Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: April 25, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963879 | Print ISBN: 9781412926942 | Online ISBN: 9781412963879| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Richard T. Schaefer
Labeling is a concept introduced by sociologist Howard Becker during the 1950s in an attempt to explain why certain people are viewed as deviant while others who engage in the same behavior are not. Although not initially applied to issues of race, ethnicity, and gender, labeling has become widely used in these social contexts. This entry defines the term and discusses its impact. According to labeling, a child who misbehaves might be considered and treated as delinquent if she or he comes from the “wrong kind of family,” whereas another child who commits the same sort of misbehavior might be given another chance before being punished if she or he comes from a middle-class family. Using this formulation, observers of racial/ethnic relations observe that the behavior of members of different groups is labeled depending on the relative power that these groups are able to exert in society. For example, in ...