Society has norms that guide the behavior and actions of each member and regards these norms as the underlying unwritten laws each member has knowledge of and should follow. Members of the society, therefore, regard any action and behavior that go against these norms as deviant behavior. Deviant behavior can also mean going against the established rules and laws that govern a particular establishment, such as a school, place of work, or an organization. The idea of rules and laws for the society and establishments is so that individual members can contribute to the successful and peaceful ongoing of the two. Deviant behavior is a global problem that cuts across race, ethnicity, gender, and religious affiliations. Of all societal groups that are typically deviant, one of the most difficult groups to deal with are the adolescents. Deviance among adolescents is a global phenomenon and has underlying causes that need understanding if mitigation measures are to succeed.
Recent years have shown a spike in the incidences of deviant behavior. Parents, teachers, law enforcement, and other members of the society have shown concern over the rise of deviant behavior among adolescents and teenagers (Hanımoğlu, 2018). Noteworthy is that deviance can be positive or negative. (Hanımoğlu, 2018). Negative deviance elicits concerns since it disrupts established social systems. Moreover, it often a recipe for violence and crime. Hanımoğlu (2018) contends that while society may not always like deviance, positive deviance is welcome as it relates to creativity that results in positive change to the society. Nevertheless, society shows little to no concern for positive deviance since it does not harm anyone and appears as non-conformity
Societal concern for negative deviation among adolescents and teenagers hinges on the fact that it poses a great threat/risk to the mental and physical health of the deviant individual. Deviance increases the adolescent risk for dangerous and addictive behavior, including high-risk sexual behavior and acts of sexual violence, illegal drug use, alcoholism, depression, sexually transmitted infections, and violence towards others and self (Ayorinde & Omotosho, 2017). For girls, deviant behavior puts them at risk of unplanned pregnancies and early marriage. Besides, deviance that includes acts of stealing, cultism, burglary, vandalism, smoking (of marijuana and other illegal drugs), and raping also puts the adolescents at risk of arrests and conviction. As such, such actions could easily land them in juvenile or prison to serve long terms with negative repercussions to their future.
Of particular concern for deviance is its effect on education since all adolescents and teenagers are of school-going age. Concern for deviance, in this case, is its characteristic as an impediment to education. According to Suleiman et al. (2018), “The demonstration of deviant behavior among students in school, often leads to ineffective teaching and learning. The unruly behavior among students leads to great consequences in their academic pursuit” (p. 60). Bolu-steve and Esere (2017) assert that education is one of the most important tools in the transformation of an individual and society. Schools are in place to help adolescents acquire competencies and skills vital for societal growth and continuity. It is for this reason that deviant behaviors that keep teenagers and adolescents out of school are a major concern for society.
The risk that deviance poses to the lives of adolescents calls for intervention measures to mitigate the effects of the risks; however, before applying any mitigation measures, it is important to diagnose the roots of deviance. Only with such a diagnosis will it be possible to formulate and implement effective intervention measures. Bolu-steve and Esere (2017) contend that poor performance is one of the causes of deviance among adolescents. According to the two, the environment within which the child grows has a great influence on their behavior. The school, in this case, is one of the places that adolescents spend most of their formative years. With a constant reminder of the need for better performance, poor academic performance could easily cause deviant behavior among non-performing students. Bolu-steve and Esere (2017) emphasize that poor academic performance and pressure from parents and teachers to improve performance can easily cause adolescents to resort to deviant behavior. Antisocial behavior (deviance) may become the fallback plan for these students, who, aside from poor performance, cannot cope with the rigors of school as an institution.
The school as an agent of socialization may be a cause of deviance among adolescents. Hanımoğlu (2018) contends that schools with defective curriculum plans and administration, harsh rules, and inadequate facilities can easily cause adolescent deviance. Indeed, the school must develop and maintain a nurturing environment, where all students feel valued, to inculcate good behavior among its students. In the absence of a nurturing environment and deficiencies within the school system, learners are bound to become violent as a reaction to the deficiencies. Constant and excessive pressure on students for better performance without the necessary tools for the performance is also a cause of rebellion.
