In 1973, William Chambliss published an essay, “The Saint and the Roughnecks,” where he presented the results of his study on stigmatized labeling and its effects. In his work, he reveals that those who were exposed to negative labeling were more inclined to wayward and wrongful behaviors compared to those exposed to positive labeling. The study provides insight into the effects that differentiated attitude by society either raises or lowers the chances of a person for social success or criminal activity. Thus, negative labeling launches the so-called criminalization process and instigates the disadvantageous youth into criminalized and deviated behaviors.
Chambliss exemplifies the process of self-fulfilling prophecy when he describes how stigmatizing labeling affects the choices made by the Roughnecks. He explains that society has a crucial effect on one’s self-identity and self-perception, especially for the youth. Thus, societal judgment plays an integral part in the formation of the crime-inclined and deviant identity, which affects the possible courses of action taken in the future. Chambliss states that the Roughnecks “internalize an image of themselves as deviant,” which makes them choose friend groups that match and reinforce this self-perception (Chambliss, 1973, p. 31). Subsequently, this would make them strive to get engaged with even more extreme deviances, which, in turn, would continue provoking negative societal judgment towards them. This social alienation and disrespect would perpetuate engagement with the deviant activity (Chambliss, 1973). Despite equal delinquency levels among the Saints and the Roughnecks, the troublesome behaviors of the latter would remain unnoticed by society and, therefore, not have any impact on their self-image.
Thus, certain stigmatization and labeling of youth affect the course of development of their self-identification and later actualize as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Chambliss points out that labeling is the chief factor in defining the criminal trajectory of a Roughneck. This is how social justice can either encourage the person on the way to success or doom a criminal career rooted in adolescence.
Chambliss, W. (1973). The Saints and the Roughnecks. Society 11, 24-31. Web.