The Labelling Theory

1674 Words7 Pages
The main aim of this essay is to describe two general theories of offending and then consider the extent to which they explain youth offending. This essay will firstly outline the context of the labelling theory then go on to discuss the way in which a label becomes a person’s master status in life. The essay will then compare the differences with primary and secondary deviance and define the term self fulfilling prophecy. The second stage of the essay will describe the learning theory, explaining the background including all the terms, classical conditioning, operant conditioning and social learning theory. Furthermore, it will then go on to explore the research and describe the extent to which both theories explain youth offending. Finally, the essay will compare and contrast the two theories and evaluate any of the assets or implications. The labelling theory became dominant within society during the 1940’s and 1950’s, when a group of graduate students from the Chicago school tried a different approach to applying theory to deviant behaviour. Within this group was a highly influential young man, Howard S.Becker who became the person most recognised for his work with the labelling of crime (Williams.F. McShaneM. 2010.p110). Becker argued that labels could be applied through the social reaction of others when a deviant or criminal act had been committed he stated that “Labelling is the process of identifying, categorising and stereotyping social categories such as delinquents” ( When an individual becomes labelled a criminal, people do not consider all the praiseworthy things they may have done previously, they just see that they have committed some form of deviance and are now judged within societ... ... middle of paper ... ...more stimulus for the individual to learn from (Williams.F. McShane.M.2010.p241). Furthermore, deviance within the labelling theory is defined through society’s norms and value’s, where as the deviance within the learning theory is imitation of deviance from society. To conclude this essay, it would be safe to say that the labelling theory and the learning theory both have great powers over young people’s lives, possibly because of their vulnerability and the way they perceive different behaviour within society. With criminal and deviant acts being formed and constructed by society, then behaviour displayed by a young person will inevitably be labelled if they do not live up to the norms and value’s that are in place. However, as the essay explains young people will gather characteristics of deviance from society’s influential structures.
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