Delinquent and deviant behavior: differences and similarities

Delinquent and deviant behavior are forms of behavior that involve violation of public legal or moral norms. This can be expressed in aggression towards oneself or other people, a tendency to wander, bad habits and mental disorders of varying severity.

Delinquent behavior is a form of deviant behavior that manifests itself in the form of committing illegal actions.

What is delinquent and deviant behavior

Deviant behavior is actions that deviate from the norm for the worse or for the better. For example, altruistic prosocial actions (heroism) and asocial actions (vandalism) are positive and negative manifestations of deviations. However, it is more common to talk about deviations in a negative context. And one such example is delinquent behavior, that is, the commission of criminal acts.

We are talking not only about hooliganism, pranks, violation of public order, etc., but also about serious offenses and crimes. And also about actions that clearly do not violate the law, but are dangerous for the person himself or others and can lead to misfortune and crime.

Thus, deviant behavior is a violation of social norms, and delinquent behavior is a violation of the law. Simply put, the second is a violation of the officially prescribed rules of life in society, and the first is a violation of unofficial norms of behavior. Let us examine in more detail what is the difference between deviant behavior and delinquent behavior.

Similarities and differences between the terms “deviance” and “delinquency”

Common features of deviance and delinquency:

  • both terms imply deviation from generally accepted social norms. At the same time, people’s actions are compared both with legally established state norms and with informal behavioral guidelines;
  • Both deviation and delinquency imply a person’s lack of desire to find his place in society, meet its requirements and comply with generally accepted rules.

If we talk about the differences between these terms, they are as follows:

  • Delinquent behavior is human behavior that includes completely illegal actions. Vivid examples of delinquent behavior can be robbery, murder, any violent acts, fraud, and bullying. Delinquency includes primarily those deviations that carry legal consequences;
  • Deviance is a broader concept that includes generally accepted deviations from socially approved norms.

In a narrow sense, deviant behavior may include offenses that do not entail criminal liability, and delinquent behavior may include administrative fines and criminal punishment.

Main differences

Let us determine the difference between deviant and delinquent behavior. The latter includes those actions for which legal punishment is imposed. The first is actions for which a person is subject to public censure, receives reprimands, and becomes the object of educational conversations and preventive work. Any deviant actions can be considered a prerequisite for the development of delinquent behavior. Therefore, it is important to stop any deviations from the norm as early as possible.

If a person has violated something once, this does not mean deviations. We are talking about deviations in cases where the subject systematically violates something.

The boundary of the norm and “abnormality” in the case of deviations is more difficult to determine than in the case of delinquent behavior, since the unwritten rules of behavior may differ from person to person, from group to group, from society to society. Even if we take the cultural level, then for representatives of one nation it will be alien to what is considered the norm in another. For example, the rights of Arab and Russian women are very different. The former are completely subordinate to men and have virtually no say in society.

Note! Delinquent behavior is defined not only as behavior that could result in a person being brought to trial, but also as behavior that could cause a person to become a victim of a crime.

Mechanisms and strategies for control and prevention

The primary mechanisms of control over deviant and delinquent behavior are considered to be the actions of the school. The school has the following capabilities:

  • free access to teenagers' families, cooperation with parents;
  • instilling healthy lifestyle skills in schoolchildren;
  • impact on the degree of self-esteem of the student and his aspirations;
  • organization of leisure activities for schoolchildren and assistance in finding employment during the summer holidays.

The school has the opportunity to attract specialists to prevent delinquency and crime.

Scheme for the prevention of delinquent behavior

Deviations of human behavior in society are deeply rooted in childhood. That is why raising the younger generation requires special attention. “Healthy individuals form a healthy society!” - this slogan should be the basis of all educational work of the younger generation.

Causes of deviance

Causes of negative deviations:

  • any style of upbringing in the family, except democratic;
  • deviations in the mental development of the child;
  • any diseases;
  • stress in life (at school or at work, in family, relationships with friends, etc.);
  • unfavorable environment in which a person develops.

Causes of delinquency

Criminal deviations occur among both children and adults. In both cases, their occurrence is associated with the influence of several factors:

  1. Psychophysiological. This means the general state of a person’s health, temperament and character, personality type (accentuation in adolescents), the presence of any diseases (somatic, mental).
  2. Family, or costs of education. For example, traumatic events such as parental divorce, frequent quarrels and conflicts between parents, cruelty towards a child, frequent family moves, etc. In addition, the family’s antisocial lifestyle and its dysfunction have a negative impact. For example, alcoholism or other addiction of one or both parents.
  3. Socio-economic. An unstable situation in society, crises, unemployment, wars - all this affects a person’s mental state. For example, amid the 2021 pandemic, people’s anxiety and irritability have increased, which is causing fights and conflicts in public transport and shops.

