The Strengths And Weaknesses Of Labelling Theory Criminology Essay

Labeling theory and its theoreticians focus on the groups and/or persons who were deemed to be condemnable and labelled therefore by society. Labeling theoreticians studied the assorted interactions between the ‘criminal ‘ groups and persons and the conformist society. Labeling theory was rather popular in the sixtiess and early 1970s, but so fell into decline-partly as a consequence of the assorted consequences of empirical research. This essay will travel on to demo the beginnings of labelling theory, the theory itself and will demo its strengths and failings utilizing assorted case-studies and illustrations.

Tannenbaum ( 1938 ) is widely regarded as the first labelling theoretician. His chief construct was the ‘dramatization of immorality ‘ . He stated that if a individual is described as being a condemnable so he automatically becomes one. Erwin Lamert ( 1951 ) founded the “ social Chemical reaction ” theory. This theory is widely credited to be the precursor of the present twenty-four hours labelling theory. His theory fundamentally states that a individual experiences societal aberrance in two stages. The first stage is known as the Primary aberrance stage. The 2nd is known as the Secondary aberrance stage. Harmonizing to Lemert, the primary aberrance stage begins with a condemnable act. He or she is so labeled felon but has yet to accept the label. The chief point of position is whether he or she has accepted the condemnable label. If the individual views themselves as a condemnable so the secondary pervert stage has begun. The object of whether a individual views himself or herself as a felon is what differentiates between the primary and secondary pervert stages. Lemert states that there are exclusions and people continue to remain in the primary stage, an illustration would be person who rationalizes that the so called ‘criminal ‘ act is legal as it is necessary for them to last and gain money ( an alien terpsichorean would be an illustration ) . The secondary aberrance stage normally begins when a individual has accepted the ‘criminal ‘ label. They so accept themselves as being condemnable as usage it to counter ( either by traveling with similar equal groups or by other agencies ) society ‘s reaction to the initial act.

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Howard Becker ( 1963 ) is held to be the designer of the modern labelling theory. He is besides responsible for coining the term ‘moral enterpriser ‘ which is a term used to depict jurisprudence devising functionaries who get certain ‘criminal behavior ‘ illegal. Becker proposed that condemnable behavior is dynamic in nature and alterations throughout clip. He hence suggested that the existent act is irreverent to the theory. What matters was the type of people traveling through the condemnable justness system. Therefore Becker says that personal motivations and the influence by society has nil to make with condemnable behavior. This is the most debated portion of the labelling theory brought approximately by him. Becker pays peculiar attending to how people and society react and operate with others who have the ‘criminal ‘ label. He mentions that one time a individual has the label of ‘criminal ‘ associated with him or her ; it becomes stuck with them and acts as a changeless label. This consequence is so profound that Becker states that persons with this label get down to be associated with the word felon. All their other associations and labels such as that of parent, employee, and so on take a back place. It becomes so utmost that it becomes their one and merely position.

Foster et al, 1972 say that in certain alone instances, the label of ‘criminal ‘ may coerce an person to incorporate back into society and attempt and seek and demo them that the condemnable act he or she committed was a error and will non go on once more ( cited in Labelling theory ) . Although in most instances secondary aberrance will be accomplished in which the individual accepts the label of condemnable and begins to tie in with likewise branded people, losing contact with friends who conform to societies regulations ( Becker, 1963 cited in Labelling Theory ) . It has occurred merely when both the society and single see him or her to be a condemnable or a pervert.

