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Free «Labeling» Essay Sample

Stemmed from the contributions of Lemert, Tannenbaum, Becker, and Schur, the labeling theory plays an important role in the sociology of deviance (Rubington & Weinberg, 2015). Labeling produces deviance that locks a person in a deviant frame. Being an outcome of social control and imputations, labels can affect people’s life in different ways. This paper attempts to discuss their positive and negative effects and the way they can lead a person to commit a crime.

Theoretical Framework

The founder of the labeling theory was Edwin Lemert, who was followed by Tannenbaum, Becker, and Schur (Rubington & Weinberg, 2015). This approach explains why society place labels on individuals who do not fit standard norms. Generally, labels are titles that are not chosen by people. They characterize personal traits, behavior, and ideas that differ from the majority. Labeling can have both negative and positive meanings but it is usually associated with deviance that leads to negative consequences such as crime. Moreover, labelling amplifies it and encourages an individual to play a certain role in community. Labeled people try to response to society by creating a self-image that corresponds to their labels. Thus, they become objects of social control and imputations. As a rule, a societal reaction to such individuals forces them to commit more crimes than other groups (Akers, 2013). For instance, the police usually stereotype some populations as “typical” criminals, such as Mexican, blacks, and some others. The literature reveals that once a person turns to be labeled, the more likely he or she may possess this label for the entire life (Eisenberg, 2014). Oftentimes, people use labels to interpret deviant behavior.

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A Negative Effect of Labeling

In the labelling theory, the attached label can be viewed as a more important characteristic than all other aspects of the individual. For example, being a “hooligan” means more to people than being a mother, father, or a worker. According to Rubington and Weinberg (2015), a label has a “master status” because it allocates one characteristic among others. Consequently, people become acting in the manner they have been labeled. For instance, a person caught in pilfering may receive a label of a criminal who will later commit more serious crimes. It happens because he or she has no choice to prove to the community that the one has committed a crime by mistake. Actually, society encourages an individual to become a criminal, and the one experiences serious difficulties to prove that he or she is not a deviant person. Since everybody sees the one as a criminal, the man begins to view oneself in the same manner and has no choice but to start a deviant career.


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A Positive Effect of Labeling

Many scholars consider that labeling has rather negative effects than positive (Akers, 2013). However, labels encourage individuals to behave in accordance with ethical and moral norms within society. They prevent people who care about social status from immoral acts. The very concept of “label” can generate social order for a conscious part of the population. Oftentimes, labels do not only affect lives of one individual but of the whole nation. Moreover, there are opinions that raise the prestige of the nation. For example, precision and punctuality of Germans have only a positive side. Thus, partners want to do business with them, start a partnership, and so on. In this case, the stereotype has a good effect on people’s lives, increasing their credibility in the world. According to Eisenberg (2014), the labeling theory causes an abiding and important set of concerns for criminologists and sociologists. Furthermore, stereotypes fully affect people’s lives, improving or making them more difficult, and can influence individuals’ decisions and behavior. Sometimes, they are even stronger than reality.

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Labels characterize personal traits, behavior, and ideas that differ from the ones of the majority of people. Labeling often occurs in life, effecting people both negatively and positively. However, labels have more negative consequences than positive because they affect individuals and lead them to deviant behavior. Sometimes, they become the main reason for committing crimes.

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