Thus, deviations in behavior and actions are associated with congenital or acquired abnormalities in the functioning of the brain, as well as with socio-psychological characteristics of human development.

Features of delinquent behavior in adolescents

Deviant and delinquent adults are teenagers who were unable to safely go through the crisis of adolescence. Deviations are common among teenagers. This is due to normative age-related reactions:

  • need for separation from parents;
  • desire to group with peers;
  • finding interests and hobbies;
  • craving for imitation;
  • reaction of overcompensation and compensation.

Someone is trying to attract the attention of their parents with bad actions. Someone tries to be “cool” and “bad” in order to earn authority among their peers. Other teenagers take the slippery slope “for the company.” However, all this has a common basis - problems in the family and neglect. Children from prosperous families, where the child is cared for, helps him learn healthy ways of socialization and find useful hobbies, and does not become hostage to a deviant or delinquent lifestyle.

Important! Pedagogical neglect, neglect and boredom are the main causes of delinquent and deviant behavior in adolescents.

Thus, adolescent delinquency is associated with natural age-related reactions and hormonal changes that occur during the transition period. For example, some teenagers become involved in criminal gangs and identify themselves with the AUE subculture. This reflects all five reactions that we have considered.

Prevention of deviant behavior

Preventive measures should be aimed at identifying children at risk, eliminating factors contributing to the development of deviations, as well as providing timely assistance.

In order to stabilize the emotional and behavioral spheres in children and adolescents, it is necessary:

  • To develop an interest in the world around us and people, a desire to study and understand the patterns of people’s reactions and the functioning of society. This needs to be done not only in educational institutions, but above all in the family.
  • Introduce the child to the appropriate rules of behavior in various life situations. For kids, it is possible to consolidate the necessary skills in a playful way; for teenagers, training classes are suitable.
  • Develop adequate self-perception and self-esteem, which subsequently makes it possible to navigate in any situation and choose appropriate behavior from those strategies that were successfully learned earlier.
  • Develop communication skills in various forms for any situation, as well as with different categories of people. The more practice a person receives, the higher the likelihood of subconsciously using the correct strategy in a real situation.
  • Parents should pay attention to intrafamily interaction and the psycho-emotional atmosphere in the family. Develop mutual understanding and parenting competence.

For categories of children and adolescents who have undergone correctional programs, it is necessary to prevent a return to previous forms of interaction. The key points here will be practicing the acquired skills and appropriate moral and psychological support.


Examples of normal and deviant behavior (difference between normal, deviant and delinquent behavior):

  • a person defends his opinion with reason, maintains self-control - the norm;
  • a person shouts, insults an opponent, provokes him - deviation;
  • a person brutally beats an opponent, blackmails, intimidates – delinquent behavior.

Another example showing the difference between the concepts of “deviant” and “delinquent”:

  • a group of young people on public transport listens to music through a speaker, talks noisily, ignores the comments of other passengers - deviant behavior;
  • a group of young people drinking on a bus, making noise, listening to obscene music, physically touching other passengers and starting a fight - delinquent behavior.

In a broad sense, examples of delinquent behavior include any antisocial behavior, because all this can make a person a victim or participant in a crime:

  • addictions (alcoholism, drug addiction, substance abuse, gambling addiction);
  • sexual promiscuity;
  • sectarianism and participation in antisocial movements, extremist communities, death groups on social networks;
  • violation of discipline at work or school (lateness, demonstrative violations);
  • administrative offenses (appearing on the street while drunk, non-compliance with laws and regulations, obscene speech, etc.);
  • criminal offenses (theft, rape, murder, etc.).

Types of antisocial behavior

There are forms of delinquent behavior that harm not only the person himself, but also the entire society or its individual groups.

  1. Addiction. This is an addiction, dependence on any action or chemical substance. Common forms of addiction are alcoholism, drug addiction, smoking, gambling, food and sexual addictions, and sectarianism. People with addictive behavior experience alienation from society. They live in a world of distorted reality, gradually destroying their mental and physical health, making those close to them codependent.
  2. Disciplinary offences. Disciplinary violations occur both in educational institutions and at work. These include being late, violating the routine, demonstrative failure to fulfill duties, ignoring safety precautions, and appearing at the workplace in a state of alcohol or other toxic intoxication.
  3. Administrative offences. These include violating traffic rules, drinking alcohol in public places, obscene language, etc.
  4. Crimes. If the commission of illegal actions goes beyond the boundaries of a misdemeanor (theft, extortion, rape, theft of a vehicle, fraud, sale of narcotic substances, etc.), it is a crime and becomes a criminal offense.
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