaviour is behaviour that folks so label. " The way out is a refusal to dramatize the bad. The labelling theory connects to great sociological ideas of Dukheim the symbolic interactionism and the conflict theory. The theory also draws from the idea of Thomas (1928) that when people define situations as real they become real in their consequences.

Lement, (1951-1972) distinguishes deviance into major and supplementary deviance where he described key deviance as those little reactions from others which have little influence on a person's home concept and supplementary deviance as when people push a deviant person out of their social circles that leads the individual to be embittered and seek the business of the folks who condone his behavior. Lement further argued that rather than experiencing a criminal offense as resulting in control it could be more successful to start to see the process as one where control agencies organised and even made crime. Supplementary deviance contributes to what Goffman (1963) deviant profession. This will subsequently contributes to stigma which is a powerful negative social label that radically changes someone's self concept and social identity. A unlawful prosecution is one way that an individual is labelled in a poor rather than in a positive way. Stigmatising people often contributes to retrospective labelling which is the interpretation of someone's past consistent with today's deviance Seheff; (1984). Retrospective labelling distorts someone's biography in a prejudicial way led by stigma than any try to be reasonable.

No social course is distinguishable from others as being either unlawful or clear of criminality. However according to various sociologists people who have less stake in population and their own future typically show less resistance to some types of devience. Labelling theory asks what happens to criminals after they have been labelled and suggests that criminal offense may be outlined by unlawful sanctions thus mailing one to jail may help to criminalise a person further. Stigmatising young offenders could possibly lead them into a unlawful job. Howard S. Becker, (1963) one of the sooner interaction theorists stated that social teams create deviance by causing the guidelines whose infraction constitute deviance and through the use of those rules to particular people and labelling them as outsiders. Furthermore the

labelling theoretical approach to deviance specializes in the social reaction to deviance committed by individuals as well as the connection processes leading up to the labelling.

The theory therefore suggests that criminology has been given too much focus on criminals as types of folks and insufficient focus on the assortment of social control replies. That therefore means regulations, the police, the multimedia and the public publications helps to give criminal offenses its shape. This is reinforced by the turmoil theory which shows how deviance reflects inequalities and electric power. This approach holds that the sources of crime may be associated with inequalities of class, competition and gender which who or what is labelled as deviant depends upon the relative electric power of types of people. Cicourel's review on Juvenile justice in California, (1972) remarked that police stereotypes cause black, white school youth being labelled unlawful. The discord theory web links deviance to electricity by means of the norms and the laws of all societies which bolster the interests of the wealthy and powerful.

The labelling theory links deviance never to action but to the reaction of others. The concept of stigma, extra deviance and deviant profession shows how people can integrate the label of deviance into a lasting self-concept. Political market leaders recognises that labelling was a politics act for it made them aware on which rules to enforce, what behavior is to regarded as deviant and which people labelled as outsiders may require political assistance Becker, (1963-7). Political leaders continued to produce a group of empirical studies concerning the roots of deviancy meanings through political actions in areas such as drugs legislation, temperance legislation, delinquency explanations, homosexuality, prostitution and pornography.

Becker, (1963) examines the possible results upon a person after being publicly labelled as deviant. A label is not neutral; it contains an evaluation of the person to whom it is applied. It will become a grasp label in the sense it colours the rest of the statuses possessed by a person. If the first is labelled as a paedophile, criminal or homosexual it is difficult to reject such product labels for those brands essentially overrides their original position as parents, staff member, neighbour and friend. Others view see your face

and react to her or him in conditions of the label and tend to assume that individual has the negative characteristics normally associated with such product labels. Since a person's self concept is basically derived from the responses of others they'll have a tendency to see themselves in terms of this label. This might produce a do it yourself satisfying prophecy whereby the deviant id becomes the controlling one. This links to the interactionist methodology which emphasizes the importance of the meanings the many actors bring to and develops within the connections situation.

