Labelling theory essay

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labelling theory essay

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The fundamental idea of the labelling theory is how the identity and behaviour of an individual can be influenced by how they are described and categorized by others in the society. (Pilgrim rogers 1999:13) The theory looks at the linguistic tendency of a majority to negatively label those perceived as deviant from the shared norms, and is connected with the idea of a stereotyping and self-fulfilling prophecy. As a use of phenomenology, the theory speculates that the labels which can be applied to an individual can influence their behaviour. In particular, the application of stigmatizing or negative labels such as: 'criminal' can promote deviant behaviour and therefore becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Consequently, the labeling theory assumes that social deviance can be prevented by using a social shaming reaction and replacing moral anger with tolerance.(Ibid). The labeling theory has been closely linked to the mentally ill.

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There are two main assumptions of this theory; the presentation first is that, minority groups, women, the poor, unmarried people and the elderly are all at a socioeconomic disadvantage.(ibid) The second assumption is that high rates of mental health breakdowns are caused by the socioeconomic disadvantage. In comparison to the stress theory, the structural strain theory is better suited for explaining that mental illness is not distributed randomly in society, rather it is closely linked to socially or economically disadvantaged groups of society.(Ibid) It conveys that, the structure of society itself. The stress theory does not fully capture this idea and biological and psychological theories bypass it altogether. The disadvantages of the structural strain theory are that, structural theorists do not present how the broad social structures and socioeconomic trends are actualized in individual's lives. They also tend to give priority to economic factors and disregard other large scale changes such as, poor quality family relationships (absentee fathers, increased divorce rate and child or spouse abuse) which could affect mental health. (Horwitz scheid 1999:132) Therefore, it is unclear of how the macro social trends cause psychological distress. It is not only socioeconomic disadvantage that are sources of stress, but interpersonal relationships can also be a contributing factor. It is interesting to note that, the structural strain theory has the same basis as the stress theory. The concept that the stress theory is essential to support the structural strain theory makes this theory weak.(Ibid). The societal reaction theory (labelling theory) is similar to the structural strain theory in the sense that they both offer a unique sociological explanation for the cause of mental illnesses; it is often referred to as the radical sociological explanation.

The main point of this analysis is to show how mental illness is a reaction to environmental demands and the result of an individual's legitimate pathways being travel blocked; due to the hierarchical or structure of society causing a disadvantage for some social groups. Most structural strain ideology of mental illness suggest that, macro strains in social and economic systems can cause increased rates of mental illness for certain groups. (Horwitz scheid,1999:131) Emile durkheim (1897) analyzed the social factors which can cause suicide; he found that the distributions of suicide within and across societies were unequal. Durkheim argued that the social integration of groups and societies differ. People are bound together by the balance of shared norms. These norms regulate a person's passion and maintain the ties to one another; in order to prevent unreasonable behaviour from acts of passion or emotional impulses. If a society is too weakly, or too strongly integrated, or are subjected to rapid changes it can cause conditions of structural strain.

labelling theory essay

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Even if they are doubtful that their efforts will pay off. Ritualists give up on achieving success. However, they continue to behave in a socially acceptable manner; for instance working steadily in a job with low income and low prospects. The conformist' and ritualist' do not cause society many problems. Whereas, the innovator retreatists' and rebels cause major problems for society. (Ibid)This driver is because: innovators give up on success, but thesis they still desire wealth and use illegitimate means to achieve it such as; committing fraud or tax evasions. Retreatists also give up on success and retreat from the world surrounding them into substance abuse or become mentally ill.(Ibid) Rebels use threatening behaviour to achieve success, they reject socially acceptable goals and create new goals with new ways of achieving them such as; being.

Merton's assumption is that most people agree that education is the most legitimate route to achieving success. There is a majority of the society who unfortunately have their means to success blocked. (Horwitz scheid 1999:130)These groups live in neighbourhoods which are poor and lack school facilities and competent teachers. Thus, they lack encouragement, preparation and funding for progression onto higher education. This causes class and race based discrimination within the schools and the workforce, leading to a defeat in efforts made to succeed when attempting to follow the legitimate paths.(Ibid). Merton's use of the term anomie describes a gap between the desire to be financially successful and the means of entry to acceptable education or employment. He argues that individuals who experience the gap will adapt by changing their goals or looking for alternative means. Merton described 5 adaptive responses, which are; conformity, ritualism, innovation, retreatism and rebellion (Morine. The people who conform follow rules shared by the cultures goals, and carry out legitimate means to achieve them.

