Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Patricia E. Erickson
Sociologists define deviant behavior as behavior that violates social norms. Norms are expectations or prescriptions that guide people into actions that produce conformity. Norms make social life possible because they make behavior predictable. While members of a society do not have to agree on all the norms of a society, conformity to norms rests upon agreement by most members of society. Therefore, deviant behavior is behavior that most people in a society find offensive or reprehensible. It generates disapproval, punishment, or condemnation of the behavior. Society applies sanctions to deviant behavior to reinforce social norms. Sociologists conceptualize norms into three categories: folkways, mores, and laws. Folkways are everyday norms based on custom, tradition, and etiquette, such as standards of dress and eating behavior. Violation of these norms does not generate serious condemnation but may cause people to consider the violator as odd. Mores are norms based on important societal morals. ...