Deviant behavior is bad behavior that breaks social rules and makes society less desirable or more dangerous. People who engage in deviant behavior are often considered ‘bad people,’ and deviant behaviors tend to be stigmatized.
Social Cultural Norms
Social norms vary across cultures so that what is considered deviant by one person may be acceptable by another person. However, there are some generally acceptable social behaviors.
Social-cultural norms provide a common basis for people’s beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors. They also lead to creating rules that regulate the behavior and expectations for a person’s actions in social situations.
Deviant behavior is classified into formal and informal.
Formal Deviant Behavior
This type of deviance includes deviant acts that violate social norms and mainly the Law of the land. These behaviors are primarily classified under ‘crime.’ The offenders face the criminal law enforcers and serve a prison term most of the time. Some offenses like rape, murder, and sexual harassment are considered devious. Below are 50 examples of formal deviant behaviors
Rape is sexual intercourse without consent. Rapists are imprisoned for rape and serve long-term imprisonment. This act can be an offense against a stranger, a partner, or any other person.
Murder is a crime of taking the life of another human. It occurs when someone intentionally kills another person. This crime is punishable through imprisonment and death penalty in some countries.
3. Domestic violence
It refers to the abuse of power and control by a partner through negative sexual, physical, or emotional behaviors. This type of deviant behavior results in severe trauma to the victim. The abusers end up in prison if proper actions are taken.
4. Robbery, theft, and burglary
These are the offenses that involve breaking into houses or other property to steal. Armed robbers and thieves offend the members of society and the lawmakers.
This kind of deviant behavior involves any form of violence against a person or another living creature. The offender is imprisoned for acts that lead to physical harm. For example, you may be imprisoned for punching your friend in the face.
Arson is deviant behavior that violates property. The arsonist decides to set fire on houses or other structures. Usually, arsonists want to gain economically from their crimes. For instance, they can set houses on fire to claim insurance.
7. Sexual harassment
This deviant behavior refers to persistent and unwanted sexual advances in the form of comments or touching. It is a form of sexual assault, and it is punishable by the Law. Both men and women can be victims.
Vandalism is the willful damage or destruction of public or private property. The vandals destroy property for fun or to make a point.
9. DWI and DUI
DWI stands for Driving While Intoxicated. DUI is Drinking Under Influence. This deviant behavior results from drinking alcohol and driving a vehicle in public. The offender disobeys the Law and is imprisoned for driving under the influence of drugs.
It refers to the crime of deceiving other people by misleading them. The offender will result to the deviant behavior to make money or personal gain.
11. Drug trafficking
Drug trafficking involves distributing or selling illegal drugs like marijuana and heroin. The offender will be imprisoned for these offenses because they are illegal.
12. Tax evasion and fraud
It refers to the crime of deceiving the government by avoiding or underpaying taxes. The offender may be imprisoned for these offenses.
13. Public nuisance
This deviant behavior is the disregard for public order and peace. The offender creates a mess in the streets, via means such as throwing trash everywhere or playing loud music at night.
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Kidnapping is the criminal act of taking another person by force. The kidnapped person is held against their will for ransom, abuse, or something else.
It refers to the secretive following or tracking another person for a long time. The offender will follow his victim to cause fear, distress, or want. Most stalkers use this act for power and control.
Bribery is the deviant behavior of an individual offering money, perks, or special favors to another person in a position of power. Bribing is done to influence people.
17. Drug abuse
Drug abuse refers to the illegal or improper use of drugs. Drug abusers become addicts, and their lives are controlled by using more and more drugs.
This deviant behavior involves sleeping in public places or begging. When a person has nothing to do because he does not want to work, it is considered vagrancy. The offender is imprisoned for this act of not settling down and contributing to the economy.
19. Human trafficking/Trafficking of children for prostitution
It involves the kidnapping, transportation, and trading of people for sexual exploitation. Most traffickers target schools where they kidnap unsuspecting kids.
20. Animal cruelty
Animal cruelty is the abuse of animals where the abuser hurts, tortures, or kills animals for fun. Animal cruelty is considered an early sign of violent behavior.
21. Defacing private or property
People who do this deviant behavior will write their names, initials, or other words on public property like walls. These vandals want to be known by everyone.
