Lemert's Labeling Theory

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Society is comprised of various types of people and groups who all have a particular role in their cultures. These groups and roles are a natural product of societal labeling. The labeling theory is the belief that individuals subconsciously notice how others see and label them, and their reactions to those labels form the basis of their identity over time. This theory questions who applies what label to whom and what happens as a result of this labeling. Once people accept these labels it is hard to change their opinion of the labeled person and the labeled person internalizes label they’ve been given. In the 1930s, Frank Tannenbaum noted the dramatization of evil of first offender youths. The theory really started to break ground in the …show more content…
People become deviant because of the reactions to the act itself that one commits. The labeling process works by the deviant act occurring, to the reaction which creates the norms in society then finally to the person taking on that role and using as their primary status. Lemert brings about two terms, primary and secondary deviance to help explain the original and effective causes of deviance. Primary deviance can be defined as one who commits deviant acts but such acts are unrecognized. This means that individuals are violating the norms, but it is often not significant enough for those to notice and label it. As a result of this one avoids being labeled deviant and avoids deviant identity. On the other hand secondary deviance refers to one who commits deviant acts and such acts are reacted to by others as deviant. Taylor …show more content…
Role engulfment encompasses this and tells society that one defines oneself primarily through deviant identity and accepts this as their primary status. Through this secondary deviance there are three ways the labeling occurs. They are altering an individuals self concept, limiting conforming opportunities, and encouraging involvement in criminal activity. Peter Burke says that “Labeling theory suggests simply that an individual will behave in accordance with a label applied to him or her by others” (Sociological Perspectives 164). They begin to internalize that label and look at themselves differently. Burke tells the reader that, “Labeling theory stems from the symbolic interactionist tradition of the “looking- glass self”, or the reflexive self , which means that an individual will come to view the self in a way that reflects the views of others and thus come to act in a manner consistent with these views” (Sociological Perspectives 164). People feel like they are isolated and different. If they begin to see themselves as the label they have been given then it becomes extremely hard to get rid of the

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