Psychology Of Deviant Behaviors: What Makes A Person Deviant?

Last Update on October 12, 2023 : Published on October 13, 2023
Understanding The Psychology Of Deviant Behaviors What Makes A Person Deviant

Generally, there are two types of behavior, one which is socially acceptable and the other one which is referred to as deviant! In our lives, we all have done something that is not socially acceptable or that violates social norms!

For example, we all have been late to work, borrowed items and never returned them, or lied to others (intentionally or unintentionally). Some deviant behaviors are viewed as inappropriate to be engaged with! For example, addiction, alcoholism, binge drinking, or illegal drug use.

In this blog, we will be taking a deep look at what is deviant behavior, a list of deviant behaviors, types of deviant behavior, causes of deviant behavior, how to treat or overcome deviant behavior, and more. So, let’s get started!

List of Contents

What is Deviant Behavior?

In psychology, deviant behavior can be defined as actions that violate social rules or are normal. Such actions or behaviors can include informal or formal societal rules and laws. Generally, deviance is referred to as the social standards set by the society. However, there are certain behaviors that are considered to be punishable universally.

For example, murder is considered a punishable offense. The fact is society’s values change over time and behaviors that are considered to be illegal or deviant keep on changing over time. For example, drinking was considered to be a deviant practice a long time ago but today drinking is a common practice in parties and meetings.

According to psychological evidence, human beings are solely responsible for deviant or criminal acts. An individual’s personality or personality deficiencies (abnormal, inappropriate, or dysfunctional mental process) can actually drive deviant behavior.

Generally, psychological explanations in relation to deviant behaviors are associated with three main theories: cognitive development theory, learning theory, and psychoanalytic theory.

What Makes a Person Deviant?

Deviant behaviors can be understood appropriately with the help of psychoanalytic theory (Developed by Sigmund Freud) which states that “humans have natural drives and urges that are repressed in the unconscious.

” This theory states that all humans are derived from criminal tendencies. Such criminal tendencies are curbed with time and through the process of societal norms. Research shows that a child with lesser-known societal norms can develop personality disturbances which can result in antisocial impulses (internally or externally).

Types of Deviant Behavior

Generally, there are two types of deviant behavior, formal and informal. These types are generally derived on the basis of social norms. An informal type of deviant behavior is considered socially unacceptable or inappropriate. The formal type of deviant behavior describes actions or behaviors that are inappropriate such as violations of rules and regulations.

Formal Deviant Behavior

Formal deviant behaviors are considered to be criminal acts and are a subject of laws and punishment. Below is the list of formal deviant behaviors:

  1. Animal cruelty
  2. Assault
  3. Bullying
  4. Child trafficking
  5. Domestic violence
  6. Drug abuse
  7. Drug trafficking
  8. Forgery
  9. Fraud
  10. Kidnapping
  11. Murder
  12. Public nuisance
  13. Rape
  14. Robbery or theft
  15. Sexual harassment
  16. Stalking
  17. Vandalism
  18. Unauthorized dumping
  19. Unauthorized photography
  20. Workplace violence

Informal Deviant Behavior

Informal deviant behavior is actions or behaviors which are socially unacceptable but they do not violate any kind of law. Below is the list of informal deviant behaviors:

  1. Being untidy
  2. Belittling others
  3. Body shaming
  4. Chronic lying
  5. Drinking in the office
  6. Gossiping
  7. Ignoring texts, calls, or emails
  8. Ignoring nametags
  9. Leaving the workplace earlier without permission
  10. Posting pictures on social media without other’s consent
  11. Spitting in public
  12. Spreading rumors
  13. Using company resources for personal gain
  14. Using foul language

List of Deviant Behavior

The list of deviant behaviors runs around actions that are socially problematic, socially acceptable, or socially deviant. Common examples of deviant behavior are generally those actions that are viewed as inappropriate or unacceptable to society such as not bathing regularly, nose-picking, out of these socially unacceptable some actions are deviant such as murder, excessive alcohol use, assault, drug use, and theft.

To understand the range of deviant behavior, we can take a look at some common examples of addictive behaviors that are socially unacceptable to the world.

List of Deviant Behavior

The above graphic represents some common examples of deviant behaviors which are socially acceptable at some levels but when they become excessive, they are counted under deviant behaviors.

For example, underage drinking might count under deviant behavior but if the drinking is under establishments, it might count under socially acceptable action at some level.

In recent years, some behaviors or activities were shifted such as smoking cigarettes is not a socially acceptable activity but it is not deviant too. However, it can be counted as socially problematic.

