Sociology Index

Matza's notion of drift

Matza's notion of drift, in which young people participate in criminal acts without fully intending to do so and without necessarily possessing values that condone crime. David Matza argued that delinquency did not emerge as a result of strongly deterministic forces, but rather through a gentle weakening of the moral ties of society, which allowed some young people to drift into delinquency.

David Matza and Gresham Sykes, developed a different perspective on social control which explains why some delinquents drift in and out of delinquency. Delinquents hold values, beliefs, and attitudes very similar to those of law-abiding citizens. In fact, they feel obligated to be bound by law. Then, if bound by law, how can they justify their deviant behavior or delinquent activities?

Neutralisation Theory, or Drift theory as it is often called, proposed that juveniles sense a moral obligation to be bound by the law. Such a bind between a person and the law remains in place most of the time, they argue. When it is not in place, delinquents will drift.

The answer is that they learn techniques which enable them to neutralise such values and attitudes temporarily and thus drift back and forth between legitimate and illegitimate behaviours. They maintain that at times delinquents participate in conventional activities and shun such activity while engaging in criminal acts. Such a theory proposes that delinquents disregard controlling influences of rules and values and use these techniques of neutralisation to weaken the hold society places over them. In other words, these techniques act as defence mechanisms that release the delinquent from the constraints associated with moral order.

Drift is a psychological state of weak normative attachment to either deviant or conventional ways. Labelling, Drift and the Deviant Career Shyness can be seen as a form of social deviance. - Matza, D., Delinquency and Drift: from the research program of the Center for the Study of Law and Society, Wiley.

DO DELINQUENTS REALLY DRIFT? - VELARDE, British Journal of Criminology, 1978

THE NEUTRALIZATION OF CRIMINAL OFFENSE
W. WILLIAM MINOR, University of Maryland, Criminology, Volume 18 Issue 1 - May 1980 
A competing hypothesis, derived from Hindelang's challenges to neutralization and drift theories, is that offenders would favor excuses keyed to offenses similar to their own.
Abstract: A previously untested proposition from Sykes and Matza's neutralization theory is that certain types of offenders will favor certain types of neutralizing excuses. Murderers, for example. may tend toward denial of responsibility or denial of the victim. A competing hypothesis, derived from Hindelang's challenges to neutralization and drift theories, is that offenders would favor excuses keyed to offenses similar to their own. Robbers, for example, may favor excuses for robbery over excuses for other offenses. regardless of the content of the excuses themselves. The data presented in this article, based on o survey of inmates in four Florida prisons, fail to support either hypothesis. This may suggest that the two perspectives from which the hypotheses are derived are overly simplistic-that the nature of crime and delinquency is more subtle and complex than indicated by either the subcultural or antisubcultural theoretical traditions. - blackwell-synergy.com

Application of Neutralization and Drift Theory (Becoming Deviant) to Juveniles in Turkey
Eastern Kentucky University, Masters Thesis, Ibrahim H. Ferzan
The purpose of this thesis is to review the major points of neutralization theory by Gresham Sykes and David Matza and drift theory by David Matza; examine related studies as examples of applications of these theories in the U.S., and finally compare this body of knowledge to juveniles in Turkey.
The study is qualitative in nature, reviewing the theories and their applications to real life. In the shape of case study, the experience during my police work is a major source of examples and evaluations of these theories.
In some aspects, this body of knowledge explains the applications of these theories to juveniles in Turkey, whereas sometimes it does not. Some examples peculiar to Turkish juveniles are provided in this thesis.
Future research has to be done to explore new techniques by Turkish juveniles and any new contribution to drift theory.

The Shell, the Stranger and the Competent Other - Towards a Sociology of Shyness 
Susie Scott, Cardiff University, Sociology, Vol. 38, No.1, (2004)
Abstract: In contemporary Western societies, shyness appears to be an increasingly common experience, and yet its sociological relevance has been overlooked. Within psychology, the condition has been seen as an individual pathology, and there has been little attempt to relate this to the wider cultural context. The argument of this article is that shyness can be interpreted as both a privately felt state of mind and a publicly recognized social role. It is then suggested that it is normal for people to drift into isolated episodes of shyness as primary deviance, but that in some cases the reactions of others can lead to a career of secondary deviance. However, while a display of shyness may be normalized in certain situations, in others it can pose a more serious or enduring threat to the residual rules of interaction.This motivates the non-shy majority to defend their normative assumptions by casting moral blame upon the individual, and reframes the problem outside of society.

Chicano Youth Deviance and Exploration of the Multiple Marginality Theory
Edgar Fragoso and Ro berto Calderon, Ph.D., Department of History
The primary focus of this research is to identify and explore the multiple factors, presented in conjunction with one another, that cause minority youth to drift toward deviant and violent behavior.
Ethnic minority youths face many challenges today. Previous studies on the topic of Ethnic Minority Juvenile Delinquency have attempted to identify these challenges, only to reveal that there are multiple situations and conditions that act and react off one another. The primary focus of this research is to identify and explore the multiple factors, presented in conjunction with one another, that cause minority youth to drift toward deviant and violent behavior. In addition, through semi-structured interviews, this research will explore the life histories of selected individuals who have served in Texas prisons and identify the combination of factors that pushed and pulled them towards adopting subterranean values and participating in the informal economy.