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Labelling theory goes some way to towards understanding crime

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Criminology
Wordcount: 2076 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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This essay explores how labelling theory goes some way to towards understanding crime. It will consider taking to account three theories: Backer’s self fulfilling prophecy theory which suggests that we could change person’s behaviour because of the negative expectation, Cooley’s looking glass self theory explains that we see ourselves through the eyes of others and subculture theories describe people who do not fin it the community are more expected to commit crime.

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Instead of looking at why some social groups commit more crime, labelling theory asks why some people committing some actions come to be defined as deviant, while others do not. Labelling theory is also interested in the effects of labelling on individuals. Labelling theorists note that most people commit crimes at some time in their lives but not everyone becomes defined as a deviant or a criminal. Once someone has been successfully labelled as criminal or deviant, the label attached may become the dominant label or ‘master status’ which is seen as more important than all the other aspects of the person. He or she becomes a ‘hooligan’ or ‘thief’ rather than a father, mother or friend. Each label carries with it prejudices and images and this may lead to others interpreting the behaviour of the labelled person in a particular way. For example, a person who volunteers to stay late at work is usually seen as worthy of praise, but, if a person has been labelled as a thief, people might be suspicious that they will steal something. For some people once a deviant label has been applied this can actually lead to more deviance. This happens when people start acting in the way they have been labelled. It is human nature to label others, either positively or negatively. Usually it has a negative impact for people who are labelling by other people and as an effect it pushes people to commit a crime or a bad behaviour. For example, when a person once has stolen something this person will always be called a thief and when something disappear again this person will be the first suspected person, even this person did not do it. Because this person is now thinks of him/himself as a criminal, he/she is now likely to continue in his/her criminal behaviour. If the person changes his behaviour what does it change? Why this person should not keep the antisocial actions so the person has the thief label? It changes nothing if this person stops his bad behaviour because whatever will happen this person will always be dubious because their behaviour is stains embedded in advance. In this way labelling works and can have a bad influence for people behaviour and keep antisocial behaviour because when someone commits a crime at any age they are forever labelled and looked as a criminal.

Sometimes some people identify themselves with their label and they are able to do that so other people have to believe and think they are people who they suppose to be. For instance, if you call me a thief I will be stealing things to keep my thief’s label. Then people are beginning to think differently of themselves which may lead to criminal acts later. Moreover, when a person is labelled as a criminal, this person possibly admits this label as a part of them. When someone is labelled a criminal they will continue to commit criminal acts because they are already viewed as criminal and will never be seen different, even if this person does not commit a bad behaviour any more. Research show, criminal behaviour is a direct result of negative labelling. If others give you a label of being a really generous person, which is a positive, and when you believe in it you stay a generous person after that you will be doing anything to show it. In the same way it works when somebody call you a bad person who do a negative things. When you believe in the label it could stay your part of life or it could be your goal so you could go for it to make sure you are doing these things which can call you the bad person. It happens so often that people labelling others only in negative way.

People label others as well as stereotyping other people. Stereotypes are generalizations of people groups based on past experiences, which are deep-rooted in the psyche of the people. Stereotype it is something and works as a labelling others. For example, a person with tattoos is looking for job. A employer could pay an attention about this person tattoos because the stereotype is if a person who have a tattoo or tattoos is more likely to commit crime or antisocial behaviour. It is only a stereotype which does not have to be a true statement, but it works in similar way as a labelling. Accordingly, the stereotype of criminal is: bold head, muscular and high forehead. These futures link to crime watch because media shows criminals. As a result, if a person who looks as a potential criminal and this person is looking for a job, an employer as well as other people such as family, friends and so on, may label this person as someone who is more likely to commit crime. Also, the police look for a certain type of person who looks as a potential criminal. For that reason, the media criminals distort our view of the world. Media has influence on population it follows that, the antisocial behaviour that is shows in the TV may have consequence in the real live others because they could copes the bad actions that shows media. Whatever we watch such as: cartoons, any kind of films or serials it shows crime

Research carried out by covered a self fulfilling prophecy by Backer (1963) which directly leads some way towards labelling theory to the crime. Self fulfilling prophecy could be a negative expectation about people that may affect a person’s behaviour towards them in a manner that he or she creates situations in which those expectations are fulfilled. As a result, if a person thinks we are a person who is presumable to commit crime, they will treat us in that way. If we are treated as a person who is probably doing to commit crime, we will act, and even become this way. The person has thus had their prophecy about us fulfilled. Self fulfilling prophecy could be seen as the affect of the outcome of a situation or the way a person or group will behave by belief or expectation other people. To make a person act criminal actions, all we have to do is believe this when we interact with them. What is more, labelling someone a criminal and treating that person as such, may foster behaviour in the person who is subjected to the expectation. In consequence, what people think of you can change the way you behave. Other people may suspect you are a person who commits crime because you care about what other people think of you therefore, you may be willing to carry out antisocial actions for the reason that others as well as you believe in it.

