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Identity, Deviant

Patricia A. Adler and Peter Adler

Subject Sociology » Social Psychology
Deviance and Social Control » Sociology of Deviance

Key-Topics identity

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405124331.2007.x


Identities refer to the way people think of themselves. This is important in the field of deviance because people's perceptions and interpretations of situations and themselves are likely to affect their behavior. If people conceive of themselves as deviant, they are more likely to engage in further deviant behavior than if they have a non-deviant identity. The study of deviant identities has focused on how people develop and manage non-normative self-conceptions. This processual approach has been fostered by the special interest in deviant identity taken by symbolic interactionists, with their rich heritage from labeling theory to dramaturgy. Central themes in the study of deviant identities include the ways that they develop, factors that foster their development, and consequences of having them. Some structuralist scholars consider definitions of deviance rooted in absolutist elements intrinsic to people's attitudes, behavior, conditions, or social statuses. This approach sees unchanging, universal sources such as God or nature as responsible for differentiating between the deviant and the normative. Structuralists would likely view certain acts as so inherently abhorrent that these would be banned by all societies. Relativist scholars, such as Howard Becker, however, view deviance as the product of people's reactions to events, which are situationally variable by the era in ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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