Forgery is the act of producing or altering a document to deceive people. The offender will forge the documents such as banknotes, immigration papers, and legal documents.
23. Credit card fraud
This deviant behavior involves the unauthorized use of credit cards for personal gains, such as making purchases or getting cash. The offender is imprisoned for this offense because credit cards are not free money.
24. Unlawful assemblies
Unlawful assemblies are deviant behavior involving gathering a collective group of people acting against the Law.
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Tailgating is when a driver continuously follows another vehicle too closely. This deviant act causes a traffic jam because the culprit refuses to slow down or pass the vehicle in front.
26. Air pollution
Air pollution is caused by the release of hazardous gases into the air. The offender will not care about their actions; they release dangerous toxins.
27. Possessing/distributing indecent material
This deviance is the production, distribution, or possession of materials that are considered offensive. These materials may involve nudity and sex acts.
It refers to aggressive behavior towards another person, such as making threats, spreading rumors, and physically hurting others.
It’s the act of doing illegal activities that involve crossing a border without permission. Smugglers deal in weapons, drugs, or people.
Littering is the illegal act of throwing trash in a public space. The offender will throw away their junk food, drinks, cans, and other items.
31. Smoking in public areas
Smoking in public areas is the act of smoking where it is prohibited. The offender will smoke in the bank, mall, or office. Public smoking endangers other people’s lives.
32. Unauthorized dumping of trash or garbage
Some people dump trash in an area that is not designated for this act. The offender will throw away cans, bottles, papers, and other items in places not permitted to dump the trash.
33. Workplace violence
Workplace violence is deviant behavior that involves the threat or use of violence to resolve conflicts.
34. Possession of unlicensed firearms or weapons
This behavior involves the illegal possession of firearms and weapons. The offender may use them to threaten or harm other people.
35. Having an un-updated “green card.”
If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will be arrested for having an outdated green card or using a fraudulent one.
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36. Passing counterfeit money
This deviant behavior involves the passing of counterfeit money as if it were real. People who do this want to exchange counterfeit money to get real money.
37. Bumping into another vehicle for attention
Bumping into another vehicle is the act of colliding with the side or rear end of another vehicle.
38. Writing a bad check
A bad check is when a person writes a check but does not have the money in the account to cover it.
39. Forcefully Overstaying in a Restaurant
It happens when a person refuses to leave a restaurant when the closing time has come. Instead, he may wait until all his companions finish eating.
40. Unauthorized Flash photography
It is the act of taking flash pictures in public areas. When one does this in forbidden areas, it’s considered an offense.
41. Overtime Parking
An offender parks his vehicle in a parking space for an extended period. This act is deviant because it interferes with the ability of other people to use the space as well.
42. Disrespecting other road users
This deviant behavior involves treating other road users with disrespect and threatening their lives. The offender may cut in line, speed, or tailgate.
43. Running through stop signs and traffic signals
Even if you’re the only one driving, failure to respect stop signs and traffic signals is a crime.
44. Taking the Law into your hands
You can’t threaten to kill someone if they bother you. Instead, you have to call the police to take care of it.
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45. Driving Without a License or Driving on a Suspended License.
Driving on a suspended license is deviant behavior. If you are caught, you can be arrested, and your vehicle will be taken away by the police.
46. Unlawfully Breaking into a building
If you forcibly break into a building, you are acting illegally. The offender can be arrested and charged with aggravated burglary.
47. Harassing a poor driver on the road
Some people harass learning drivers or anyone who makes a mistake on the road. This behavior is unlawful since there are better ways of correcting others.
48. Seatbelt violations
Violations of seatbelt laws are the acts of driving without a seatbelt, and some people either refuse to wear one or take it off in their car, etc.
49. Driving an unroadworthy vehicle is deviant behavior.
If you drive without a radiator or with defective brakes, you can damage others. You will be arrested for this behavior.
50. Making a wrong turn while driving
It is a deviant behavior in which the offender turns into the wrong street or lane. They will have to pay for any damages caused.
Informal Deviant Behavior
Informal deviance is the more subtle and indirect form of deviant behavior. These are not usually brought to the police or legal attention. The offenders in this type of deviant behavior do not usually get into trouble with the law enforcers.
