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Social Deviations, Labelling and Normality

Jitka Skopalová1

Institute of Education and Social Studies, Faculty of Education, Palacký University, Olomouc, Žižkovo nám. 5, 771 40 Olomouc, Czech Republic1

This content is open access.

Citation Information: Human Affairs. Volume 20, Issue 4, Pages 327–337, ISSN (Online) 1337-401X, ISSN (Print) 1210-3055, DOI: 10.2478/v10023-010-0034-8, December 2010

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Social Deviations, Labelling and Normality

This paper discusses the issues of labelling, normality and social deviation. I focus on the sociological and socio-psychological aspects of these topics in light of their importance for pedagogy. Labelling mainly concerns the ways in which the formal and constitutive institutions of social control, including schools, respond to behaviour. Mainly children and young people are "marked" or labelled according to both their existing and presumed patterns of deviant behaviour.

School, as a social institution, expects its students to be normal. It has the power to define normality and, moreover, a network of social control to achieve it. However, from the perspective of the school it is very important not to prematurely label pupils negatively during the selection process. On the contrary, school should enable as many pupils as possible to contribute successfully towards the requirements of a knowledge society. Research indicates that there is a correlation between a child's school performance and the perceptions and expectations held by the teacher. Recent studies, concerning for example violence at school, have shown how strongly the aggressive behaviour of pupils is connected to the teacher's behaviour.

The theory of labelling is concerned with the fundamental question of why some individuals and groups are branded as deviating from norms more often than others. Stigma is a relative phenomenon; it is the result of successful labelling, delivering a punitive and disapproving response. In order to better understand labelling, the concepts of social norms and social deviance also require clarification.

Keywords: labelling approach; self-fulfilling prophecy; Pygmalion effect; stigmatization

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