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Social Construction: Labelling. Sociology Essay Example.

5 pages
1243 words
George Washington University
Type of paper: 
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The labeling theory is among the social reaction theories developed by a sociologist called Howard S. Becker in the 1960s. The theory holds that deviance and delinquency are not an inherent to action or commission of a crime (Taylor & Francis 2017). However, it emphasizes on the linguistic characteristics of the majority to label the minority or deviants from the negative perspective. Therefore the labeling theory is focused on how behaviors and self-identity can be shaped by the terms used in describing and classifying the person (Henry and Matsueda n.d). Furthermore, the theory is further linked with the concepts stereotyping and self-fulfillment. Labelling theory is also closely linked to interactionism and social construction. All are models of explaining the behaviors in the society. This paper is focused on a rhetoric analysis of two articles with relation to labeling theory. Majorly the paper will focus on comparing Labeling in interactional practice: applying labeling theory to interactions and interactional analysis to labeling by Thompson (2014) and Alcohol stigma and persistence of alcohol and other psychiatric disorders: A modified labeling theory approach by Glass et al. (2017).

The article by Thompson generally ventures into giving a clear description of the labeling theory in relation to the internationalist approach. He argues that the labeling theorists have failed to elucidate how the concept of interaction have on the labels. Besides, the labeling theorists have significantly neglected the role of positive implications of labeling and instead focused much on the device. Therefore, he uses the article to bring out the concept of how positive labeling can be used to bring out the best in students. Therefore, he proposes that with the extinction of the labeling theory to consider the positive aspects of labeling through interactions the harmful processes of labeling can be mediated. Therefore, the move will ultimately focus on developing the labeling theory into a nuanced and complex theory of explaining the human behavior in a positive perspective.

On the other hand, the article by Glass et al. (2017) focuses on applying the modified labeling theory on the section of participants to further explain the link between the alcohol use disorder (AUD) and perceived alcohol stigma (PAS) about the risk of succumbing to psychiatric disorder. In the analysis, the authors venture into using research to substantiate the fact that stigmatization is linked to the risk of psychiatric disorder. The study finds out that it is social support mechanism are important in intervening alcohol stigmatization. However, the research notes that there is the need to carry out further research in evaluating the direct parameters of studying labeling instead of using the proxy metrics such as initial treatment outcomes in the study of alcoholism and stigma.

Both articles are efficient in explaining the tenets of labeling theory. This is because the articles focus on explaining how labeling can affect the behavior of a person. For instance, Thompson emphasizes how positive labeling has a direct positive outcome on the behaviors and productivity of the students through interactions. This means that labeling has effects on the behavioral characteristics of individuals. Furthermore, on the article by Glass et al. (2017), it is clear that labeling theory has a significant effect on the behavior of the alcoholics that eventually lead to the risk of psychiatric disorder. They further note that stigmatization, according to studies, is harmful to sustenance and achievement of the recovery processes in addiction.

Moreover, both articles emphasize the need for relationships in the labeling theory and their place in the deviance or conformist behavior of individuals. For instance, the article by Thompson addresses the need for interaction through the relationships among students as the core factor in their learning outcomes. This means that the relationships play an important role in shaping the behavior of the students in their learning processes. Additionally, he notes that by labeling by peers and family leads to the construction of certain modes of behaviors and motivations. Besides, he uses the Pygmalion effect which proposes that how the teacher perceives the students significantly affects the performance by the student and what the students become in future. On the other hand, Glass et al. (2017) use the premise that interactions by the alcoholics and their significant others have a significant effect on their drinking habits. The authors assert that AUDs are among the most stigmatized psychiatric or medical conditions. Therefore, a majority of the population including the significant other attributes the AUDs as the result of the person's poor behaviors. This kind of labeling depicts that the persons are the cause of their problems or conditions. This perceived stigma which develops when the individual socializes with their significant others creates a negative awareness of the AUDs patients and they, in turn, feel devalued and stigmatized. This significantly effects how the patients relate to the society and shape their behaviors adversely. This complicates their recovery since they eventually get a depression that is characterized by low metal functioning and lower degree of utilization of medication. The modern labeling theory recognizes that the labeled persons can eventually engage in coping orientations such as avoidance or being secretive concerning a psychiatric disorder for fear of stigmatization by the society members. These coping mechanisms adversely affect their healing programs.

Finally, both articles are inherent and efficient in delivering the outcome of the studies through conducting research. the use of pathos is evident in both articles in that the authors use deductive reasoning through detailed research to drive their conclusions. This evidenced by the use of other literature and case studies in supporting the arguments. For instance. Thompson uses the example of the learning session between Joan and LaShawnda to adequately demonstrate how the labeling theory can be utilized with the interactionalist approach in bringing the best results out of th4e students through labeling. This helped in demonstrating how interaction helped LaShawnda achieve the label she gets from Joan which acts as her motivation (Thompson 2014).). The findings of the case study suggest that interactions between individuals are consequences of the labeling processes. Therefore, the labeling process has to factor in the interactions which mediate the whole instance of labeling. On the other hand, the results generated by Glass et al. (2017) are significant in concluding the study. This provides a logical finding driven by the results that have been scientifically tested in the fields. The use of logic prevents the cases of criticism in that they provide the evidence of the assertions drawn by the authors.

In conclusion, the labeling theory is very instrumental in explaining deviance and crime causation. The labels addressed to the members of the society shaped the behavior of individual because they create motivations and aspirations in them. This significantly affects their behaviors and relationships in the society. however, as noted in the two articles under analysis, the model of labeling can lead to deviance or can be used to address deviance and crime. Finally, social support mechanisms also help in addressing deviance to a greater extent.



Glass, J., Mowbray, O., Link, B., Kristjansson, S. and Bucholz, K. (2017). Alcohol stigma and persistence of alcohol and other psychiatric disorders: A modified labeling theory approach.

Henry, S. and Matsueda, R. (n.d.). Social constructionist theories of crime.

Taylor & Francis. (2017). Measuring the Contextual Effects and Mitigating Factors of Labeling Theory. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Dec. 2017].

Thompson, G. (2014). Labeling in Interactional Practice: Applying Labeling Theory to Interactions and Interactional Analysis to Labeling. Symbolic Interaction, p.n/a-n/a.


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