Deviation: types, types, reasons for formation, examples

Deviation is any behavioral deviation from an established sociocultural norm. The concept of deviation denotes the behavioral response of individuals that does not correspond to sociocultural norms. Various crimes, abuse of narcotic or psychotropic drugs, alcoholism are all the clearest examples of deviation. However, petty hooliganism, actions of a revolutionary nature, and the absence of a greeting at a meeting are also considered deviations, since all human actions and deeds are included in a system of relationships and social interactions that has general normative regulation. An example of this is family relationships, teamwork, contacts with the street environment, etc. As a result, behavior that disrupts the stability of interaction processes with society is considered deviant.

Definition of the concept

In psychology, deviation is the behavior of people that violates the stability of interpersonal interaction. Psychologists say that deviation is the behavior of an individual that contradicts sociocultural norms, moral and ethical principles of society.

The structure of deviation includes:

  • human behavior;
  • value relations and moral orientations of the individual;
  • social norms and rules, which are the main criterion for deviant behavior;
  • evaluative attitude of others.

Sometimes the manifestation of mental illness from the outside looks like a deliberate violation of norms and rules. But deviant behavior and a medical diagnosis cannot be equated.


To begin with, children with deviant behavior must be quickly brought under control.
This should be done by teachers and parents. Abnormal behavior must not be ignored or act by force. The sooner the tendency to deviation is identified and work is done, the more likely the positive outcome of the case, the presence of a healthy personality. It is important to identify risk groups. For this purpose, methods of screening students and various tests are used. It is no secret that those at risk include teenagers from dysfunctional families, those with many children, and those in difficult life situations. It is they who need to pay great attention in the prevention of antisocial behavior. And these are not only conversations on given topics, but also real help, including psychological help.

Measures should be aimed not only at improving living conditions, but also at motivating people to lead a healthy lifestyle and give up bad habits. In this case, everything depends on the reasons for the deviation. If they are hidden in mental illnesses or factors of hereditary alcoholism, only a doctor can help.

Sanguine: type of temperament and its characteristics

Deviation theory

The first researcher who tried to answer the question of what deviation is was E. Durkheim. Scientists paid close attention to deviations in the 19th century. At this time, many different theories and concepts appeared to explain the emergence of destructive processes in behavior. Common theories of deviation include:

  1. Biologization theories (the theory of Ch. Lomborzo, in which the author correlates certain features of external appearance with a person’s tendency to engage in illegal behavior; the theory of W. Sheldon). The authors of these theories are convinced that destructive behavior is caused by genetics and innate mental characteristics. For example, it was believed that physically strong people with protruding jaws and a high pain threshold were more likely to be involved in criminal activity.
  2. Sociologizing concepts (G. Becker's conflict theory, the concept of stigmatization, E. Durkheim's functional theory, Merton's theory, P. Miller's theory of delinquent cultures, G. Tarde's theory of imitation, E. Sutherland's concept of differential association). Proponents of this approach believe that anomalies arise as a result of the negative influence of society on an individual. Researchers see the causes of deviations in social inequality. As a rule, deviant behavior does not arise immediately. It is preceded by various failures, stress, certain incidents.
  3. Psychological theories (S. Freud's concept). The psychoanalyst considered people’s intrapersonal conflicts to be the root cause of deviant behavior, and regarded their external manifestations as the result of experienced psychotrauma.

As a result of many years of research into the behavioral phenomenon, scientists came to the conclusion that it arises under the combined influence of several factors: biological, psychological and social.

Stages of development of deviant behavior

The formation of deviant behavior goes through several stages:

  • the emergence of a cultural norm (for example, the focus on getting rich in post-Soviet Russia);
  • the emergence of a social layer that follows this norm (for example, entrepreneurs);
  • transformation into deviant forms of activity that do not lead to enrichment (for example, in our case, the miserable life of many employees and workers);
  • recognition of a person (and social class) as deviant by others;
  • revaluation of this cultural norm, recognition of relativity.


