Difference Wiki

Deviance vs. Crime: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on November 30, 2023
Deviance refers to behavior violating social norms or expectations, whereas crime is conduct that breaks a law and is punishable by the legal system.

Key Differences

Deviance encompasses actions that diverge from societal norms, which may not be illegal. Crime, by definition, involves breaking laws and is subject to legal penalties.
The scope of deviance is broader, including both criminal acts and non-criminal rule-breaking. Crime specifically refers to violations of legal statutes.
Societal reaction to deviance varies, often influenced by cultural and social contexts. Crime, however, invokes a formal response from the legal system.
Not all deviant acts are considered crimes, but all crimes are inherently deviant, as they defy legal norms.
The concept of deviance can evolve with societal changes, while what constitutes a crime is determined by current laws.

Comparison Chart


Behavior against societal norms, not necessarily illegal
Conduct that violates legal statutes

Legal Status

Not always subject to legal sanctions
Always subject to legal sanctions


Includes a wide range of non-conforming behaviors
Limited to acts defined as illegal

Societal Response

Varies, can be informal or formal
Formal, involves the justice system

Subject to Change

Evolves with social norms and cultural values
Changes with amendments in law

Deviance and Crime Definitions


Behavior that diverges from the usual or accepted standards.
Deviance is often seen in art that challenges traditional forms.


An act in violation of the law.
Theft is a crime punishable by law.


Non-conformity to established societal norms.
Wearing unconventional clothing is a form of deviance.


Conduct that is prohibited and penalized by the state.
Driving under the influence is a serious crime.


Socially constructed concept of unaccepted behavior.
In some societies, public display of affection is considered deviance.


Breach of rules or laws for which some governing authority can order a punishment.
Vandalism is a crime that can result in fines.


Actions that defy social expectations.
Choosing not to marry is seen as deviance in some cultures.


Unlawful activity subject to legal prosecution.
Embezzlement is a crime involving the misappropriation of funds.


Acts that are frowned upon but not necessarily illegal.
Skipping school is a deviant behavior among teenagers.


Actions against the penal code.
Cybercrime is a growing area of criminal activity.


Differing from a norm or from the accepted standards of a society.


An act committed in violation of law where the consequence of conviction by a court is punishment, especially where the punishment is a serious one such as imprisonment.


One that differs from a norm, especially a person whose behavior and attitudes differ from accepted social standards.


Unlawful activity
Statistics relating to violent crime.


(sociology) Actions or behaviors that violate formal and informal cultural norms such as laws and customs.


A serious offense, especially one in violation of morality.


A person or thing that differs from the expected. en


An unjust, senseless, or disgraceful act or condition
It's a crime to waste all that paper.


An aberrant state or condition.


(countable) A specific act committed in violation of the law.


Deviate behavior.


(countable) Any great sin or wickedness; iniquity.


A state or condition markedly different from the norm


That which occasions crime.


Deviate behavior


(uncountable) Criminal acts collectively.


(uncountable) The habit or practice of committing crimes.
Crime doesn’t pay.


To subject to disciplinary punishment.


(nonce word) To commit crime.


Any violation of law, either divine or human; an omission of a duty commanded, or the commission of an act forbidden by law.


Gross violation of human law, in distinction from a misdemeanor or trespass, or other slight offense. Hence, also, any aggravated offense against morality or the public welfare; any outrage or great wrong.


Any great wickedness or sin; iniquity.
No crime was thine, if 'tis no crime to love.


That which occasion crime.
The tree of life, the crime of our first father's fall.


(criminal law) an act punishable by law; usually considered an evil act;
A long record of crimes


An evil act not necessarily punishable by law;
Crimes of the heart


What is deviance?

Behavior diverging from societal norms, not always illegal.

Can legal actions be deviant?

Yes, if they violate social norms.

Does deviance change over time?

Yes, as societal norms evolve.

What constitutes a crime?

Actions that break legal statutes.

How does society respond to deviance?

Responses vary from indifference to formal sanctions.

Are all crimes deviant?

Yes, as they violate legal norms.

Can a crime become non-criminal over time?

Yes, if laws change.

Is intent important in defining crime?

Yes, intent can be key in legal definitions.

Is all deviance criminal?

No, deviance includes non-criminal acts.

How does the law treat crime?

With formal legal penalties.

Are all illegal acts considered serious crimes?

No, crimes vary in severity.

Can a crime be justified?

Legally no, but morally it's subjective.

Can deviant acts be celebrated?

Yes, if they align with cultural or subcultural values.

Does deviance always harm society?

Not necessarily; it can lead to social change.

How does age impact perceptions of deviance and crime?

Societal tolerance varies based on age, especially for deviance.

Do societal values affect what's considered deviant?

Yes, societal values heavily influence perceptions of deviance.

Are crimes always harmful to others?

Most crimes are, but some primarily harm the perpetrator.

Can the same act be deviant in one culture but not in another?

Yes, deviance is culturally relative.

Can someone be punished for deviance?

Yes, but often informally or socially.

Do changes in law immediately affect crime rates?

Not immediately, as societal adaptation takes time.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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