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Deviance is the label sociologists use to describe behavior that violates cultural norms.

Deviance is the label sociologists use to describe behavior that violates cultural norms.

Sample Answer 

Deviance is the label sociologists use to describe behavior that violates cultural norms.


According to the clean air laws of several states in the U.S., smoking is often prohibited within school buildings. However, as I was growing up, my friends and I sneaked into a hall and lit some cigarettes, and started smoking. We had identified a hidden spot behind the stage and made sure no one could see us because we were sure it was against the school rules to smoke. My friends had been doing this for a while, and they convinced me that it was “cool” to try some cigarettes at school and that I was being left out since I was the only member of the group that was not smoking. For weeks, I refused to join them whenever they could sneak to smoke. Nevertheless, I could not report them to the school administration because betraying my friends was not a good idea.

As we were having a “good time,” a group of students were having a chat behind the hall and noticed a strange smell of cigarettes. They sought to find out the source of the irritating smoke that was emanating from the hall. Unfortunately, none of us noticed an incoming group of students as we were all immersed in stories of how I had been missing the fun as my friends called it. However, I was not enjoying the exercise at all. The irritating and choking smoke was not so gentle on my throat, and I wished it would end soon. Then the other team just broke in and found us smoking.

We were then reported to the school administration, and punishment was inevitable. We were suspended from continuing with the semester, and our grades fell. I could not catch up with the next semester and had to retake the class to qualify for a scholarship. According to sociological models, punishment for deviance includes rehabilitation, retribution, or deterrence. In this case, the punishment we received for deviance is deterrence, which seeks to discourage deviance by instilling fear or doubt of the consequences of the deviant action. Through punishment, other students stopped smoking because we were used as an example.

According to Durkheim’s theory of deviance, declaring smoking in school as deviant establishes the boundaries between right and wrong (Thorlindsson & Bernburg, 2004). The group of students who designated that smoking in school is wrong united to report what they considered as immorality. Through the punishment we received for the deviant behavior, the school administration managed to set an example to other students so that they would not repeat a similar mistake for fear of receiving a similar or even worse punishment for the same.

I had succumbed to peer pressure and could not control my actions, which eventually led me into trouble with the school administration, despite being the first time. Usually, I should have reported my friends to the authorities for smoking against the school rules and state laws. This would have saved me from suspension. Alternatively, I would have tried being a change agent and talked them out of it by explaining to them the repercussions of their deviance if they were eventually found out. On the other hand, the school used suspension to draw the line between right and wrong so that other students could designate what deviant behavior would entail.


Thorlindsson, T., & Bernburg, J. G. (2004, September 1). Durkheim’s Theory of Social Order and Deviance: a Multi-level Test. European Sociological Review, 20(4), 271–285. doi:10.1093/esr/jch025


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Deviance is the label sociologists use to describe behavior that violates cultural norms.

Deviance is the label sociologists use to describe behavior that violates cultural norms. Norms include the expectations and rules that guide our behavior, appearance, manners, gestures, body language, conduct, et cetera. For this assignment, your task is to break a norm and write about your experience, as follows:

Choose one norm to break as long as it is within the guidelines for legal behavior. Examples of acceptable norm violations include dressing in a manner that would be considered eccentric or inappropriate for a given social situation or invading someone’s personal space.

Deviance is the label sociologists use to describe behavior that violates cultural norms.

Deviance is the label sociologists use to describe behavior that violates cultural norms.

In a 2- to 3-page paper, double-spaced, include the following:

  • Explain which norm you broke and why you chose it. Discuss what the appropriate behavior for the situation you chose would
  • typically require (for example, if you are violating a dress code, discuss what you would normally wear in that situation).
  • Discuss why your behavior violated those norms and the reaction you received upon breaking them.
  • Apply one sociological theory of deviance to interpret the response to your behavior. Begin by briefly discussing the key aspects of the theory you have chosen and then explain why that theory is useful for understanding your norm-breaking experiment. The Why Are People Deviant? lecture provides an overview of the major sociological theories of deviance.

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