The home environment and its peculiarities can be another cause of deviance among teenagers. As an agent of socialization, parents transmit mores and values to their children at home (Bolu-steve & Esere, 2017). Broken homes resulting from poor moral conduct of the parents and characterized by domestic violence, alcoholism, and drug use among other inapropriate behaviors can negatively influence adolescents’ behavior. Suleiman et al. (2018) posit that parents lose their leadership roles in their homes due to these negative acts. Consequently, they lose the moral authority and high ground to correct their children who are deviant. Adolescents from such homes, therefore, begin and continue with deviance unabated knowing their parents lost the power to control or rebuke them on their behavior.
Individual differences among teenagers and adolescents are related to the peculiarities of the home environment. Hanımoğlu (2018) explains that abnormalities in personal development (physical and mental) among adolescents can cause deviant behavior. Specifically, adolescents evaluate their bodies and take note of the norm in their physical inferiority or superiority, relating these to their social significance and value. The result of the assessment may be a passive reaction or need to compensate for the perceived deficiencies. While some may adopt positive means of eliminating the perceived deficiencies, others resort to deviance as a rejection of societal norms and set “averages” expected of people within the society.
The need for acceptance and a show of maturity is another cause of deviance among teenagers. While society often considers physically tall adolescents as mature, obedient, and natural, skinny, small, and stunted adolescents are often considered immature, small, and unfit (Hanımoğlu, 2018). Such perceptions cause skinny, small, and stunted adolescents to work hard to draw the attention and recognition from society and their peers. When their efforts go unnoticed, some of them resort to deviance to achieve the mentioned goals. As such, deviant behaviors such as engaging in alcohol and drug abuse for such adolescents emanates from the desire to be in the company of adults, feel mature, satisfy curiosity, and prove their worth as individuals. The potential of addiction arising from increased confidence and disinhibition that comes from the “highs” of drugs and alcohol is high.
Adolescents and teenagers undergo rigorous physical and psychological development. It is normal for most to consider themselves adults; therefore, immune to societal rules. The feeling of adulthood among adolescents as a result of their psychological development can easily cause deviance among them. While it may be a passing stage, it is important to make sure that they understand that despite their “maturity” societal rules and regulations as well as expectations apply to them. Moreover, highlighting laws that govern the whole society at large may be a good start in helping them understand the workings of the world. Using reinforcement can also go a long way in managing and curbing undesired behavior among adolescents. By rewarding good behaviors and punishing deviant ones, adolescents may see the need for positive behavior change. Moreover, deviance is usually a call for attention that parents and teachers need to heed to the needs of the adolescents. Talking to them may do more good than all possible interventions geared towards curbing their deviance.
Societal norms are in place to guide behavior. As teenagers, however, these laws and norms seem abstract and not applicable to them, essentially a show of deviance. The need for attention, pressure from school, broken homes, bullying, and differences in growth and development are among the causes of deviance among teenagers and adolescents. It is important to dig deep into the underlying causes of deviance before taking appropriate actions against teenagers. While some teenagers may be defiant merely as a form of protest against societal norms, others show deviant behavior as a call for help, which the society should heed.
Ayorinde, J., O. &Omotosho, A., L. (2017). Perceived causes and Incidences of deviant behavior among secondary school students in Kwara State. ATBU Journal of Science, Technology & Education, 5(2), 41-49.
Bolu-steve, F., N. &Esere, M., O. (2017). Strategies for managing deviant behavior among in-school adolescents as expressed by secondary school counsellors in Kwara State, Nigeria. Inkanyiso, Jnl Hum & Soc Sci, 9(1), 87-98.
Hanımoğlu, E. (2018). Deviant behavior in school setting. Journal of Education and Training Studies, 6(10), 133-141.
Suleiman, Y. et al. (2018). Teacher’s perceived factors of deviant behavior among secondary school students in Kwara State: Implication for educational managers. International Journal of Synergy and Research, 7, 59-79.