The Causes and Relativity of Deviant Behavior

Categories: Anthropology

Deviant behaviour is any behaviour that does not conform to generally accepted social or cultural norms and expectations. Murder is a classic exemplar of extreme deviant behaviour as, according to the cultural norms of our society, killing another human being is unacceptable. There are many different theories on what provokes someone to commit a deviant act, including physiological explanations and psychological explanations. Deviance, in everyday language, is the act of being different from the popular belief, usually in a bad way.

That being said, in order to understand and define a person’s behaviour we must first study the ultural norms of the society surrounding him. Norms vary across cultures and, in some situations, what is considered as deviant behaviour in a particular society and time may be seen as acceptable in another. For example, there was a time when it was a social norm for the ladies of the Western world to wear gloves in public but such an act would nowadays be considered as bizarre, unless the weather was cold.

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The determination of deviant behaviour depends on the general population or an individual. A common question is what triggers people to perform deviant behaviour.

From the perspective of physiology, brain variations lead to expressions of deviance. They claim that genetically inherited characteristics such as chromosome abnormalities, chemical imbalances, vitamin deficiencies and hormonal differences make certain people naturally more prone to criminality. However, many sociologists tend to respond negatively to such theories. While there is some evidence to suggest that inheritance and the biochemistry of the brain may be factors in abnormal behaviours, biological factors on their own cannot interpret crime.

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On the other hand, psychologists are interested in the thought rocesses behind deviant behaviour. Some propose that early childhood socialization plays an important role in the personality the child will later develop.

Others support Sigmund Freud’s (1856 – 1939) notion that crime can be an outcome of an imbalanced personality, caused by a failure to resolve the Oedipus or Electra complex. Each is resolved by the boy or the girl suppressing their sexual desires for their mother or father respectively. As with physiological theories, many sociologists have the tendency to criticize psychological theories as being unscientific, because he parts of the brain described by Fraud cannot be directly accessible to the researcher.

In conclusion, sociologists have developed different theories as to why certain people develop such behaviours. Some cause this abnormality to genetic reasons and some to mental sickness. While there is little agreement amongst sociologists about what provokes deviant acts, one thing is certain; deviance is a relative concept and depends on the judger. There is no absolute way of defining a deviant act, as deviance is culturally determined and cultures change over time and diversify from society to society.

Updated: Nov 20, 2023
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The Causes and Relativity of Deviant Behavior. (2016, Sep 18). Retrieved from

The Causes and Relativity of Deviant Behavior essay
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