Which of the following best describes how deviance is defined?
|a. Deviance is defined by federal, state, and local laws.|
b. Deviance’s definition is determined by one’s religion.
c. Deviance occurs whenever someone else is harmed by an action.
d. Deviance is socially defined.
The Correct Answer Is:
d. Deviance is socially defined.
The correct answer is (d) “Deviance is socially defined.” This statement encapsulates a sociological perspective on deviance, which is rooted in the understanding that what is considered deviant behavior varies from one society, culture, or community to another.
Let’s explore why this answer is correct in detail and then explain why the other options are not correct.
Explanation of the Correct Answer: d. Deviance is socially defined.
Deviance is a concept deeply rooted in the field of sociology, and it is indeed socially defined. Several key points explain why this is the correct answer:
i. Relativity of Deviance:
Deviance is not an inherent quality of an action or behavior; rather, it is a label society assigns to behaviors that it deems unacceptable or outside the norms of a given community or culture. What is considered deviant in one society may not be deviant in another.
For example, something as basic as clothing choices or dietary practices can be considered deviant in certain cultures but completely normal in others.
ii. Social Norms and Values:
Deviance is intimately connected to the social norms and values of a particular society. These norms represent the shared beliefs and expectations of a group. When an individual or group violates these norms, their behavior is labeled as deviant. These norms can encompass legal norms (laws), moral norms (ethics), and informal norms (etiquette).
iii. Social Reaction:
Deviance is not just about the act itself; it also involves how society reacts to that act. Societal reactions can range from disapproval and social stigma to legal sanctions. What is considered deviant can change over time as societal norms evolve, reflecting changing values, attitudes, and cultural shifts.
The definition of deviance can be highly subjective and influenced by factors such as cultural, historical, and social context. This subjectivity is why some behaviors considered deviant in one era or culture may be perfectly acceptable in another.
Now, let’s explain why the other options are not correct:
a. Deviance is defined by federal, state, and local laws:
This option is not correct because deviance is not solely determined by legal definitions. While legal systems can certainly play a role in defining certain acts as deviant and imposing sanctions, many acts considered deviant are not necessarily illegal, and not all illegal acts are universally considered deviant.
Moreover, legal definitions of deviance can vary significantly from one jurisdiction to another, which highlights the social and cultural dimension of deviance.
b. Deviance’s definition is determined by one’s religion:
This option is also not correct because deviance is not exclusively determined by religious beliefs. While religious values and moral codes can influence what a particular religious community considers deviant, deviance is not universally defined by a single religion.
Different religions have different sets of values, and within each religion, interpretations can vary, making it a complex and highly variable source for defining deviance.
c. Deviance occurs whenever someone else is harmed by an action:
This option is not correct because deviance is not solely about causing harm to others. While some deviant behaviors may indeed harm others, not all deviant acts result in harm.
Deviance is a broader concept that encompasses behaviors that challenge or violate societal norms, whether or not harm is involved. Furthermore, the concept of harm itself can be socially defined and subject to interpretation.
In summary, the correct answer is (d) because deviance is fundamentally a socially constructed concept that varies across different societies, cultures, and historical periods. It is intimately tied to social norms, values, and the way societies react to behavior that challenges these norms.
The other options do not accurately capture the nuanced and socially contingent nature of deviance.
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