Forms of deviation were identified by R. Merton. When analyzing deviation, he did not consider the act itself, but tried to establish what element of a person’s life served as the motive for this or that action. He paid close attention to the methods by which a person achieves an asocial or prosocial goal. He associated the concept of deviation with the contradiction between the needs of the individual and his capabilities to satisfy them.

Other classification

Doctor of Psychological Sciences Elena Zmanovskaya proposed a different classification of deviant behavior. When determining the forms of deviation, it was based on the consequences of behavior and the norms violated. The result was the following:

  • Antisocial behavior. It threatens social order and the well-being of people.
  • Antisocial. Such behavior poses a threat only to the successful establishment of interpersonal relationships, as it violates moral and ethical standards.
  • Autodestructive. Such actions do not harm the environment, but the person himself. For example, addiction to narcotic or psychotropic substances or suicidal tendencies.


It is believed that deviations from the norm in the form of deviation can be classified into the following types:

  • positive deviations from the average norm;
  • negative deviations associated with mental disorders;
  • illegal and criminal acts;
  • cultural deviations;
  • aggressive actions;
  • antisocial behavior;
  • negative non-criminal actions (suicidal attempts, vagrancy, alcoholism, drug addiction).

All deviations are divided into 2 types: primary and secondary. Primary deviation is a type of deviant behavior that is not punished in any way by authorized bodies. Secondary deviation is an irreversible change in the personal sphere that occurs as a result of the systematic repetition of certain actions of a destructive nature.

Depending on the number of participants in antisocial actions, deviations can be group or individual.

Clayburgh suggests dividing all deviations in society into 3 types:

  • negative (crime, substance use);
  • neutral deviations (vagrancy, begging);
  • positive (self-sacrifice).

E. Zmanovskaya believed that deviation is a social phenomenon that needs to be talked about in simple terms from the point of view of the negative consequences of an individual’s actions for himself or for society. She identified the following types of this social phenomenon:

  • self-destructive deviant behavior (examples of such deviation are suicide, victimization, unjustified risk);
  • asocial disregard for the norms and rules of public life (protest against legislation causes universal condemnation and is punishable by sanctions);
  • antisocial actions that threaten the life and health of citizens

According to another classification, the following types of deviation are distinguished:

  • Innovation – this type involves the use of prohibited actions to achieve a goal. In a negative context, this type of deviant behavior is characteristic of criminals and blackmailers. In the positive version, such deviant behavior is used by scientists.
  • Retreatism is a kind of escape from reality. This way of existence is used by people with alcohol, gaming or drug addiction.
  • Ritualism is the following of certain stereotypes that contradict the true purpose of the activity.
  • Riot is an active form of protest against established norms and rules. An individual with this behavioral stereotype tries to protect his interests and put forward his ideas with the help of aggressive actions.

Triad of indicators

Based on indicators such as direction, nature of manifestation and level of social approval, Nadezhda Maysak presents another classification of deviant behavior:

  • Constructive deviation. We are talking about different types of creative manifestations.
  • Autodestructive. This form is divided into suicidal and addictive (that is, dependence on alcohol and drugs).
  • Externally destructive. Divided into communicative and counter-pairing. Simply put, a person does not show the slightest desire to cooperate with other people.

Types of deviation

Psychologists and social educators in their work encounter the following types of abnormal behavior:

  • delinquent behavior, criminal acts;
  • extremism;
  • terrorism;
  • bad habits;
  • prostitution;
  • bright makeup, extravagant style of clothing;
  • abnormal response of the child to familiar situations;
  • various forms of addiction, addiction to gambling;
  • vandalism;
  • animal abuse;
  • extreme form of egocentrism;
  • isolation, desire to minimize social contacts, recluse, autism;
  • excessive sociability;
  • foul language;
  • the child ignoring the demands of adults;
  • poor development of individual self-control skills;
  • mood swings for no apparent reason, which lead to constant internal tension and disruptions in the functioning of the nervous system;
  • unmotivated aggression and self-harming behavior;
  • tendency to solve problems with fists;
  • anxiety, phobias, panic attacks;
  • suicide attempts;
  • pathological processes in the psyche;
  • behavioral deviations caused by mistakes in family upbringing.

