Textanalyse pp 105-129 | Cite as

Everyday Definitions of Deviant Behavior: Computer-Assisted Content Analysis of Lay Concepts of Alcohol and Drug Problems, Delinquency and Youth Problems

  • Harald K.- H. Klingemann
Part of the ZUMA-Publikationen book series (ZUMA)


Public attitudes toward social problems such as delinquency, alcoholism and drug addiction, and toward ways of dealing with them, are influenced very little by scientific theories. Rather, lay theories — everyday, often implicit, assumptions about the causes and effects of deviant behavior, and of the possibilities of changing it — are much more influential. The varying effects of prevention campaigns that use messages based upon expert knowledge may be at least partially explained by differences between everyday and scientific logic. This study dealt mainly with the comparative dimensional analysis of lay images of delinquency, alcohol, drug and youth problems. Content and structural aspects are described, as well as typical procedures and indicators of everyday logic that play a role in attributional processes. The methods used in classical survey studies have been inadequate for this task. Such terms as “ideology of deviant behavior”, “lay theories”, “world views” are very often simply expressions of dichotomous attitudinal “yes/no” items. Researchers do not appear to realize that, by using as stimuli such ambiguous terms as “disease” and “responsibility”, they receive responses that neither reflect the underlying meaning which the respondents attribute to them, nor are valid indicators of these complex concepts. Especially these studies tell us little about the structural properties of lay concepts. They only touch upon the question of consistency and they make assumptions about the relation in the lay person’s mind between medical and moralistic world views and the corresponding imputation of responsibility (see e.g. Linsky 1970; Mulford and Miller 1964; Orcutt 1976; Caddy, Goldman and Hübner 1976; Ries 1977). Research so far has not dealt with breadth of knowledge or lack of knowledge, the extent to which concepts reflect ideology, or level of abstraction — characteristics that are discussed, for example, in political sociology with reference to the question “how do people organize their political world?” (see Conover and Feldman 1984).


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© Westdeutscher Verlag GmbH, Opladen 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harald K.- H. Klingemann

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