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Formal and Informal Responses to Deviant Behavior

Formal and Informal Responses to Deviant Behavior

Formal and Informal Responses to Deviant Behavior

Defiance against societal norms and culture may be propelled by social pressure to conform regardless of their benefit or disadvantages. The Social Strain Theory suggests that people can conform to social norms or defy them through rebellion, retreatism, innovation, or ritualism. If an individual is rebellious, they introduce alternative social norms in place of the existent ones because they do not want to observe them and do not agree with them (Cassella, 2020). Alternatively, if a person manifests retreatism deviance, they disagree with societal culture and institute ways to observe them but do not seek other rules to replace the current ones. Furthermore, a deviant person who is innovative will not accept social norms, but they will observe them through an established routine behavior. Lastly, an individual can accept set social norms and not prescribe ways to observe them. Under the above scenario, the person will create their own way to obey social norms that deviate from the traditional ones.

All the provided behaviors are deviant as they violate informal and formal school norms. For instance, chewing tobacco is engaging in drug abuse, which is formally illegal in school.  The formal response from students or employees toward their colleague who chews tobacco should be to ask the school’s administration to handle the student (CrashCourse, 2017). Alternatively, the mentioned people should respond informally by asking the student smoking tobacco to quit the habit because of the emotional, psychological, mental, and physical health challenges caused by the habit. Walking across campus barely clothed is also a deviant behavior, but it is not a formal school regulation. The best response to the behavior would be informal, where the students and employees educate their colleague that their action is embarrassing and may cause them to be stigmatized.

Similarly, there are no school norms that restrict students from using their mobile phones when speaking to their professors. Therefore, answering a phone call when talking to a professor is an informal deviant behavior that warrants a similar response. Students and employees could tell defiant colleagues that they will experience stigma if they do not stop talking on the phone in the presence of authority figures, such as a professor (CrashCourse, 2017). Lastly, texting during a lecture is a formal offense, and if the student is apprehended, colleagues and employees should report them to the school administration for disciplinary action. Alternatively, the student could be told that if they persist in texting in class, it is wrong as an informal response and be educated that they could experience hostility from employees and other students or from the professor.


Cassella, K. (2020). Social Work and Deviant Behavior. Eastern Gateway Community College.

CrashCourse. (2017, July 24). Theory & Deviance: Crash Course Sociology #19 [Video]. YouTube.


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Do you think the following college student behaviors are deviant? Why or why not?

If you think the behavior is deviant, how should a college respond formally?

Formal and Informal Responses to Deviant Behavior

Formal and Informal Responses to Deviant Behavior

How should others (college students, employees) respond informally when they witness such behavior?

Chewing tobacco and using a “spit cup” or spitting the tobacco on the ground.

Walking across campus without a shirt (for males) or in a bikini top, answering your cell phone while meeting with a professor.

Texting during a lecture.

Note: Read only Chapter 2 of the attached textbook

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