The deviant acts under informal deviance violate the social norms of a particular society. Below are 50 examples of informal deviant behaviors.
51. Ignoring e-mails, texts, and phone calls
Ignoring people’s messages is an informal deviant behavior. The ignored person will find such behavior disgusting.
52. Extending your lunch break in the workplace
This is an irresponsible deviant act that can get you fired. Employees in an organization should observe time.
53. Leaving work earlier without permission
An unapproved leave from work is deviant. The offenders leave without notifying their managers, and this makes them irresponsible.
54. Getting drunk in the office
Drinking in the office is deviant behavior. Employees who do such in the workplace face disciplinary actions.
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55. Spitting in public
The disgusting act of spitting on a public space violates social norms. The offender will spit on floors, tables, or sidewalks to get rid of saliva.
56. Ignoring nametags
Not wearing nametags or ignoring greetings when holding a social event is an act of indirect disrespect.
57. Failing to keep your promises to friends and family members
Failing to keep promises is an informal deviant behavior. People who do such break the trust of other people.
58. Using company resources for personal gain
This type of deviant behavior involves using the company resources for personal gain. It’s irresponsible and unbecoming.
59. Nose-picking in public and at formal gatherings.
Nose-picking in public is an informal deviant behavior. It’s disgusting to watch someone pick their nose.
60. Inappropriate public display of affection
This deviant behavior may not be illegal, but it may go against some social-cultural norms depending on the offenders’ community.
61. Ignoring Invitations
People who ignore invitations by failing to respond are deviant. A positive or negative response is expected.
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62. Not returning borrowed items as promised
This behavior is offensive to the lender. If you’re not able to return borrowed items as agreed, consider informing the lender.
63. Arriving late to an important event
It is a deviant act that may offend the host. Before arriving late, inform the person hosting you of your delay.
64. Not giving way to pedestrians and drivers when in a car.
You may think you have the right of way but giving way to such people is good manners. Allowing others to pass will also reduce road accidents.
65. Making personal calls with the office phone
It is an informal deviant behavior that can get the offender fired. It’s irresponsible and morally unacceptable.
66. Making Inappropriate jokes in the workplace
This inappropriate behavior may offend other people in the workplace. You can be fired for committing such offenses.
67. Chronic lying
Some people have perfected the art of lying and covering lies with more lies. Such are called chronic liers and cannot be trusted.
68. Misjudging others
Judging others based on wrong assumptions is wrong. The offender judges people without evidence and facts.
69. Being untidy
Untidiness is an offensive behavior that can make associates feel bad. A tidy environment improves productivity.
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Gossiping is a form of informal deviant behavior. Gossips are generally untrustworthy people, who do not share facts and information.
71. Sharing other people’s secrets
The act of sharing other people’s secrets depicts betrayal. People who do such are untrustworthy and selfish. They may have a problem with trust and loyalty.
72. Attending to personal affairs during working hours
Allocating time to personal affairs during working hours is an act of informal deviance. Employers frown at such activities because it reduces productivity.
73. Making fun of people in public
Making fun of other people is rude and selfish. The offenders are generally bullies who lack social skills.
74. Eating as you work
Eating while working is an informal deviant behavior. Employees who do such slow down their efficiency and productivity.
75. Using foul language
Profanity is morally unacceptable and only exposes how rude and careless a person is, especially in public.
76. Touching others inappropriately
Making sexual advances or touching others inappropriately sexually is unacceptable. Such people are called perverts.
77. Buying friendships
Buying friendships is doing good to others to gain something from them. These are friendships of convenience that only exist for benefits and advantages.
Some people stare at others to intimidate them or make them uncomfortable without any reason. This kind of staring is disrespectful.
79. Spreading rumors
This form of behavior is morally unacceptable—people who do such spread unconfirmed information about other people.
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80. Canceling appointments last minute without explanation
When you cancel an appointment with someone, you’re expected to give a reason. Cancelling appointments last minute is deviant and disrespectful.
81. Posting pictures on social media of other people without consent
Such postings are considered private or personal by the victims who have no control over how these photos are shared online.
