Material Type:
Community College / Lower Division, College / Upper Division
Ohio Open Ed Collaborative
Conflict Theory, Deviance, Essential Nature of Deviance, Functionalism, Mertons Typology, Oss0212, Sociology, Symbolic Interactionism
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Education Standards (1)

Explain the major theories of deviance.


OER Text material

Theoretical Perspectives on Deviance

Chapter 7, subsection 7.2. In this section, functionalism, conflict theory, and symbolic interactionism are used to explain deviance. Theories under functionalism are Émile Durkheim’s The Essential Nature of Deviance, Robert Merton’s Strain Theory, Social Disorganization Theory, and Clifford Shaw and Henry McKay’s Cultural Deviance Theory. Under conflict theory are theories like Karl Marx’s An Unequal System, and C. Wright Mills’ The Power Elite. Under symbolic interactionism are Labeling Theory, Edwin Sutherland’s Differential Association, and Travis Hirschi’s Control Theory.

Supplementary Material (Videos and Reading)

Theories of Deviance by Matt Cohen (Video)

The video starts with the differential association theory noting that deviant behavior is a learned behavior. The presenter goes on to talk about the control theory mentioning that we are influenced by the inner and outer drives. Next, is the label theory where someone is deviance because he/she has been so labelled. He also explains the strain theory. Finally, he explains primary and secondary deviance

Merton's Typology (Video)

The video presents a thorough explanation of Merton’s theory on deviance. The presenter gives very interesting real life examples.

Theory & Deviance: Crash Course Sociology (Video)

This video explores how structural functionalism sees deviance fulfilling a function in society; how deviance is constructed, according to symbolic interactionism; and finally, how conflict theory views deviance as tied to power and inequality.

Theories of Deviance (Video)

In this presentation, Erin Cole explains six theories of deviance. These are Control Theory, Durkheim’s Theory of Deviance, Merton’s Theory of Deviance, Cultural Transmission Theory, Social Disorganization Theory and Labeling Theory

An Application of Three Deviance Theories to Adolescent Substance Use

This study tests the applicability of aspects of three theories of deviance—differential association, control, and strain—to the use of alcohol and drugs among a representative cross-section of 12-, 15-, and 18-year-olds. Results show that differential association theory is a far more powerful predictor of adolescent alcohol and drug use than either the control or strain theories.