However the labelling theory has its weaknesses which includes Liazos, (1972) who observed that even though labelling theorists is designed to humanise the deviant specific and show that he / she is no different than other individuals except perhaps in conditions of opportunity. It however by the focus on the deviant and his personality problems and subculture the opposite effect may have been achieved. He further advised that while considering the more typical everyday types of deviance such as homosexuality, prostitution and juvenile delinquency the labelling theorists have totally dismissed a more dangerous and malevolent types of deviance which he termed covert institutional violence. He remarked that this type of violence causes such things as poverty and exploitation for example the warfare in Vietnam, unjust taxes regulations, racism and sexism. It is doubtful whether labelling theorists should even attempt to discuss varieties of deviance such as this in the same way as more commonplace specific crimes or if the two should be maintained totally split being so different in subject matter.

Akers, (1994) also criticized the labelling theory by directing out that this fails to clarify why people break the law while the majority conform explaining that individuals go about minding their own business and then wham-bad contemporary society arrives and ceases them with a stigmatised label. The idea fails to make clear why the moral internet marketers react in the way described but rather blames society and portrays criminals as innocent victims which is not always the case.

To counter-top for the unwanted effects of punitive methods to youth criminal offense and anti-social behaviour the British government introduced the ASBO and ABC this means anti

social behaviour orders and suitable behaviours respectively. ASBO and ABC are recent innovations in Britain which were designed to eliminate anti-social behaviour by the individual on whom they are simply imposed. ASBO is a statutory creation and it provides legal force while an ABC is an informal treatment though not without legal value. Both types of interventions are aimed at stopping the condition behaviour alternatively than punishing the offender which might lead an individual into a deviant career. The ABC demonstrated most effective as a way of encouraging adults, children and parents to take responsibility for unacceptable behaviour. These procedures are being used to enhance the standard of living for residents by tackling behaviour such as harassment, graffiti, unlawful destruction and verbal mistreatment without criminalising the offender.

The criminal offense and disorder act (1998) provides the key elements of labour's new youngsters justice system which observed the establishment of the youth justice and the restructuring of the non custodial fines open to the youth courtroom. The government believed that preventing offending promotes the welfare of the individual young offender and helps to protect the public. The youth justice mother board oversees the youth offending teams that includes a number of assignments including assessing the risk and defensive factors in a person's life that relate to their offending behavior to permit effective interventions to be executed, providing support to teenagers who've been released from the custody into the community and early on involvement and preventative work both in criminality and anti-social behaviour.

To further decrease the ramifications of labelling the English federal government is tackling anti-social behavior and its triggers by tackling family problems, poor education attainment, unemployment, liquor and drug misuse. The most successful interventions to be carried out where noted to be the ones that engage the individual in changing their own behavior. This is being done making certain an individual knows the impact with their behaviour to the city whilst offering the necessary support to conform.

Rather than labelling and criminalising an individual the British authorities developed effective advice, councelling and support that enable people who act anti-

Socially to change their behavior. Perpetrators young and adults have issues in their lives that want the support and help of professional, statutory or voluntary organisations. Issues like money management and debt, communication problems with the family, teenagers attempting within the educational or employment because of offending behavior and victims of home violence can all reap the benefits of available services in Britain today.

This essay therefore concludes that labelling theory is enormously influential in directing attention towards the relative and somewhat arbitrary character of dominant explanations of offense and criminality in Britain. In addition, it critizes the unlawful justice and the organizations of sociable control for it reflects on the consequences of our social effect and advocates for changes in public areas plan on juvenile justice, restorative justice, de-institutionalisation and communitarian methods. The powerful insights of the labelling theory made the British isles specialists to rethink again on the challenging on crime stance hence the advantages of new restorative measures which will not label or criminalise young offenders. The labelling theory is therefore quite useful in knowing that the surge in the yob culture, gang culture and hoody culture in Britain was a result of criminalising young offenders somewhat than handling issues leading the young into criminal offense and anti-social behavior.

Words 2010


Berker and Howard, S (1963) Outsiders: Studies in the sociology of deviance, New York: free press

Goffman, E (1963) Stigma: Records on the management of spoiled individuality, Prentice-hall

Hall, S (1978) Policing the turmoil, The Macmillan press LTD

Haralambos, M and Holborn (1991) Sociology designs and perspectives, Collins education.

Macionis, J and Plummer, K (2005) Sociology a worldwide release, Pearson education limited.

Taylor et al, (1973) the new criminology for a public theory of devience, Routledge


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