Positive deviations include:

  • genius or talent of an individual in a particular field of science or art;
  • a high level of development of patriotism, performing heroic deeds for the benefit of other people and humanity as a whole;
  • the ability to sacrifice oneself and one’s interests for the sake of a common cause or the interests of another person;
  • altruistic orientation of the personality, heightened sense of pity;
  • pronounced diligence and a heightened sense of duty;
  • the presence of certain unique abilities in a person.

Unlike negative ones, positive types of deviations do not cause condemnation from society.

Treatment, correction

Correction of deviant behavior in a person should be carried out by qualified specialists who can not only correct existing problems, but also ensure that such situations do not recur in the future.
You should not convince a teenager that he is “difficult.” Most pathologies stem from psychological beliefs. All correctional activities should be based on the characteristics of a given individual. It is important to take individual approaches and not follow template methods. Only in this case can you gain the trust of the deviant and begin to effectively correct deviant behavior.

In such work, it is advisable to focus on positive personality traits and character traits. It is very important to notice and root such characteristics as:

  1. Thrift.
  2. Accuracy.
  3. Goodwill.
  4. Condescension.
  5. Decency.

Emotionally unstable people are very difficult to communicate with. It is important to convince them that this is not the case with them. It’s easy and simple to talk to them, make friends, and even trust very little secrets.

When mental illness occurs, it is important to encourage the person to seek help from appropriate professionals. The same rule applies to the treatment of drug addiction and alcoholism.

How to get rid of deviation?

It is important to avoid conflict situations.
Getting rid of deviant phenomena is inextricably linked with the collective work of psychologists, teachers, and parents of a teenager. Only targeted conversations, positive emotions, kindness, constant communication. Such components can become an invariable reason for success in the fight against behavioral deviations in children and adults. You should not provoke a person to aggression, and all situations that are in one way or another connected with its manifestations should be nullified. Help from psychologists and psychiatrists is often required. It is important not to panic, thinking that such appeals can affect the fate of the child, making him the subject of ridicule.

Appeals to specialists of this class are almost always anonymous. Dissemination of confidential information by a doctor is punishable by law, even if it relates to the very fact of contacting a doctor of the relevant specialization.


Traditionally, signs of behavioral deviations include:

  • tough temperament, aggressiveness;
  • egocentrism;
  • painful perception of criticism;
  • causeless change of mood;
  • poor development of self-control skills;
  • isolation, craving for loneliness;
  • the individual has symptoms of a mental disorder;
  • connection of a person with a criminal group, communication with criminal personalities;
  • a person’s desire and willingness to resist the opinion of the majority.

Historical reference

Deviant behavior has been one of the central issues of sociology since its inception.
One of the founders of deviantology is the French scientist Emile Durkheim, who in 1897 published a classic work called “Suicide.” He introduced the concept of anomie, meaning social confusion and disorientation in society that occurs during times of radical social change and crisis. Durkheim supported his words with statistics showing an increase in the number of suicides during sharp economic downturns or booms. The scientist was followed by the American Robert King Merton, who created the theory of structural functionalism and was one of the first to classify human behavioral reactions from the point of view of sociology.

Reasons and background

Psychologists began to study the causes and prerequisites for the formation of deviations in order to develop effective methods to combat them. Factors causing behavioral abnormalities are:

