What Is Deviance?
Deviance is any behavior, belief, or condition that violates Significant social norms in the society or group in which it occurs. We are most familiar with behavioral deviance. based on a person's intentional or inadvertent actions. For example. a person may engage in intentional deviance by drinking too much or robbing a bank. or in inadvertent deviance by losing money in a Las Vegas casino or laughing at a funeral.
Although we usually think of deviance as a type of behavior. people may be regarded as deviant if they express a radical or unusual belief system. Members of cults (such as Moonies and satanists) and of far right- wing or far-left -wing political groups may be considered devi~11 their religious or political beliefs become known to people with more-conventional cultural beliefs Howeye}, indiViduals who are considered to be "deviant" by one category of people may be seen as conformists by another group. For example. adolescents in some peer cliques and youth gangs may shun mainstream cultural beliefs and values but routinely conform to subcultural codes of dress. attitude (such as defiant individualism). and behavior (Jankowski. 1991). Those who think of themselves as "Goths" may wear black trench coats. paint their fingernails black. and listen to countercultural musicians.
In addition to their behavior and beliefs. individuals may also be regarded as deviant because they possess a specific condition or characteristic. A Wide range of conditions have been identified as "deviant," including being obese (Degher and Hughes. 1991; Goode. 1996) and having AIDS (Weitz. 2004). Fur example. research by the sociologist Rose Weitz (2004) has shown that persons with AIDS live with a stigma that affects their relationships with other people. including family members. friends. lovers, colleagues. and health care workers. Chapter 5 defines a stigma as any physical or social attribute or sign that so devalues a person's social identity that it disqualifies the person from fun social acceptance (Goffrnan, 1963b). Based on this definition. the stigmatized person has a "spoiled identity" as a result of being negatively evaluated by others (Goifman, 1963b). To avoid or reduce stigma. many people seek to conceal the characteristic or condition that might lead to stigmatization.