Labeling theory nevertheless has many built-in drawbacks. First, harmonizing to Wellford ( 1975 ) the theory provinces that no Acts of the Apostless are inherently condemnable, and provinces that Acts of the Apostless are merely condemnable when society considers them to be so. There are clearly some Acts of the Apostless considered incorrect in about all the societies and states in the universe, slaying, incendiarism are a few such illustrations ( cited in labelling theory ) . Second is the procedure of self-labelling. Hagen ( 1973 ) brings about the construct of self-labelling, in which he states the illustration of a liquidator who has avoided all intuition ( the act is non condemnable if no 1 is around to witness it or label him ) . He goes on to state that the liquidator may hold a scruples which will do him to label himself or herself as a liquidator. This goes against the labelling theory, which states that labelling must come from a 3rd party. Third, labelling theory is supposed to cover all condemnable activity and has an consequence on everyone irrespective of their race, societal category, sex and age ( Becker, 1963 ) . Other criminologists have been dubious of this portion of the theory and keep that a individual ‘s race, societal category and so on bashs have an consequence. They mention that the above mentioned factors can either enhance or extenuate the effects of labelling theory. There is nevertheless no scientific survey on the effects of the above factors. Marshall and Purdy ( 1972 ) stated that the surveies conducted reflected existent behavioral differences that were reacted to otherwise by different people. Fourthly, it matters on who the audience is comprised of, as the degree of denunciation an single feels depends on the audience ‘s reaction to the act. As the labelling theory provinces, the first is the audience larning about the act that is considered condemnable and non the act itself. As it has already been explained, if the audience does n’t cognize about it so it is non a offense. Different audiences may hold different reactions to a offense and therefore the penalty and the labelling will change even though the same offense is being committed. The last drawback of the labelling theory is that the personality of the single affairs. This can do jobs. The degree of stigmatisation an single gets varies on whether or non he cares about his label. Surveies have come across certain persons that have personality traits which makes them resistant to the labels conferred on them by society. The biggest drawback one may state that affects labelling theory is that it has non yet been ’empirically validated ‘ . Some surveies found that being officially labeled a felon ( e.g. arrested or convicted ) increased subsequent offense, while other surveies did non. Although there are many surveies that validate it, there are none that can offer important informations in its support. Labeling besides involves both a incorrect or ‘deviant ‘ act and a ‘deviant ‘ individual.

There are nevertheless several things that are incorrect with the drawbacks. The first one references that slaying, incendiarism and so on are all condemnable in most of the states and societies. That is non a drawback but simply a statement of facts. It simply states what society presently thinks. In the hereafter the mentality of society may alter and Acts of the Apostless that were antecedently considered to be condemnable may be legalised. History has shown that society has and will alter to accept condemnable behavior or to do legal behavior illegal. An illustration would be that of homosexualism. In the early times, it was illegal. Now it is legal. The smoke of marihuana is another illustration, although it is illegal in most of the societies and states it is now easy being tolerated in some and even being legalised in others. One of the other drawbacks besides mentions the facet of self-labelling. But as mentioned before, the person or group may seek to apologize their behavior, therefore avoiding the chance of ego labelling. An illustration would be a individual stealing to fulfill his hungriness. He would non label himself as a felon as it was a necessary for him to make so. Thus most of the drawbacks can be explained.

Lemert ( 1967 ) brought out the connexion between societal reaction and aberrance through his surveies and research of a figure of Indian folks in British Columbia. He noticed that in some folks, bumbling occurred among their members and their linguistic communication mentioned bumbling. Other tribes nevertheless had no reference of bumbling in their linguistic communication and had no members of their folks bumbling. Lemert could non set up a clear ground as to why that was so. He so went on to happen that folk that had stuttering, placed a really high significance and accent on storytelling and oratory accomplishments. Children of those folks that placed a really high accent on storytelling were frequently brought up in a civilization that placed a high value on non bumbling and holding good oratory accomplishments. Those that were non able to conform to the remainder of the folk i.e. had bad storytelling and oratory accomplishments were mocked. Lemert concluded that the force per unit area placed on the members of the folk to hold good accomplishments and the subsequent jeer and societal exclusion if they did n’t posses the oratory accomplishments led to the development of bumbling. He said that in folks where good oratory accomplishments were non expected, there was no negative reaction and hence there was no aberrance of the above type. He therefore said that such type of labelling leads to more aberrant behavior.

Thomas Scheff ( 1966 ) published Being Mentally Ill, was the first case of labelling theory being applied to the term of ‘Mentally Ill ‘ . Scheff said that mental ailment was the merchandise of social influence, traveling against the common perceptual experiences of the clip. When society finds some act ‘criminal ‘ or aberrant, they normally place the term of ‘Mental Illness ‘ on those who show that behaviour so that society can understand the ground for the behavior and come to footings with it. Harmonizing to him, society so places certain behavioral outlooks on the person and the single subconsciously changes his behavior to accommodate the outlooks of society. He said that there are no different types of the mentally sick with merely one type who conform to what society has labelled them to be. Walter Grove on the other manus was vehemently opposed to the theory proposed by Thomas Scheff. Grove argued the opposite point. He said that labelling theory and the mentally sick have no influence on one another. He said that people are said to be mentally sick, when they display behaviour that makes them to be so. Grove said that society has no influence whatsoever on mental unwellness. He said that due to their unwellness, they behave otherwise most of the clip and are therefore treated as such. There have been surveies to demo how after being diagnosed with a mental unwellness labelling has taken an consequence, such as non being offered houses and occupations, but there is really small to demo that labelling was the cause of mental unwellness in the first topographic point. Thus we can state that labelling does hold a profound consequence but has yet to be shown that it was labelling that caused the unwellness in the first topographic point.