  • genetic predisposition;
  • age (deviations often occur in adolescents, accompanying the process of formation of elements of an individual’s self-awareness);
  • low intellectual potential of the individual;
  • presence of character accentuations;
  • unfavorable level of economic development of the region in which the person lives;
  • awareness of social inequality;
  • a person’s material difficulties;
  • political instability in the country;
  • raising a child in an antisocial environment;
  • mistakes of family education;
  • low level of development of the moral foundations of the individual;
  • a person’s dubious social environment, copying incorrect patterns of behavior under group pressure;
  • difficulties in personal socialization;
  • stress;
  • pathological processes in the nervous system and brain;
  • psychosomatic disorders;
  • interests and inclinations of the individual, peculiarities of perception;
  • open propaganda of sexual liberation in the media;
  • inconsistency of social norms, which leads to the difficulty of choosing the only correct model of behavior;
  • a person’s lack of opportunities to meet their needs;
  • a sense of permissiveness and confidence in impunity;
  • learned helplessness, the habit of shifting responsibility for one’s life to others;
  • desire to become famous on the Internet;
  • adolescent desire to gain recognition from members of the reference group;
  • a teenager’s desire to look like an adult;
  • desire to make the world a better place.


Despite all the mentioned reasons for the occurrence of deviation, it can often be observed in teenage children who are brought up in quite prosperous families. It is worth noting that family is not the only factor influencing the socialization of an individual. A child may well join a bad company or join some subculture. In such a situation, new norms and values ​​​​imposed by parents collide. It seems to children that everything their parents say is wrong, and conflicts arise because of this. In adolescents, deviation, for example, can manifest itself in the form of vandalism or painting on walls.

Examples of deviations

I will give examples of negative, neutral and positive deviations:

  1. The child was born into a prosperous full family. The parenting style was overprotective. Having reached adolescence, the child became uncontrollable: he began to blackmail his parents and insult his mother. Parents believed that adolescence is difficult for all children; they need to be patient. They did not take active measures to solve the problem; they reduced control and custody of their son. As a result, the parents did not notice how the boy got involved with bad company, where he became addicted to drugs.
  2. The girl has been shy since childhood. It is difficult for her to talk to a stranger, to make a request to someone. Mom believes that shyness is synonymous with modesty, so she makes no attempt to eradicate this character trait of her daughter. The girl has few friends; in class she is considered withdrawn because she does not greet her classmates and refuses to play group games during breaks. On the part of the teachers, there are no complaints against the girl regarding her studies, no sanctions can be applied to her, her shyness does not harm others, but is at the same time a form of neutral deviation.
  3. For many years, an employee of the research institute has been developing his own methodology for teaching preschool children to read. After defending his doctoral dissertation, he opened a linguistic center and began working with children according to his own program. After a few months, 4-5 year old children learned to read. The innovative activity of a scientist in this case is an example of positive deviation.

general characteristics

Human behavior is formed as a reaction to a combination of several factors: the social environment, a specific situation and one’s own personality. The easiest way to describe the conformity of human behavior to generally accepted norms is to use concepts such as “normal” and “abnormal” behavior. “Normal” can be called behavior that fully meets the expectations of others.

Abnormal behavioral responses come in many forms. Thus, behavior can be: pathological, delinquent, retreatant, non-standard, creative, deviant, deviant and marginal. The norm is determined on the basis of criteria that can be negative and positive. In the first case, the norm is considered as the absence of signs of pathology, and in the second – as the presence of “healthy” symptoms.

From the point of view of social psychology, antisocial behavior is a way of behaving in a certain way without taking into account social norms. This formulation connects deviation with the process of adaptation to society. Thus, deviation among adolescents usually comes down to forms of unsuccessful or incomplete adaptation.

Sociologists use a slightly different definition. They consider a symptom normal if it is more than 50 percent prevalent in the community. Thus, normal behavioral reactions are those that are characteristic of most people. Consequently, deviant behavior manifests itself in a limited circle of people.

From a medical point of view, deviant behavior does not refer to either medical terms or forms of pathology. Its structure includes mental disorders, reactions to situations, developmental disorders and character accentuations. However, not every mental disorder is accompanied by abnormal symptoms.

Psychology and pedagogy define deviant behavior as a method of action that causes harm to an individual and complicates its development and self-realization. In children, this method of response has age restrictions, and the concept itself applies to children over 7 years old. The fact is that a young child cannot fully understand and control his actions and reactions.

Based on various approaches, a general definition of deviance can be formulated. So, deviance is a confident way of acting that deviates from social standards, causes harm to the individual and is marked by social maladjustment.

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