Deviance and Social Control
December 2nd, 2011
Interview Time 1
I conducted an initial interview of client X and it was recorded audibly for a sixty minute duration. This interview was semi-structured and set up as a one on one dyadic session. X is a Puerto Rican male, twenty five years of age, who resides in the Bronx with his wife, child, mother, and little sister in the same household. X is currently unemployed and has been for an extended period of time. X is of limited traditional education dropping out early in high school but has supplemented that lacking with street knowledge that guides his daily interactions. X arrived early and was dressed casually in some black jeans, black shirt and a black baseball cap.
At the conclusion of this initial interview a multi directional perception of deviant themes similar to the interactionist perspective described by (Mercer, pg.41), where this perspective focuses on constructions of deviance within social context; the agents of control who apply these constructions; and the responses of those labeled as deviant, emerged as X’s explanations for his so called deviant behavior. First client X describes in detail how his mother’s deviant behavior throughout his life had a negative impact on his reactions towards her and his subsequent personality growth since she was his primary care giver. Client X describes how his father’s deviant lifestyle landed him in prison which led to the deviant act of abandonment of his then seven year old son. Second, as a teenager, client X’s deviant behavior of cutting school and being disrespectful and scornful to his immediate family causes extreme consequences to his living situation. Finally Client X as an adult deals with the reciprocity of deviant behavior through his Families actions and his ensuing reactions.
Early Family Deviance and Reactions
“granted my mother had her ahh…..boyfriends…..you know…..” “why I say Boyfriends….my mom ahhh…..really…… wasn’t the best….boyfriend chooser…..laughs……. she was always going ahhh…meeting different people…introducing us to different people….having a rotation of men in my life and it just pretty much screwed me up”
Client X views his mothers’ choices as being inappropriate and labels her behavior as deviant for her lack of trying to keep the family together when times got hard. Client X reacts towards his mother in a scornful and resentful manner for her inability to uphold the traditional two parent norm. In his eyes his mother was looked down upon as being a selfish and reckless individual who put her own wants in front of her husband and her children’s needs.
“he just got arrested and she moved on…………as all women do……..laughs………you know….that’s what they’re here for…there here to ahh cater to you…… until you are ahh no longer a need to them….then they move to the next one….and the next one or the next one….and yet they keep going on finding people……laughs….”
This experience in Client X’s life has caused him to develop a negative view of all women in general in regards to their fidelity. He consequently fixes a label of deviance that transcends his early experience with his mother and spills over to include his personal relationships with his own romantic partners as well. Client X’s labeling and subsequent reactions toward his strong personal views of his mothers’ deviant behavior comes with consequences of its own. We will now explore how his labeling has set a foundation for other family members to treat his own so called deviant behavior later in life and the outcomes put into motion as a result. According to (Dellinger and Williams, pg.60), labeling theory states that without a label in place to describe deviant behavior then in a sociological sense there can be no deviant. Because of the label put in place by Client X due to his ill emotions towards his mothers’ behaviors, his mother was met with scorn and responded equally with scorn.
Personal Deviance and Reactions
“ahhh fourteen….i started messing up in school…had a lot on my mind and she just didn’t give a f**k…she had so much trouble with men during her life that she didn’t know what she was doing when it came to me…you know cause if you can’t even hold a stable relationship…. with a man….and you have a son…you’re going to have a lot of conflict with him….I guess she has an animosity towards men?....….and I guess that reflects on me…”
Client X has experienced a reciprocity effect where a label he had initially adhered to his mother’s deviant behavior that defined his view of women in general, has now been reversed as his mother views his deviant behavior as typical for men as guided by her experiences. Client X’s mother goes on to adhere a label of her own onto client X which carries with it negative views and distaste associated with thoughts of Client X’s father. In this instance his mother is acting as the agent of control and defining through the example of his father what deviance is and through the example of herself what acceptable behavior is.
“Sort of like the mother saying that…that she’s the mother and the father….but meanwhile screwing my life up and thinking that she did a good job about it and want to take credit for when I do good things and ahh when I mess up its like ohh your just like your father…she acknowledges when I do something good…oh yeah you get that from me….but let me do something wrong…oh… you get that from your father!”
