From the 1950's sociologists such as, Becker, Cohen and Lemert have studied the sociology of deviance and have tried to explain the presence of crime in society through labelling theories. Even though a label can be either be seen as both good or bad, the primary concept is that an individual or group of people is given a label by the society which is often unfavourable (such as "thief" or "pervert") and hence, the society relates to this person differently, treating them as an outsider and as deviant to the cultural norms. (Roach-Anleu 2000: 290). .
Lemert addressed and researched the origins of deviance labelling and the consequences of labelling. (Taylor, Walton & Young 1975:150) Lemert states that for deviancy to exist, a crime must be committed then labelled accordingly. (Lemert in John Tierny 1996: 141) He explains these in terms of primary and secondary deviation. Primary deviation can occur in any social, cultural or psychological situation. Picking of the nose, talking loudly in a library and even wearing of outrageous clothing that can be considered as different are all examples of primary deviance. These acts may cause other members from society to ridicule the behaviour, but the consequences of this ridicule won't result in psychologically damage. Secondary relates to a "violent social reaction to primary deviation". (Taylor, Walton & Young 1975: 150-151) The behaviour of the individual labelled is subjected to sanctions ranging from mockery to criminal sentencing which are so damaging that the label then becomes the individuals social and self identity. (Roach-Anleu 2000: 291). The person who committed the action or behaviour adopts this new label as who they are within society (Roach-Anleu 2000:291). In these cases, the action or behaviour labelled deviant may be of little or major significance, but it becomes ignores and dominated by society's responses to the behaviour.