"Nuts, sluts and perverts" : an investigation of the master status theory in relation to social deviance : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Psychology at Massey University
The primary aim of this study was an investigation of the master status theory in relation to social deviance. Master status theory is a component of the labelling perspective. The perspective posits that the dominant social group socially constructs what is viewed as deviant and non-deviant in society. Master status theory states that if an individual is seen deviant on one trait he/she will be seen deviant on a host of auxiliary traits. Jenks' (1986) investigated the master status theory in relation to "non-deviant" individuals' perceptions of two "deviant" and two "non-deviant" social groups. The present study extended upon Jenks' in two major ways. "Non-deviant" individuals' perceptions of three "deviant" social groups were investigated. Also, a second component of labelling theory, social distance as a consequence of stigma was incorporated into the methodology. The two theories are believed to exist interdependently. Social distance was incorporated in an attempt to establish construct validity – to ensure that deviance was the construct under investigation. A questionnaire was administered to ninety-two tertiary level students. It was hypothesized that the master status theory would prove a robust phenomenon and that the social distance scale incorporated would support the deviant attributions. Both hypotheses were supported. Weaknesses of the study are outlined, as are implications of the study and recommendations for future research.