Client X’s father has become the very definition of deviant behavior in his mothers’ eyes and has now been used as a blunt tool of reprimand whenever Client X has committed a deviant act. This labels use has created a certain view of this man that has been absent from most of client X’s life as a negative connotation that helps to keep his past deviance alive, strong, and unforgotten in that her view of the deviance is now adopted by client X in the form of guilt over acting similar this shunned person.
“he’s been out of my life since I was like seven…I met him maybe three four times max…..never really had a bond with him….never found the need to….even though there was a neeed..but..I’m grown already and ahh can’t really ahh fill a new cup when its already full….you know…..got to empty it first”
Deviance Begets Deviance
“of course your family always wants better for you this that and the third but your own sibling or your own mother is capable of doing something to you that you wouldn’t even believe a stranger would do to you that’s when you have problems….you know……who would of thought that
ahh your parent would kick you out of the house and have you sleep in the streets….., train stations, telephone booths ahh for weeks, months at a time…”
Client X’s perceived deviance by his mother has led to consequences where she felt that his presence couldn’t be tolerated anymore. As stated by (Lynch, pg. 86) one textbook definition is that deviance is a violation of norms that are likely to elicit negative sanctions. Client X was deemed deviant for whatever offense caused friction in his household and his deviance was reciprocally met with his mothers own deviant behavior. Lynch states that he believes most people will act in a way that will restore their established norms when they feel they have been broken. Most families wouldn’t put their child out on the street at the age of 15 for reasons such as cutting school, apparent resentment, or disagreements. Client X’s mother would be deemed deviant by most of American society, as stated by (Goffman, pg. 125) the social reaction to a pattern of behavior is considered much more important than the pattern of behavior in its own right when a person is labeled deviant, in that a parent’s inborn nature is to protect the wellbeing of their offspring. But like in most households there is a separate set of context specific norms in affect that may or may not adhere to the views of the rest of society. What most parents see as neglect another parent in their own surroundings sees as normal behavior.
“she’s the parent right? But ahh sometimes she just doesn’t make sense…try not to argue with her…doesn’t matter shit doesn’t go my way anyway…as long as everything is quiet and their happy…I’m out of the picture…I leave them alone….that’s why I don’t have any involvement with my family”
As described by (Herman and Miall, pg. 238) where early interpreters of labeling theory warned of the negative consequences of the effects of labels when the person being labeled conforms and accepts the label as true, Client X has learned to deal with his perceived deviance by his family in a way that will protect his immediate need of food, clothes, and shelter and keep the peace so as to not cause disruptions to their established norms. He has essentially become an invisible ghost and by doing so has accepted the labels of deviance bestowed upon him by the apparent agents of control in his home environment which at the moment comprises his whole world. But keeping the piece also comes with a price… “Since all I seen when I was little is chaos and anti social behavior, I feel like it would just be a never ending circle with my own wife and kids!” As (Weinberg, Pg. 282) would suggest, being a part of a deviant group would have considerable influence on members subsequent conduct. Client X as a member of his immediate family and learning from early childhood from the deviant behaviors of other members has identified with then and adopted certain deviant ways of acting as norms.
Interview Time 2
I conducted a follow up interview of client X which took place approximately one month after the initial interview. Client X is still unemployed, residing in his mother’s house with his wife and child, and though the interactions between him and his immediate family remain relatively unchanged, he is going through acts of deviance initiated by his wife.
“Same thing different day….I mean home life is….it could be better but every day is always some bullshit…..I have to find another place to move to….no funds….wife cheated on me…that bitch!……I have to figure out how I’m going to fend for my daughter now”
Client X’s coping mechanism to deal with the labels of deviance imposed on him by authoritative actors and agents of control in his household has apparently created a whole new set of problems. By remaining for the most part “like a ghost”, as (Anderson, pg. 316) states, learning deviant ways is no different than learning conventional ways, people learn what to think, feel, say, and do during the course of interaction within the group. Client X has alienated the people around him to the point of actually training them to treat him like a ghost. The label of deviant behavior is often a creation of the majority population over the minority. What one person sees as a normal way of expressing their emotions others might see as a contradiction to their beliefs. It is a sad fact that acting in certain ways can be considered deviant and can most times carry with it negative consequences for violating the majority norms that can be extremely detrimental to an individual or smaller groups lives. But it is even more disturbing that the implementation of labels can convince a person that they are what other people say they are due to ones perhaps biased opinion. The label of deviance is a product of its context and time.