82. Rudely interrupting others in a conversation
Interrupting people during a conversation is considered deviant. The offenders are inconsiderate people who have no consideration for others.
83. Eating other people’s food without permission
This behavior is an act of entitlement. Such people do not respect privacy and the ownership of personal belongings.
84. Distracting others with your conversations
Some people tend to hold long conversations and destroy the focus of other people at work or in public places.
85. Making fun of mentally ill people
Making fun or insulting mentally ill people shows that you lack compassion and have no respect for human rights. This behavior makes one morally inept.
86. Using a cell phone loudly in a public place
87. Smiling to strangers
Smiling to strangers without knowing them can be considered suspect. Such people are generally dishonest and untrustworthy since they have hidden motives.
88. Throwing trash out of your car window.
The offender will throw away food, garbage, or any other trash out of their car window. This deviant act pollutes the environment and is a health hazard.
89. Sleeping during work hours
Sleeping while at work is irresponsible and a violation of work ethics. Such people are lazy and not focused on their work.
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90. Ignoring someone in need
Ignoring a person who asks for help shows a lack of empathy and compassion. Such people have no feelings.
91. Ogling at other people’s bodies
It’s mostly men who ogle over women’s bodies, although it can be the other way. This behavior is unbecoming.
92. Habitually submitting assignments late
This habit is a sign of laziness and irresponsibility. If it happens once or twice, it’s understandable. However, forming a habit is deviance.
93. Belittling others for their poor performance
People who do such show no respect to other people regardless of their position or status.
94. Keeping dirty dishes for long
Some people tend to hold dirty dishes in their sink for days without washing them. It is irresponsible and shows a lack of care or order.
95. Body-shaming others
Body shaming is against social norms. It’s not just about insulting someone for their body shape but also making such people feel like they’re unattractive.
96. Picking a fight in public
When you pick a fight in public, it damages your reputation and makes those around you uncomfortable.
97. Talking with food in the mouth
Talking with food in the mouth is unhygienic and gross, especially if you spit or show the chewed food. The offenders are likely to get others ill with their actions.
98. Blowing cigarette smoke at someone in the name of fun
Unless you’re playing a fun game with someone, blowing smoke at them without their consent is annoying and unhygienic.
99. Serving yourself excess food
It is an act of greed and a lack of respect. Also, if others miss food because of your greed, you’re inconsiderate.
100. Polluting a public swimming pool
Some people urinate, spit, and do other unhygienic acts in public swimming pools. Such behaviors are against social norms.
Social Control and Deviance
According to the social control theory, society provides informal and formal sanctions to discourage undesirable behavior. The people in the society employ informal social control, while formal social control comes from the government.
Social norms play a significant role in reinforcing cultural values within society. Crimes, on the other hand, are those acts that violate social norms. Most societies have laws prohibiting deviant behaviors such as rape, murder, and theft.
However, even with such laws, most of these crimes continue to occur for many reasons. Some criminal behaviors are interpreted differently in different cultures, while others may not be illegal but are considered deviant in certain societies.
Social norms are guidelines that people use to act appropriately in society. Violating such norms is likely to bring negative consequences. Social psychologists posit that people engage in deviance due to several reasons. Some do it for the thrill, while others think they go against society’s unfair laws or rules.
Deviance is also seen as a way to achieve social goals such as fame and wealth, among other things. Many deviant behaviors also serve as a way of coping with personal problems and frustrations.
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Peer Pressure, Social Norm Violation, and Deviance
According to the Social Learning Theory, peer pressure is a motivating factor that encourages people to engage in deviant behavior. People whose peers highly influence have an increased risk of engaging in deviant behaviors compared to those who are not.
Social norms help deter people from doing things such as drinking alcohol in public places or talking to strangers during a road trip, even when the people around them are encouraging them to do so. People aware of social norms have less risk of engaging in deviant behaviors because they know it’s inappropriate and unacceptable.
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Deviant behaviors are behaviors that violate societal norms and rules. They may be considered criminal or immoral, but they also vary depending on the society in which they occur.
The examples of deviance given here should give you an idea of what a “deviant behavior” means and explain why it might exist. Keep these definitions in mind when researching this topic further to understand better how to address them if needed for your work.
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