Deviance Theory

  • Deviance Theory
  • Define: Deviance is an act of behaving in a way that is different from the norm and varies from an established rule. Deviance theory is specific to both culture and context and covers rage of behaviors from crime to manners.
  • Apply: As social workers dedicated to social justice, we recognize that populations deemed deviant deserve to be looked at compassionately and advocated for, insuring a just social system to navigate. “Deviance” is a relative term and phenomena. Therefore, it is imperative for all social workers to understand the cultural norms of the communities with which we work.
  • Adapt: This theory can be adapted to Sociology field study to figure out societal problems. Through this theory, it is able to analyses about who causes problems in society and why they diverge from societal norm as deviance.


  1. Apply: As social workers, we can also see how a population we are working with may desire to purposefully act in a deviant way than the popular norm. This may be occur in the desire to make social change for the community.
    Adapt: Though deviance is often thought of in terms of ill behavior such as what can happen in the classroom, it can be a positive behavior when used in a way to make change for the good.

  2. Apply: Like Miri mentioned....what is 'deviant' is relative. Just because it is not the norm it doesn't mean its correct. In social work/community development, deviance is what it takes to change things for the better...

    Adapt: In public health theory, you have to learn WHY someone is doing a particular 'negative' health behavior before you can facilitate their behavior change. It's possible that a particular population might be doing a particular custom or tradition that's opposite the norm (think circumcision rituals) and possibly 'unhealthy'. Where is this stemming from?