Causes of Deviant Behavior

There are various research, theories, and evidence available that support what makes some deviant. In psychology, there can be biological, psychological, and sociological explanations. But in general, there can be various factors included such as upbringing, personality, societal influences, genetics, and environment.

Moreover, socioeconomic status, gender, unwritten social rules, and expectations can also play a major role in the development of deviant behavior. Let’s take a look at the causes of deviant behavior according to psychology:

1. Biological Explanations

Biological explanations for deviant behavior state that genetics plays an important role in the development of deviant behavior. For example, when someone becomes addicted to drugs or alcohol, research shows that genes or heredity plays an essential part in the development of substance abuse.

Additionally, research shows that around 40 to 60% of addiction problems are related to genetics. According to psychological theories, genetics impacts overall personality and temperament. Such impacts on the overall personality can influence the probability of engagement in deviant behaviors.

2. Psychological Explanations

Psychological theories around deviant behavior suggest different perspectives. According to the psychoanalytic approach, people who are more engaged in unconscious and repressed behaviors are likely to engage in social deviance. There were different theories and research around psychological explanations that suggest that learned behaviors or watching others can increase the chances of developing deviant behaviors.

For example, people who live around people who consume drugs or alcohol are prone to engaging in deviant behaviors. Overall research suggested that social influence can also have a great impact on the onset of deviant behaviors, especially addiction and substance use.

3. Sociological Explanations

I found various studies around sociological evidence out of which one stated Merton’s Strain Theory. The theory suggests that when there is stress or tension between societal goals or norms, people are likely to engage in deviant behaviors. Due to a lot of tension. People often start doing things that are not socially acceptable in order to reach the goals set by society itself.

For example, you’re likely to find a well-educated and deserving man selling drugs around the corner to meet societal expectations or goals such as wealth.

Understanding the Connection Between Addiction and Deviant Behavior

Addiction and deviant behaviors are connected with each other? Ask me why. Well, let me give you a common example, have you ever seen someone indulge in gambling and sipping alcohol side by side? It’s common, right?

Deviant behaviors mean the violation of societal rules and regulations. People who are more involved in substance use often describe themselves as socially deviant since they are aware that they are not meeting societal expectations and their behavior is not accepted. Such behavior is so stigmatized that it can sometimes result in more addiction (if there’s an addiction).

How to Stop Engaging in Deviant Behavior?

Research shows that adolescents and youth are more into indulging in deviant behaviors. Different criminogenic situations can lead to offensive punishments. Herein, a psychologist can help you learn effective ways to overcome deviant behavior, especially in adolescents and youth.

If you think you or your loved one is engaged in formal deviant behaviors such as kidnapping, robbery, drug trafficking, and others, connect with a lawyer for the right assistance.

If you’re trying to stop certain deviant behaviors such as excessive alcohol use, smoking, bullying, or substance use, you can effectively overcome them with the help of a mental health professional. A mental health professional can help you understand repressed emotions, identify hidden causes, and teach healthy coping strategies for positive living.

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Along with a lawyer’s assistance and talk therapy, Here’s what you can do to control problematic or deviant behaviors:

  1. Identify problematic behaviors and prevent them early before they get worse.
  2. Work on preventing shame, harmful acts, and relationship problems with a mental health professional.
  3. Understand the hidden mental health conditions behind such problematic behaviors.
  4. Avoid risky situations and focus on improving your overall well-being.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes a person deviant?

Psychology states that a single cause cannot determine the reason behind the development of deviant behaviors. However, a set of identifiable causes or factors can play an important role in the development of deviant behaviors such as genetics, early life experiences, social pressures, and environment.

What are some common examples of deviant behavior?

Robbery, theft, rape, murder, assault, domestic violence, and vandalism are some of the common examples of deviant behaviors.

How can I stop deviant behaviors?

In order to resolve deviant behaviors, you might have to deal with punishment or deterrence according to societal laws. If you’re trying to avoid deviant behaviors on your own such as excessive alcoholism, bullying, and others, you can talk to a mental health professional or join a support group to help you change problematic behavior.

How can a mental health professional help you stop deviant behavior?

Connecting with a mental health professional can help you get the right support, coping techniques, tools, resources, and assistance to change problematic behaviors and adopt positive behaviors.

I hope this blog helps you understand what deviant behavior is and its examples. For more such content, connect with us through all social media platforms.

Thanks for reading!

About The Author

Aayushi Kapoor
Aayushi Kapoor

Aayushi is a Content Creator at Calm Sage. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Food Technology and a Master's Degree in Clinical Nutrition. Her constant interest in the improvement of mental health, nutrition, and overall wellness embarked upon her career as a “full-time educational writer.” She likes to make an asynchronous connection with her readers. Her mantra for living life is "What you seek is seeking you".

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