Cooley’s looking glass self research explains a formation of self-image via reflection. Cooley used the image of a mirror as a metaphor for the way in which people’s self-concepts are influenced by their impressions of how they are perceived by others.¿½We see ourselves through the eyes of other people, even to the extent of incorporating their views of us into our own self-concept. Consequently, when a person receives a negative label from a variety of persons they might begin to view themselves as someone how other people labelled this person. As a result, if some people see a person as a person who is commits crime he or she may vision themselves as a potential criminal because others judge the person like this. Other people treat the person in this way so the person will treat themselves in the same way too. It is true that teenagers are often strongly influenced by their peers, who are often young offenders, and will go beyond conforming to changing their self-image to match. This way they will commit crime to fit in to the environment that has a big impact on our behaviour. If you want someone to believe something about ourselves, act towards them as if it were true

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Research on subculture theories focus on small cultural groups have that show fragmented away from mainstream society for various reasons, and formulate their own values, norms and beliefs. In other words, a subculture is a set of people with distinct sets of behaviour and beliefs that differentiate them from a larger culture of which they are a part. An example is adolescents in lower¿½social¿½class areas that form groups or gangs to exert power, gain a form of respect and protection, and adopt¿½social¿½norms such as toughness, street credibility, and disrespect for authority in order to ensure cohesion. Criminal behaviour is often the result of these group norms and values. The subculture may be distinctive because of the age of its members, or by their race, ethnicity, class and/or gender, and the qualities that determine a subculture as distinct may be aesthetic, religious, occupational, political and sexual or a combination of these factors. ¿½Subculture theories share the common belief that people who commit crime usually share different values from the mass of law-abiding members of society. For example, some groups of criminals might develop norms that encourage criminal behaviour. As a consequence, a subculture is a group of people who are mostly from the middle class or not skills backgrounds. They are in the group of people who have, for example, the same view into the world, identical beliefs, wear similar clothes, have tattoos, have similar or the same hobbies, have a long hair or bald head, have the same goals and so on. Anyone who does not fit in the norms is called a subculture and these people who do not suit the community are more likely to commit crime. For instance, a group of people who have some tattoos, bald head and they wear clothes which show their mussels others may label these people as someone who has already committed crime or is expected to commit crime because they look like sort of people who are labelled as people who commit antisocial behaviour. In addition, an another example is, a group of people who have a long hair and wear leather jacket these kinds of people are labelled as people who are more likely to commit crime than others. These people for others look as a potential criminal because media shows crime and how might look a person who is committing crime. As a result, others believe in it and labelled other people who, according to media and opinions others, do not fit in community and look like a criminal.

The research shows these labelling theories go some way into explaining crime, as people stereotype because it is human nature to stereotype, either in negative or positives ways. Usually people are influence by the media as well as by individual socialisation into society. An example of this could be how society stereotypes people, for example, these who are bald and assumes as a criminal because the media shows they have a potential criminal look. Labelling is pointing out through stereotyping that society may help to cause crime. Therefore relating to the labelling theories could be suggested that, according to Becker, self fulfilling prophecy may involve a person actions and it supports crime for that reason that others judge others. It may change our behaviour to cause us commit more crime because our behaviour is based on the thoughts of others about ourselves. Moreover, Cooley’s looking glass self theory suggests that opinion other people may have a huge impact on our actions because we see ourselves through the eyes of the other people. Research illustrates that if I think that I am a good person, but people say that I am not that according to Cooley I will began to listen and construct my view of self from other people. On the other hand, research on subculture suggests that anyone who does not fit in the norm is likely to commit crime. What is more important is the fact that, subculture related directly to criminal activities group of working class which have underachieved in education or work. Due to this they are often labelled and get little respect, this can be relating to crime. By investigating the labelling theory we are able to understand why people could commit criminal behaviour, and also why people can be influenced into deviant behaviour.


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