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Theories Of Deviant Behavior

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1819 words Published: 19th May 2017

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Sigmund Freud was an Austrian neurologist and the founder of the psychoanalytic school of psychology. I intend to explain Freud’s theory about the libido and how it changes its object, a process designed by the concept of sublimation. He argued that humans are born “polymorphously perverse” (AROPA, 2010), meaning that any number of objects could be a source of pleasure.

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Lawrence Kohlberg is known for writing “The Six Stages of Moral Reasoning” (Crain, 1985, pp. 118-136). These stages are planes of moral adequacy conceived to explain the development of moral reasoning and why these stages can lead to deviant behavior. I intend to scope all six stages and explain them in detail. In the end, from my explanation, one should be able to identify certain behaviors and where they stem from.

Cesare Lombroso popularized the notion of the born criminal through biological determinism, claiming that criminals have particular physical attributes or deformities. If criminality was inherited, then the born criminal could be distinguished by physical atavistic stigmata. I intend to explain this theory in detail along with a few other concepts in order to properly broaden the topic so one can grasp its true meaning.

Robert Merton’s theory on deviance stems from his 1938 analysis of the relationship between culture, structure and anomie. Merton defines culture as an “organized set of normative values governing behavior which is common to members of a designated society or group” (Crain, 1985 pp 118-136). I intend to relate this theory to other theorists related to this field of study. I will define how one can become deviant through his/her surroundings.

Each theorist has stated that “deviance provides a way in which some individuals and groups can introduce their agendas to the rest of society, and elevate their own personal status while doing it” (AROPA, 2010 pp 1-2). If that is the case then deviance is a violation of a norm; while crime is defined as a violation one specific type of norm, a law. By definition then, it would seem that society considers all crime to be deviant behavior. However, members of society may not consider a specific crime to be deviant at all.

Sigmund Freud

Stages of Development

Freud advanced a theory of personality development that centered on the effects of the sexual pleasure drive on the individual psyche. At particular points in the developmental process, he claimed, “a single body part is particularly sensitive to sexual, erotic stimulation” (Stevenson, 1996 pp 2-3). These erogenous zones are the mouth, the anus, and the genital region. The child’s libido centers on behavior affecting the primary erogenous zone of his age; he cannot focus on the primary erogenous zone of the next stage without resolving the developmental conflict of the immediate one.

A child at a given stage of development has certain needs and demands, such as the need of an infant to nurse. “Frustration occurs when these needs are not met; overindulgence stems from such a meeting of these needs that the child is reluctant to progress beyond the stage. Both frustration and overindulgence lock some amount of the child’s libido permanently into the stage in which they occur; both result in a fixation” (Stevenson, 1996 pp. 2-3). If a child progresses normally through the stages, resolving each conflict and moving on, then little libido remains invested in each stage of development. However, if he/she fixates at a particular stage, the method of obtaining satisfaction which characterized the stage will dominate and affect his/her adult personality.

The Oral Stage

The oral stage begins at birth, when the oral cavity is the primary focus of libidal energy. The infant preoccupies themselves with nursing, with the pleasure of sucking and accepting things into the mouth. The infant who is frustrated at this stage, because the mother refused to nurse him/her on demand or who ended nursing sessions early, is characterized by “pessimism, envy, suspicion and sarcasm” (Stevenson, 1996 pp 4-5). The overindulged oral character, whose nursing urges were always and often excessively satisfied, is “optimistic, gullible, and is full of admiration for others around him/her” (Stevenson, 1996 pp.4-5). The stage ends in the primary conflict of weaning, which both deprives the child of the sensory pleasures of nursing and of the psychological pleasure of being cared for and mothered. The stage lasts approximately one and one-half years.

