The identification of deviance: A conceptualization and initial test of a model of social norms



This paper outlines and initially tests a conceptual model of social norms, within the context of a general research framework for examining how deviant behaviour is identified and responded to. Norms are examined vis-a-vis (a) the structure of beliefs and expectancies toward one's own and [deviant] individual's behaviour, and (b) normative focus, representing the social context of behaviour and the nature of the group the norm is shared within. The results showed both of these constituents to be salient to the application of the model to the identification of alcohol abuse, particularly in terms of (i) the relationship between normative structure and the recognition of and evaluation of deviant drinking, (ii) a strong influence of social context on norms and (iii) the finding of powerful differences in normative structure in socio-economically different communities. This latter effect is discussed in terms of the [social ecology] of norms. It is hoped that this model will have heuristic value in expediting theory based studies of both normative regulation, and perceptions of abnormal behaviour.