Iwas asked to interview two people on the topic of deviance. I chose tointerview my co-workers Timothy and Melissa at Oceans Behavior Hospital that isin Texas and which both works opposite shifts than I do, so we don’t know much abouteach other, other than our job titles and the shifts each works. They havedifferent political, educational, and cultural backgrounds; however, both arefrom the state of Texas.
Timothy is a 35-year-old husband and father of 4 boys.He grew up with financial security, received a Bachelors in Chemistry, has hadone actual job that lasted for 3 months and has a more liberal affiliation. Melissa,is a 34-year-old single mother of 3 girls, no further education after highschool with 2 full-time positions, who is considered conservative. Both gavevery intriguing answers to my questions that show their very differentbeliefs.
According to John Macionis,”deviance is the recognized violation of cultural norms” (Macionis, 2013).There are many reasons why someone would commit a deviant act just as there aremany reasons why others would define the act as deviant. To analyze some of theviews people have of deviance, the two interviewees were asked three mainquestions about the causes and remedies of deviant actions.Iinvited Melissa to have a coffee outing with me while she shared her thoughtson the main causes of deviance. She suggested that the lack of resources,competition for those resources available, and lack of outlets for frustrationare causes for deviant behaviors. I then asked what could cause or evenencourage deviant behavior today. Her answers were simply, social media (allmedia), and lack of resources. She believes that a combination of these couldcause a normal person to become deviant to try and achieve things like approvalfrom others or the ability to fit in somewhere.
When asked about her thoughtsfor preventing people from breaking society’s rules, she answered, “presenceand an increase in access to resources such as money, education, and food.” Iinstantly thought of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (1943), Melissa’s explanationfor this, is to reduce the need for acting out to survive. She says thatsometimes people steal so they can have food or provide for a family and not alldeviance has bad intentions, but it is sometimes necessary for someone tosurvive.
Her ideas reflect the strain theory of deviance, which states, “theextent and type of deviance people engage in depend on whether a societyprovides the means (such as schooling and job opportunities) to achievecultural goals (such as financial success)” (Macionis, 2013). Melissa believesthat a person’s actions depend on whether or not they have the necessaryresources to survive comfortably without being forced to be deviant.I asked Timothyand his family over for dinner and asked the same three questions. His responseto what he thought is the main causes of deviance are, one’s belief and money. Hedescribes money as the “root of all evil” and states that people will commitdeviant acts to gain money whether it is stealing, lying, cheating, gambling,or whatever other deviant act.
He also lists beliefs such as religion andpolitics as a main cause of deviance. When asked what he thought caused orpromote deviant behavior today, he answered pleasure or gratification. Peopleseek a high and sometimes it’s with deviant behavior, some people do what makethem happy even if it is wrong or not socially accepted. Timothy believes thatsome people find pleasure in doing things that are deviant and continue to dothose activities to keep the feeling of happiness. When I asked what he thinksare some effective ways to prevent people from breaking society’s rules, he replied,laws and punishment for breaking the law as well as having better role modelsin place.Timothy’sanswers can be described as both labeling theory and differential associationtheory. The labeling theory states “the idea that deviance and conformityresult not so much from what people do as from how others respond to thoseactions.
(Macionis, 2013). From Timothy’s point of view, people commit deviantacts for money and pleasure. A man who lies, cheats, steals, and gambles aredoing what he sees as viable ways of obtaining money without getting caught,but others who might observe his actions would think of him as deviant. Also,the differential association theory states “a person’s tendency towardconformity or deviance depends on the amount of contact with others whoencourage or reject conventional behavior” (Macionis, 2013). In the end, Timothybelieves that being in contact with deviant people sets a foundation for one toalso be deviant simply by interaction.Melissa’sanswers are more subjective. Coming from a more moderate upbringing, Melissahas viewed life’s challenges in a very different way than Tanisha had. Melissa’sperception of what is classified as deviant differs because of this point ofview.
He suggests that if a person is in “NEED”, then the actions taken tosustains one’s life should not be classified as deviant. Merton’s strain theoryargued that “society can beset up in a way that encourages too much deviance” and “the type of deviancepeople engage in depend on whether a society provides the means” (Macionis,2013). If basic needs are met, then the deviance in this case would not takeplace.
Afterconducting my interviews with both Timothy and Melissa, people have differentideas of what deviance is, what causes it, as well as how to prevent it.Knowing the backgrounds of both my co-workers gave me an understanding to whatpeople may say about deviance from varying perspectives. It is interesting tosee the different beliefs that people have, and have it been reflected in morethan just politics. It is the way we view others and the relationship we havewith them that gives us the ideals about what the solutions are to the world’sproblems. I have to say that I agree with both co-worker’s perspectives.
Itshould be obvious that better access to resources could prevent deviance justas well as punishment, not just with government but from other institutions. Reference: Macionis,J. J. (10/2013).
Sociology, 15th Edition. Kaplan. Retrievedfrom https://kaplan.vitalsource.com/#/books/9781323259566/