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labelling theory essay

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Advocates of this approach argue that when an event or strain occurs, the social circumstances are important for explaining variations of their psychological effects. This is because they form the personal meanings and emotional significance of the stressors. Blair Wheaton (1990:209) shows that; a role loss such as divorce is often less distressing to individuals who have experienced a lot of marital stress, than for those who have a less stressful marriage. A similar study by deborah Umberson (1987:306) indicates that widowhood brings more depression to people who suffer from household and financial strain than those who do not experience these stressors. The stress theory is well suited for the purpose of explaining why lower class people are more likely to have a mental illness than middle or upper class people. (Horwitz scheid 1999:128) However, the theory is non - specific for example, it does not explain how some groups are more susceptible to certain disorders than other groups such as: depression and anxiety are mostly experienced by women, and men are more susceptible to anti.

(Ibid) Furthermore, this theory does not apply to all mental disorders such as psychoses: essay a very complex and serious disorder, which is better explained by biological explanations or ones childhood socialization. Price et al (1988) show experiments which indicate that interventions which alter an individual's coping strategy and offer social support and encouragement, do reduce negative emotional reactions to major life events. Therefore, the stress theory is a promising tool for administering mental health interventions. A blanket term used to describe more specific sociological theories regarding mental illness etiology is 'structural strain theory which looks at the broader organizations of society and finds the basis of distress, and where some groups are at a disadvantage when compared to others. (Ibid) a useful example of structural strain theory is Merton's (1938) anomie theory; this theory attempts to explain criminal behaviour, rebellious behaviour, addictive behaviour, as well as mental illness. Merton uses the American society to explain his theory, he argues that the American culture highly emphasize how wealth and success are the most important values an individual can posses. They are taught that the highest goal in life is to strive for success, with education being the key means to achieve economic success.

For example, work or family based issues, effect people differently to financial problems or illness. Furthermore, the different characteristics of each instance in life alter how it affects the mind. So, the timing and circumstances surrounding a life event make a difference to how a person copes and any long term effects it will have.(Ibid). In contrast, the second theoretical approach focuses on the characteristics of the person who is experiencing the stressor. Variations in the effects of stressors, is a function of variations of a person's vulnerability or how they react to stressors. There has been a lot of research on coping and social support.


When a person is dealing with negative stressors they rely upon social and personal characteristics, also known as 'coping resources'. (Perlin schooler 1978:2-21) The social and personal characteristics can be found in an individual's social network, this is where the individual will seek emotional or practical support. Such support systems can raise a person's self esteem, and help them to stay in control. Research examines to what extent individuals or groups vary in how much personal or social resources they possess. Self esteem, mastery and social support.(Ibid) The research indicates that the more of these resources people have, the greater the negative impact of stressful life events are buffered. Overall, the studies carried out for this approach signify that people who have strong coping resources and have access to functional, structural and emotional support have the advantage of being able to tackle the psychological consequences of stressors, easier than those whom do not have. Lastly, the third theoretical approach attributes variations in psychological harm caused by stressful life events to variations in the larger social context surrounding stressors.

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It also assumes that both positive and negative life events cause behavioural adjustments, leading to overtaxing one's ability to cope. Later research found that negative life events had a more severe impact on individual's psychological health than positive life events. After years of research into the mental health effects of stressors, considerable variations have been found. There are three dominant approaches to explain these variations. The retrolisthesis first approach looks at the stressor itself and examines its characteristics. When looking at the characteristics of the stressor and familiarising with Holmes and Rahe's srrs, there is a clear indication of the difference in the severity of affect for negative life events. Each event can vary in how stressful it is or how it affects a person emotionally; this is because of the differences in their desirability, predictability, controllability or their magnitude. (Thoits 1983:33-103) Research shows that the undesirable or uncontrollable events are the ones which have a greater detrimental effect. Although the first approach was originally designed to categorize the different ways that stressful situations effect people psychologically, what it actually helped to do was establish that different types of stress manifest in different ways.