Labeling can hold different facets every bit good. An illustration would be drugs. Marijuana for illustration is tolerated in Amsterdam and is legal in other parts of the universe ( Mexico allows four gm for personal usage ) . In those societies, soft drugs and their users are accepted and are non labelled as pervert or condemnable. In these societies we see limited drug usage and small or no overdoses and or drug maltreatment. In other societies nevertheless, soft drugs are illegal and the people who use them are labelled as pervert. It is in these societies that the policing administrations have problem commanding the maltreatment of drugs. This is due to the fact that people with low ego regard or a different/weak personality trait takes these drugs to demo that they can ‘handle ‘ it and desire to arise against society. Becker ( 1953 ) wrote in his book, the Marijuana user, that the drug does non bring forth any dependence and that it has no withdraw illness or any kind of substance that makes the user crave for the drug. The most frequent usage would be recreational. He questioned 50 of those users and found that they did non hold any pre-dispositional behavior towards it. They would be able to smoke it at one clip and at others, they wo n’t be able to. Thus the quality of aberrance does non shack in the behavior itself, but is instead the result of responses to that behavior by assorted societal audiences ( Tierney ) . The day-to-day mail ran an article which stated that some people were more likely to smoke if they saw ‘Smoking Kills ‘ on it. This was due to the fact the these people had low ego regard and by making something that brings them near to the ‘edge ‘ makes them experience like a Rebel. Therefore we see that labelling though introduced to assist society and do it a better topographic point can really do it worse. This portion of the labelling theory has many policy deductions. Intervention may do things worse. Labeling theory supports the thought of extremist non-interventionism, in which policy dictates that certain Acts of the Apostless are decriminalised and the remotion of the societal stigmata environing the Acts of the Apostless.

The consequence of labelling theory on juvenile behavior is a bit more marked and clear. Young persons are particularly vulnerable to labelling theory. Once they start to believe in their negative labels, self rejection occurs which plays a major function in the societal rejection theory. This self rejection attitude leads to the rejection of the norms of society and gives them a motivation to divert from conventional values of society. They so organize bonds with like minded aberrant equals. These young persons so go on to reject those that have labelled them and be given to put up their ain condemnable life styles dwelling of condemnable behavior. In schools, those that come from a working category household or a lower category, the young person packs are seen as ‘trouble shapers ‘ compared to the in-between category packs who are labelled as ‘pranksters ‘ alternatively. Research has shown that many of the young person packs who come from the lower category get arrested and are labelled farther as felons.

Gouldner ( 1968 ) argued that labelling theoreticians made the single expression guiltless by the application of labels by control agents such as the constabulary and society. He pointed out that aberrance was created wholly on the ‘whims of authorization ‘ . An illustration to this would be the issue of homosexualism. Early in the century, governments labelled it condemnable and illegal. Those that were caught were persecuted as such. But now, homosexualism is an recognized fact in society and there are small or fewer stigmas and or labelling attached to it.

Therefore as shown in the above essay, labelling theory has many strengths and failings. Those are, no Acts of the Apostless are inherently condemnable, there can be a procedure of self-labelling, it covers or is supposed to cover all condemnable activity, depends on the members of the society or those that do the labelling and eventually it depends on the personality of the person. However, there are already built-in drawbacks with the drawbacks given by assorted single sociologists. Those are that society alterations, and so does labelling. Persons can apologize their ‘deviant ‘ behavior. In malice of these, the major drawback of the labelling theory is the deficiency of empirical informations to back up it. We can therefore reason that labelling theory does hold an consequence, but is non the primary cause for most of the Acts of the Apostless committed.


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