Anal Stage

At one and one-half years, the child will enter the anal stage. “The act of toilet training becomes the child’s obsession with the erogenous zone of the anus and with the retention or expulsion of the feces. This represents a classic conflict between the id, which derives pleasure from expulsion of bodily wastes, and the ego and superego, which represent the practical and societal pressures to control the bodily functions” (Stevenson, 1996 pp 5-6). The child will meet the conflict between the parent’s demands and the child’s desires in one of two ways: Either he puts up a fight or he simply refuses to use expel the waste. The child who wants to fight takes pleasure in expelling maliciously, often just after being placed on the toilet. “If the parents are too lenient and the child manages to derive pleasure and success from this expulsion, it will result in the formation of an anal expulsive character” (Stevenson, 1996 pp 5-6). This character is generally messy, disorganized, reckless, careless, and defiant. However, a child may choose to retain feces, thereby disobeying his/her parents while enjoying the pleasurable pressure of the built-up feces on his/her intestine. “If this tactic succeeds and the child is overindulged, he will develop into an anal retentive character” (Stevenson, 1996 pp. 5-6). This character is neat, precise, orderly, careful, stingy, withholding, obstinate, meticulous, and passive-aggressive. This stage lasts from one and one-half to two years approximately.

Phallic Stage

From ages three to six, the setting for the greatest sexual conflict happens in the phallic stage. With the genital region becoming the weapon of choice, as the phallic stage matures, boys experience the Oedipus complex whereas girls experience the Electra complex. “These complexes involve the inherent urge to remove our same-sexed parent so to possess our opposite-sexed parent” (Psychosexual, 2010 pp 1) In boys, the father stands in the way of the increasingly sexual love for his mother. What controls this urge to eliminate the father is the fear that his father will remove their common appendage, the penis. The easiest way to resolve castration anxiety of the phallic stage is to imitate the father, which in the long-term acts as a voice of restraint in his adult life. The female counterparts in the phallic stage suffer from penis envy. The female child holds her mother accountable for not sharing the appendage that her brother wants to remove from their father. Unlike the male counterparts, Freud remained unclear how the phallic stage is resolved.

“Fixation at the phallic stage develops a person who is reckless, resolute, self-assured, and narcissistic and is excessively vain and proud. The failure to resolve the conflict can also cause a person to be afraid or incapable of close love; Freud also hinted that fixation could be a root cause of homosexuality” (Psychosexual, 2010 pp 1).

Id, Ego, and Superego

Freud saw the human personality as having three aspects, which work together to produce all of our complex behaviors. These are described as the t Id, the Ego and the Superego. All three components need to be well-balanced in order to have reasonable mental health. However, the Ego has a difficult time dealing with the competing demands of the Superego and the Id. According to the psychoanalytic view, “this psychological conflict is an intrinsic and pervasive part of human experience” (Wilderdom.com, 2008, pp. 1-2). The conflict between the Id and Superego, negotiated by the Ego, is one of the normal psychological battles all people face. “The way in which a person characteristically resolves the instant gratification vs. longer-term reward dilemma reflects upon their character” (Wilderdom.com, 2008, pp. 1-2).

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The id can be described as the functions of the irrational and emotional part of the mind. This part of psychology is very self-serving and uncaring towards others’ needs. This is very true of an infant since their only desire to be satisfied and served. In addition, this phase can be applied to childhood since children are also very self-serving and seek constant gratification.

The Ego functions with the rational part of the mind. The Ego develops out of awareness that one can’t always receive what they desire. The Ego operates in a world of reality. The Ego realizes the need for compromise and negotiates between the Id and the Superego. “The Ego’s job is to get the Id’s pleasures but to be reasonable and bear the long-term consequences in mind.” (Wilderdom.com, 2008, pp. 1-2) The Ego denies gratification but the ego must cope with this conflicting force. “To undertake its work of planning, thinking and controlling the Id, the Ego uses some of the Id’s libidinal energy” (Wilderdom.com, 2008, pp. 1-2). Typically, adults fit into this category since maturity also aides in recognizing reality and compromising. However, if the ego is too strong one can become well-organized and rational but extremely boring and cold.

The Superego is the last part of the mind to develop. It is often called “the moral part of the mind” (Wilderdom.com, 2008, pp. 1-2). The Superego becomes a structure of parental and societal values by storing and enforcing rules. It constantly strives for perfection and its power to enforce rules comes from its ability to create mental anxiety.

“The Superego has two subsystems: Ego Ideal and Conscience. The Ego Ideal provides rules for good behavior, and standards of excellence towards which the Ego must strive.” (Wilderdom.com, 2008, pp. 1-2). The Ego ideal is basically what the child’s parents approve of or value. So, a parent’s proper guidance is greatly needed for one to possess these values. Therefore, these values will serve as their conscience throughout life. However, if one’s superego is not balanced may feel guilty most of the time and feel the need to be perfect beyond reality.


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