labelling theory essay

They proposed that increased amounts of readjustments could cause exhaustion of the ability to cope; this would cause the person to be at a higher risk of illness. Holmes and Rahe devised a life events checklist with 43 life stresses that may cause a person to make adjustments. The checklist was named the social readjustment Rating Scale (srrs) Each event on the checklist was called a life Change Unit (lcu with a different 'weight' for each type of stress. The more events the patient added up, the higher the score became. The higher the score meant the larger the weight of each event; this made the individual more likely to become ill. (McLean link 1994:162) The checklist allowed pharma social researchers to determine whether being exposed to social stressors could cause a breakdown in a person's health. The problems with Holmes and Rahe's srrs are that there were many major life events missing from the list, such as: exposing one's homosexuality and losing custody of a child.

and electric shocks. This experiment showed that when animals are exposed to such stimuli, they show three stages of reactions known as general adaptation syndrome (G.A.S). The first stage of reaction was 'flight or fight the animal becomes aggressive and ready to fight or retreat from the threat. In the second stage, the animal reacts with resistance; regaining equilibrium, it continues to combat the effects caused by the stress. The final stage is exhaustion; the body's ability to defend itself becomes depleted leaving the individual more susceptible to infection or disease. Selye' experiment proved a link between prolonged exposure to stress and illness. In the years to follow the research began to focus on the effects of stress in humans and social stressors (mainly major life events) (Horwitz scheid 1999:122). Researches regarding major life events were carried out by Thomas Holmes and Richard Rahe. They defined major life events as: external changes which occur in people's lives and require them to make major psychological adjustments.

A psychotic episode may involve delusions and/or hallucinations which can confuse or threaten the individual's peers. (Sciencemuseum.2012) This essay will explore the social factors that can contribute to mental disorders, it will analyse the three dominant theories: the stress theory, social structure theory umum and the labelling theory. It will explore each theory in turn and look at the research, assumptions and criticisms. The sociological approach looks at the environmental or social factors, which are external to an individual. It suggests that, these factors can cause an overwhelming stress; leading to a breakdown in mental health. (Horwitz scheid 1999:121) The stress theory is derived from the notion that when social stressors are accumulated, mental health problems are more likely to occur. The term "stress" or "stressors" was introduced in the mid 1930's by a physiological researcher, hans Selye.

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Print, reference this, published: 23rd March, 2015 1st may, 2017. A mental illness is a psychological abnormality of an individual, and note significantly affects the individuals emotional stability. There are different types of mental illnesses with different degrees of severity such as; depression, anxiety, eating disorders, schizophrenia, bipolar mood disorder and personality disorder. When a person develops a mental illness, emotions can be so overwhelming that they develop an inability to cope with everyday activities such as: work, socialising, and maintaining a relationship. In extremity, people who suffer from depression may find it difficult to physically care for themselves, or leave their home. The less common mental illnesses may involve psychosis; these include bipolar mood disorder and schizophrenia. People experiencing these types of psychosis lose their sense of reality, feelings and the world surrounding them.


Labelling theory essay
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Adopting a theory of healthy eating is not orthorexia. A theory may be conventional or unconventional, extreme or lax, sensible or totally wacky, but, regardless of the details, followers of the theory do not necessarily have orthorexia. Unlike structural theorists, social action theorists argue that peoples behaviour and life-chances are not determined by their social background.

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  1. The field of sociology itselfand sociological theory by extensionis relatively new. Both date back to the 18th and 19th centuries. The drastic social changes of that period, such as industrialization, urbanization, and the rise of democratic states caused particularly western thinkers to become aware of society.

  2. You can view samples of our professional work here. Any opinions, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and. Theory vs Equity, theory - there is a new automated offender management system that is being put in effect at the state correctional facility. This free education essay on, essay: Inclusive education and inclusion is perfect for Education students to use as an example.

  3. In uk society there are significant social class, gender and ethnic inequalities of educational achievement. Disclaimer: This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

  4. Labelling theory is the act of naming, the deployment of language to confer and fix the meanings of behaviour and symbolic internationalism and. Labelling Theory - the main aim of this essay is to describe two general theories of offending and then consider the extent to which they explain youth offending. How important are labelling theories as explanations of inequalities of educational achievement?

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