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Breaking the Chains of Labels: Unraveling the Impact of Secondary Deviance

Title: Understanding Secondary Deviance: Unraveling the Impact of Labels and Social ConstructionIn society, individuals are often labeled based on their behavior, appearance, or social status. The labeling theory suggests that when someone is labeled as deviant, they may internalize this label and engage in behaviors that align with the label, leading to a phenomenon called secondary deviance.

This article will explore the definition and explanation of secondary deviance, followed by examples that shed light on its presence in various aspects of life. 1) Definition of Secondary Deviance:

Secondary deviance refers to the deviant behaviors that individuals engage in after they have been labeled as deviant.

The labeling theory proposes that individuals internalize the labels placed upon them by society, and this process shapes their identity and subsequent actions. The social construction of self plays a crucial role in the development of secondary deviance, as individuals begin to see themselves through the lens of the label.

1.1) Understanding the Labeling Theory:

The labeling theory suggests that when others label an individual as deviant, they internalize that label and come to see themselves as deviant as well. This can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, where the individual engages in deviant behaviors that align with the label they have internalized.

The labeling theory emphasizes the influence of social interactions and the power of labels in shaping an individual’s perception of self. 1.2) Differentiating Primary and Secondary Deviance:

Primary deviance refers to the initial act of deviance that an individual engages in.

It may be perceived as abnormal behavior but does not necessarily lead to the internalization of a deviant identity. Secondary deviance, on the other hand, occurs when an individual internalizes the label of deviance and continues to engage in deviant behaviors as a result.

This distinction highlights the potential impact of labeling on an individual’s identity and subsequent actions. 2) Examples of Secondary Deviance:

Secondary deviance manifests in various aspects of society, impacting individuals’ lives in different ways.

Here are some examples that shed light on the subject:

2.1) Bullying/Use of Violence:

When someone is labeled as a bully, they may internalize this label and continue to engage in bullying behaviors. The label affects their self-image, and they may perceive themselves as aggressive individuals, perpetuating a cycle of violence.

2.2) Power and the Juvenile Justice System:

In the juvenile justice system, police labeling and societal perceptions often influence the treatment of individuals based on their social class. This can result in individuals being stigmatized as delinquents, leading them to internalize the label and engage in secondary deviance.

2.3) The Professional Musician:

Professional musicians often face isolation and high expectations, which can push them toward engaging in deviant behaviors such as substance abuse. Symbolic interactionism plays a role here, as they navigate their identity and seek validation within the music industry.

2.4) Body Shaming:

Society’s obsession with physical appearance and conformity to beauty ideals can lead to individuals internalizing the perception that they do not meet societal standards. This internalization of the label can result in a cycle of self-destructive behaviors and the development of secondary deviance.

2.5) Criminal Tribes of British India:

During the colonial period, the British government enacted the Criminal Tribes Acts, labeling certain tribes as inherently criminal. This institutional labeling led to the stigmatization and marginalization of these communities, perpetuating cycles of criminal behavior as individuals internalized and embraced the deviant label placed upon them.

2.6) Chronic Speech Disorders:

Individuals with chronic speech disorders, such as stuttering, often face social pressure and negative stereotypes. This can lead to the internalization of the label, causing anxiety and further inhibiting their ability to communicate effectively.


Understanding secondary deviance sheds light on the complex relationship between labels, identity formation, and deviant behavior. By recognizing the impact of labeling on individuals, we can strive for a more inclusive society that challenges societal norms and promotes acceptance.

Awareness and empathy are essential in breaking the cycle of secondary deviance and empowering individuals to transcend the constraints of labels. Title: Tracing the Roots of Secondary Deviance Theory: The Evolution and Lasting ImpactSecondary deviance theory provides us with a framework to understand the complex relationship between labeling, identity, and deviant behavior.

As we delve deeper into this theory, it becomes crucial to examine its origins, influential works, and the lasting impact it has on our understanding of social deviance. This article will explore the early proponents of secondary deviance theory, influential works that shaped its development, and the nature and lasting impact of secondary deviance.

3) Origins of Secondary Deviance Theory:

3.1) Early Proponents: George Herbert Mead:

Secondary deviance theory finds its roots in the labeling theory and social reaction theory, with George Herbert Mead playing a crucial role. Mead’s work emphasized the role of social interactions in shaping an individual’s self-identity.

He argued that individuals develop social identities through the process of interaction with others. This idea laid the foundation for understanding how individuals internalize labels and engage in deviant behavior as a result.

3.2) Influential Works: Erving Goffman and Howard S. Becker:

Erving Goffman’s groundbreaking work, “The Presentation of the Self in Everyday Life,” contributed significantly to the development of secondary deviance theory.

Goffman introduced the concept of stigma, describing how individuals with stigmatized identities face societal disapproval and experience a loss in social status. This loss of status can lead individuals to internalize their deviant label, further perpetuating secondary deviance.

Howard S. Becker’s contribution to secondary deviance theory can be seen in his influential book, “Outsiders.” Becker explored the social construction of deviance, arguing that norms and rules regarding what is considered deviant are social creations.

He emphasized that deviance is not an inherent characteristic of individuals but is instead the result of the labeling process. Becker encouraged a more nuanced understanding of deviant behavior, recognizing that individuals are not simply “deviants” but complex beings influenced by societal factors.

4) The Nature and Lasting Impact of Secondary Deviance:

4.1) Nature of Secondary Deviance:

Secondary deviance is not a fleeting phenomenon but can have lasting effects on individuals and their perception of self. Once an individual is labeled as deviant, this label often becomes a master status, overshadowing other aspects of their identity.

The label becomes integral to their self-identification and can shape their subsequent behavior. This can be particularly detrimental in cases of delinquency, as individuals may internalize the label and continue to engage in deviant acts, perpetuating a cycle of secondary deviance.

4.2) Empowerment through Understanding Secondary Deviance:

Understanding secondary deviance allows us to approach issues of deviance and delinquency with empathy and humane solutions. Instead of simply categorizing individuals as “deviant,” we can recognize the social complexities that contribute to their behavior.

By addressing the root causes of deviance, such as inequality, social exclusion, or stigmatization, we can work towards more inclusive and supportive systems that foster positive change. This understanding empowers us to tackle the underlying social problems that fuel secondary deviance.


The origins of secondary deviance theory can be traced back to the works of early proponents such as George Herbert Mead, Erving Goffman, and Howard S. Becker.

Their contributions shed light on the social processes that shape individuals’ identities and the lasting impact of labels and stigma. Recognizing the nature of secondary deviance enables us to approach the issue with greater compassion and seek solutions that address the underlying social problems.

By challenging societal norms and advocating for inclusive and supportive systems, we can work towards a more just society that empowers individuals and breaks the cycle of secondary deviance.

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