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Difference between Deviance and Crime

  • Post last modified:February 23, 2023
  • Reading time:5 mins read
  • Post category:Crime

Definition of Deviance and Crime


Deviance refers to any behavior, belief, or condition that violates social norms and expectations of a particular group or society. Deviant behavior can range from minor infractions of informal social norms to more serious violations of formal laws and regulations. What is considered deviant can vary depending on cultural, historical, and social contexts, and can be influenced by factors such as age, gender, and social status. Deviance can be either positive or negative, depending on the nature and consequences of the behavior, and can lead to both social sanctions and stigmatization.


Crime refers to any behavior that is prohibited and punishable by law. It includes actions that are considered harmful, threatening, or offensive to individuals or society as a whole, such as theft, assault, murder, fraud, and drug trafficking, among others. Crimes are typically categorized by their severity, with more serious offenses carrying higher penalties, including fines, imprisonment, and sometimes even death. The definition of what constitutes a crime can vary between different societies and legal systems, and can be influenced by factors such as cultural norms, historical traditions, and political considerations.

Differences between Deviance and Crime

Deviance and crime are two concepts that are often used interchangeably, but they are distinct in several ways. Here are some of the key differences between deviance and crime:

  1. Definition: Deviance refers to behavior that violates social norms and expectations, while crime refers to behavior that is prohibited and punishable by law.
  2. Social Consequences: Deviance can lead to social sanctions such as stigmatization, disapproval, and exclusion from social groups. In contrast, crime can result in legal consequences such as fines, imprisonment, or even capital punishment.
  3. Legal Consequences: Deviance is not necessarily illegal, whereas crime is always illegal. Deviant behavior can include things like wearing non-conforming clothing, while criminal behavior includes actions like theft or assault.
  4. Perception by Society: Deviance is often viewed as a matter of social or moral judgment, with perceptions of what is deviant varying widely between different societies and cultures. Crime, on the other hand, is more objectively defined by law and is typically viewed as a violation of the rights of others.
  5. Punishment and Treatment: While both deviance and crime can lead to negative consequences, the way they are punished or treated can differ. Deviant behavior is often addressed through social interventions like counseling, education, or therapy. Criminal behavior, on the other hand, is typically punished through the legal system, with sanctions ranging from fines to imprisonment.

While deviance and crime share some similarities, they are distinct concepts with different consequences, perceptions, and responses from society.


Deviance and crime are two distinct concepts that refer to different forms of behavior that violate social norms or the law. Deviance encompasses a broad range of behaviors that may or may not be illegal, while crime is always illegal and carries legal consequences. Deviant behavior can lead to social sanctions and stigmatization, while criminal behavior is punished through the legal system. The perception of what is deviant or criminal can vary widely between different societies and cultures. Understanding the differences between deviance and crime is important for individuals and society as a whole, as it helps to shape our understanding of what is acceptable behavior and what is not, and guides our responses to these behaviors.

References Website

Here are some references related to the difference between deviance and crime:

  1. Macionis, J. J., & Gerber, L. M. (2019). Sociology. Pearson Education.
  2. Giddens, A., Duneier, M., Appelbaum, R. P., & Carr, D. (2017). Introduction to sociology. WW Norton & Company.
  3. Schaefer, R. T. (2018). Sociology: A brief introduction. McGraw-Hill Education.
  4. Henslin, J. M. (2018). Essentials of Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. Pearson.
  5. Crossman, A. (2020). Deviance and Social Control. ThoughtCo. Retrieved from
  6. National Institute of Justice. (n.d.). Crime and Deviance. Retrieved from
  7. Ritzer, G. (2018). The Blackwell Encyclopedia of Sociology. John Wiley & Sons.
  8. Williams, K. (2020). The Difference between Deviance and Crime. LawTeacher. Retrieved from

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