Lebaling Theory

Eugene FrancisCRJ 108 |

      Labeling theory (also known as social reaction theory) was developed by sociologist Howard S. Becker. Labeling theory holds that deviance is not inherent to an act, but instead focuses on the linguistic tendency of majorities to negatively label minorities or those seen as deviant from norms. The theory is concerned with how the self-identity and behavior of individuals may be determined or influenced by the terms used to describe or classify them, and is associated with the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy, stereotyping and also concerning itself mostly not with the normal roles that define our lives, but with those very special roles that society provides for deviant behavior.     The labeling theory suggests that people obtain labels from how others view their tendencies or behaviors. Each individual is aware of how they are judged by others because he or she has attempted many different roles and functions in social interactions and has been able to gauge the reactions of those present. This builds a subjective conception of the self, but as others intrude into the individual's life, this represents objective data which may require a re-evaluation of that conception depending on the judgment of the others. Family and friends may judge differently from random strangers. More social important individuals such as police officers or judges may be able to make more all-around respected judgments. If deviance is a failure to conform to the rules observed by most of the group, the reaction of the group is to label the person as having offended against their social or moral norms of behavior.   The more differential the treatment, the more the individual's self-image is affected