Penn State Hazleton professor publishes book examining stress and deviance

November 29, 2018

HAZLETON, Pa. — Pamela Black, associate professor of criminal justice at Penn State Hazleton, has released a new book titled “Minorities and Deviance: Coping Strategies of the Power Poor,” examining the relationship between stress and deviance. The book looks at the role that stress can play in addiction, obsession and self-harm.

Pamela Black, associate professor of criminal justice at Penn State Hazleton, has released a new book titled “Minorities and Deviance: Coping Strategies of the Power Poor,” examining the relationship between stress and deviance.

Pamela Black, associate professor of criminal justice at Penn State Hazleton, has released a new book titled “Minorities and Deviance: Coping Strategies of the Power Poor,” examining the relationship between stress and deviance.

IMAGE: Lexington Books

“It’s based on the idea that daily strain or stress can sometimes overwhelm people’s ability to deal with the negative feelings engendered by the strain in a positive way, increasing the likelihood that they will turn to deviant behavior as a form of coping. This is the basic tenet of general strain theory; however, I've added two variables that haven't much, or at all, been included as sources of strain: minority group status and feelings of powerlessness,” Black said.

Black has spent 20 years studying general strain theory and has conducted the majority of her research on status group differences in strain-induced deviance.

“For this book, I studied deviance, especially relatively minor deviance, rather than crime because the laws against or social penalties for crime and major deviance are fairly steep, which will likely make many people decide it’s not worth it; however, minor deviance is, according to University of Washington Sociology Professor Ross Matsueda, a better measure of lack of adherence to social norms, as people are more likely to engage in minor deviance, given the limited penalties,” she said.

Black said many of those behaviors are only considered deviant when practiced in excess — and not considered deviant at all when practiced in moderation.

In the book, Black writes about 10 types of deviant behavior: self-harm, body modification, eating disorders, hoarding, video game addiction, gambling, porn/cybersex addiction, casual sex, cross dressing, and over-the-counter drug abuse.

“The most interesting finding in the study is that when combined with feelings of powerlessness, minority group status does appear to be associated with many of these types of deviance, when one is dealing with compounding strains. In the case of my book, those strains included family, friend, work, money and health stress,” she said.

Black has published similar articles on marijuana use and coping and alcohol use and coping, studying groups of teens, women, older adults and racial/ethnic minorities.

The book, published by Lexington Books, is available on Amazon.

Black is the coordinator of Penn State Hazleton’s administration of justice program, which offers a bachelor of arts and a bachelor of science degree. She received her doctorate in sociology from the University of California at Riverside. Her research interests include deviant behavior, including social deviance and behavioral addictions. She has published in Men and Masculinities, Deviant Behavior, Addictive Behavior, The Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, The Journal of Ethnicity in Substance Abuse, The Journal of Drug Issues, Critical Criminology, and Criminal Justice Policy Review.

She has contributed a chapter to three other books and also is the co-editor of “Skinheads,” published in 2006 by M.E. Sharp and co-edited by P. Preston and S. Bronner.

Last Updated November 29, 2018