Labeling Theory Research Paper

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Labeling theory

The labeling theory is one of the various social behavior theories that seek to explain the cause of deviant behaviors within the society. Here, the theorists tend to describe deviant behavior as behavior that which becomes deviant only when labeled so. This approach tends to explain why the labeling theorists are not much interested in what causes the primary deviation. They tend to shelve the question of what causes primary deviation and tend to assume that the infarction of norms is distributed fairly evenly throughout the different social groups but they take the line that for various reasons that authorities notice and label only certain individuals. The labelists assume that all are fundamentally alike, before the effects of labeling sets in. They tend to assume that no individually is innately motivated to act in a deviant manner and no one has some traits impelling him to do so. This approach is in sharp contrast with the traditional approaches and theories on deviance, which asserted that people develop specific behavioral trends s a consequence of influence exerted by ‘criminogenic’ factors.

By labeling, it is often inferred that the identity ascribed to an individual is in some way deliberately done so and altered to his discredit because of an alleged deviation. This sets in the concept of stigmatization, which describes the process of attaching visible signs of moral inferiority to a given person or people in the form of unpleasant marks, labels, brands, or publicly disseminated in formation. Hence, labeling starts or begins when an individual is alleged to have deviated in a particular manner. Here, there are two types of deviance, the ascribed deviance and the achieved deviance. The ascribed deviance shows up in the form of those not complying to the norms possessing a special physical or visible ‘inadequacy’. Such deviance is manifested independently of the individual’s own behavior and intention. A common example is the case of physically handicapped individuals or those seen to be physically divergent (say for being dwarfs, ugly, too short) are subjected to treatment specifically in line with their oddness and that this treatment leads to secondary problems. The achieved deviance on the other hand must come through the individual’s own actions or commissions, he must be directly responsible for coming an act (Knutsson J., 1977: Pp 40-44).

Labeling comes with the negative consequences, some of which are obvious in the contemporary society. Disadvantaged groups are more likely that other groups to experience labeling. For instance, aggressive policing in areas that are considered to be lower class residential will automatically raise the chances of these residents coming into contact with police intervention. Here, the minorities as well as the disadvantaged groups often carry the image of criminality and being dangerous, even where these claims have no facts behind them. This means that members of such groups will be readily stigmatized, policed, sanctioned even in cases where there is no actual crimes committed. According Bernburg J.G., (2009), the encounters between the police and citizens are more likely to lead to the apprehension of the citizen if he belongs to the minority and not due to the nature or the seriousness of the offense. It is also apparent that the minorities and people from lower social class tend to receive more severe sentences due to the effects of labeling as opposed to their history of offence or nature of the offense. This is how labeling leads to discrimination in the contemporary society.

There are outstanding consequences that come with social labeling and the perceptions that get formed in the process. The issue of social exclusion as a result of labeling comes…

Sources Used in Document:


Bernburg J.G., (2009). Labeling Theory. Retrieved September 30, 2018 from

DeRoche C., (2015). Labels in Education: The Role of Parents and Parental Cultural Capital in Acquiring Diagnoses and Educational Accommodations. Retrieved September 30, 2018 from

Knutsson J., (1977). Labeling theory: A critical Examination. Retrieved September 30, 2018 from

Scimecca J., (1977). Labeling Theory and Personal Construct Theory: Toward the Measurement of Individual Variation. Retrieved September 30, 2018 from

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