Positivistic and Constructionist Theories of Deviance

Topic: Behaviorism
Words: 291 Pages: 1

In the sociology of deviance, positivists define deviance, crime, and delinquency as a reality that exists for objective reasons. In turn, constructionists define these phenomena as a social construction, an idea attributed by society to some behavior. In other words, positivists emphasize essential, intrinsic, and predetermined characteristics common to all deviance and crime phenomena. In contrast, constructionists emphasize how certain things come to be viewed and judged as crime and deviation.

Taking one side into account does not necessarily deny the reality and significance of the other. Goode (2016) notes that both positivists and constructionists, while emphasizing their views, in some way assume that their opponents are right. Each group considers the other’s argument less necessary than their own. Thus, while they accept the constructionist view of deviance as a label, positivists take it for granted, considering it less important than their admission of deviance as actual behavior. On the other hand, although constructionists accept the positivist view of deviance as an act that happened, they find it more appropriate to focus on society’s definition of this act as deviant.

In my opinion, positivist theories and methodology cannot fully capture the essence of social reality, including the reality of deviant behavior. Socially constructed reality is a constantly ongoing dynamic process; it is reproduced by people under the influence of its interpretation and knowledge about it. In this regard, I agree with the constructionist approaches, according to which not the personality of the deviant and not the structural factors of the determination of deviations are the primary cause. Therefore, I agree with the constructionist theory, according to which the subjective world and experience of deviants, that is, what is the reaction of their cognizing consciousness to their deviant behavior, is the key.


Goode, E. (2016). Deviant behavior (11th ed.). Routledge.

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