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The Social Factual Norms By Durkheim Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 1448 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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Over the past years the headlines of newspapers have read everything from 'Neighbour says Nia 'chucked' on line' (NZHerald: 2008) to just this month ''very violent' brain injury killed baby' (NZHerald: 2011). In New Zealand on average one child is killed every 5 weeks due to Child Abuse. This figure should not come as a surprise; as over the past decade stories of fatal child abuse cases have been frequently covered in the news (Child matters: 2011).

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Norms are a 'social fact' (Durkheim: 1982). These are the words from the famous French sociologist Emile Durkheim. He went on to explain that we are born into a pre-existing order, with rules and norms that have already been premade and set. And that if we want to live in this society we are born into, we must learn to abide by these 'pre-determined sanctions' (Durkheim: 1982/1895, p56-57). These already set norms include those associated with the issue of child abuse. We don't have to think twice when reading horrendous articles in the newspaper of children being put in clothes dryers and severely beaten. We already know that it is morally wrong. Although in different cultures around the world different types of 'abuse' may be seen as a form of, what they see as normal 'punishment'. These 'social facts' still exist around us. They were there before we were born and will still remain weather we choose to agree or disagree with them; most of which have consequences if you do chose to 'stray' from them.

This brings us Sharyn Roach Anleu's 5 key questions surrounding norms; 1) whose norms? , in the case of child abuse it is our society/country of New Zealand's norms. The norm is that it is not right to abuse children, or anyone. It is seen as a bad thing and as a country I am sure that there will not be many people who would say that it is ok to abuse. 2) How do some norms become official or legal? Harming a child is wrong and when hearing about these inhumane acts of violence against children we may be urged to do something about it, but if we are being real with ourselves, on our own; without economic or political power it would be difficult to put forth and solidify our beliefs into laws. Although with this issue there are many people with power who share the beliefs of our society. Such as Green MP Sue Bradford's; the anti smacking law was passed in 2007(NZ Herald: 2007). Since she had political power, with the support of the community the bill was passed. Three years have passed and a new law will be passed that will see those people who turn a blind eye to child abuse prosecuted (DominionPost: 2011). This will be a positive thing as many cases of child abuse drag on for months as the people involved; who could have very well saved the Childs life have been to afraid or not bothered to report the abuse happening. Why are some norms more important than others? Does visibility make a difference? And can there be deviance without breaking social norms?

As said in the book straying from these social norms can lead to deviance over a period of time. The example given is that of a soft drug user over time leads to hard drug use. This approach can be put into context with child abuse. Child abuse may be as obvious as bruises or as subtle as a parent neglecting their child. There can never be a good reason for child abuse to occur; but there definitely is a reason behind it .The straying could be the perpetrator; an adult - being a parent, relative or friend showing their anger, due to various causes (e.g. stress in the home, work etc) through minor outburst such as yelling at the child or accidentally slapping them over time letting it get out of control and making it a regular occurrence of more severe abuse.

Interactionist theory of deviance argues that deviant behaviour is learned. As is other behaviours. Just as deviance is socially constructed; Child abuse is considered as sociological fact as it is not an innate behavioral pattern for human beings to follow. It is mostly a learned behavior usually from interactions with the parents of the abusers. Sociology is the study of society, or to be more precise it is about group interactions within society. We are all part of groups such as school, cultural ethnic groups. One of the first groups that we interact with is with our families. This is where we learn much of what influences us as adults, and if abuse is what is learned as a child, it is most likely to be performed when the abused children grow up.The oxford dictionary of Sociology defines Child abuse as referring to:

The maltreatment or injury of a child by an adult or adults. Such abuse can be physical, emotional, sexual, or a combination of all three. It might be perpetrated by one person or by several, within a family or outside it, and in public or in private. (Oxford: 2011)

Over the years what may have been seen as an act of firm punishment is now; being discovered as a form of deviance. In the chapter Straying: Deviance in Being Sociological, Michael Lloyd makes it clear that norms are a key attribute when defining Deviance.

'The deviant is one to whom that label has successfully been applied; deviant behavior is behavior that people so label' (Becker, 1963, p9).Behaviors that are considered deviant are highly biased.Crime/deviance is defined by those in power. In context in the Kahui child abuse case where the father of the twins was wrongly accused for months over the killing of his twin babies. A stigma was formed which led people to think badly of him. And because of this label it seemed to the public that he was the abuser and that he had done it. Instead of him fighting for his right, because so many people were already against him due to this label, there was nothing he could do about it as a majority of people would not believe him. Until it was found that it was actually the baby's mother who was the abuser then was this stigma lifted, and peoples view towards him changed. The damage would have still been there today and will take a while for him to socially construct himself again. Another form of social construction can be seen in Georges Canguilhem's analysis of normality.

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Ian Hackings looping effect links on to the labelling theory as stated in his example 'person A does not want to be person H. ' if others think of a person as someone they are not(false accusation, stereotyping) That person will change their behaviours because they are aware of what others are saying about them. For example the deviant; the person doing the child abuse. Or the abuser that becomes out of the child that has been abused, may because of the stereotype of there being previous abuse in their household they may or may not want to live up to that labelling .But because of what others are saying they will get treated like the deviant whether they like it or not creating a looping effect. Harold Garfinkel's documentary of identification method revealed that the jury he was studying the jurors came up with the outcome then filled in the reasons. These theories show that deviants are socially constructed through social interactions; the way people are treated influence how they act. And without deviance 'there would be no social change' (Lloyd: 2007)

The author's main purpose to introduce the complexity of the relationship between straying and how over time can lead to deviance was supported by including the viewpoints, theories and ideas of different people. Lloyd did not make many assumptions apart from assuming that the reader knew the meaning of 'straying'; saying that it 'is a term used in everyday talk so we can do without a definition'(Lloyd,2007,p317-318). Through this text Michael Lloyd could be seen as being biased towards deviance being a 'social fact' in society. He addresses the five questions surrounding norms which Sharyn Roach Anleu summarised following Emile Durkheim's theory of norms being a 'social fact'. These questions prove that deviance is an area of sociology that is 'full of debate and competing theories' (Lloyd, 2007, p319). By including this and a commentator Colin Sumner's claim that, 'the field reached a dead -end by the late 1970's' Lloyd has saved himself from being completely biased by taking into account different viewpoints of the topic. The sociological theories; Becker's labelling theory, Ian Hackings looping effect theory of human kind Harold Garfinkel's identification of the 'documentary method of interpretation and ideas from this chapter help to understand and explain what is happening in the very serious social issue of child abuse in New Zealand.


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