The Sociological Relevance of the Broken Home/Society on Deviant Behaviour

Salim Yakubu Akko

Salim Yakubu Akko

September 2021 | Nigeria

The Sociological Relevance of the Broken Home/Society on Deviant Behaviour

Sociology deals with many things that are relevant to our societies; it deals with our social interactions, race, religion, sex, gender, crime, family, human relations and other numerous social activities. It's an exciting and illuminating field of study that explains important matters in our personal lives. As thus, it gives us a wide knowledge and understanding of our different behaviours in societies.

Students of sociology who have been well trained in the field know how to think critically, conduct sociological research, and later come up with different perspectives on the subjects that are relevant to our society. Thus, tons of sociologists have contributed diverse research studies and perspectives on the relevance of broken home or broken society on deviant behaviours.

To understand the relevance of broken homes or society and deviant behaviour, we must look up into some sociological definitions and theories on both concepts to clearly understand them and how they affect our societies in one way or the other.

The sociological definition of deviance or deviant behaviour that children show is a kind of behaviour that children engaged in doing which violates the 'norms' of behaviour in society. Many sociological theories explain the causes of deviant behaviour in society and their unwholesome effects on the members of a particular society.

Oxford Bibliographies defines norms as a set of rules or expectations that are socially enforced. They may be prescriptive (encouraging positive behaviour; for example, “be honest”) or proscriptive (discouraging negative behaviour; for example, “do not cheat”). From this definition, we can fizzle out that any kind of behaviour that violates the norms of behaviour in a society is not acceptable. And this behaviour is known as delinquent or deviant behaviour. One that is found engaged in doing such deviant behaviours, such as cheating, stealing, raping, cursing or other behaviours as aforementioned is labeled deviant.

If we carefully look and understand the sociological definition of broken home or family we will get to know that there's a direct connection between deviant behaviour and what has been called a broken home, broken family, or broken society and deviant behaviour in a society.

What is a broken home or a broken family?

We need to firstly define family as whole; what is family? In  the quest for defining family, numerous sociologists define family using different perspectives, because families are the backbones and the basic social units upon which a given successful society is built.

Functionalist sociologists traditionally used narrow definitions of family, that a family had to consist a father and a  mother in a committed sexual relationship leaving together with their children. Defined by a Functionalist sociologist George Peter Murdoch in 1949, a family is a social group characterised by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, biological or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults.

Contemporary sociologists criticize that narrative. They believe that family is more than the coming together of Father, Mother and their children. Because the above definition doesn't include same-sex families, contemporary sociologists have expanded it. And in some countries like United States, same-sex marriage is legitimized, and since it's legitimized, same-sex partners can form a family. In some other countries, especially in the African continent, same-sex marriage is not legalized by the government and public humiliation and punishment await anyone who is found guilty of practicing it.

From the above difinitions of family by old and postmodern sociologists, a family can best be define as a group consisting of two parents and their children. The word "parents" can represents the both heterosexual and the same-sex couples.

"Broken home or family" is used to describe a family where one or both parents are absent. This kind of family is expected to have adverse effects on the child because of lack of proper role models, failure to control the child and insufficient parental love.

A contemporary English Dictionary, Longman, defines broken society as a society that has social or financial problems. From this solely simple and understandable definition of broken society by Longman, there's a demystification of what problems a broken society can impose on society, ranging from social, behavioural, or financial problems.

A broken home has numerous characteristics that contribute aggressively in promoting deviant behaviours amongst children. Linda Jacob, in her article "What's the difference between a broken home and a single-parent family?"—becuase there is a difference—did mention some characteristics of a broken home and that they can promote deviant behaviour.

The characteristics are:

  1. Reacts in anger toward the child(ren).

  2. Desires to teach the child a lesson, hoping to change the child’s behaviour

  3. Gives little or no warning regarding punishment; the child doesn’t have a chance to stop the behaviour

She further adds that at times these parents in the broken homes even take on a broken appearance. They tend to carry themselves slumped over with a beaten-down look. They take on the role of “victim.”

  1. Victim of divorce

  2. Victim of death

  3. Victim of society

Effects of Broken Home/Family:

Broken home/family can unwholesomely affect child in different ways in his/her life, and there are a lot of incidences that cause the effects in one way or the other, ranging from single parenting; when the parents separate and leave a child in the care of a single parent. It affects a child in different ways, including emotionally, socially, and educationally.

In the 2015 article "Effects of Broken Home" written by Anneh Green and published in The International News, he says that children can be socially, educationally and emotionally affected due to the condition they may find themselves in a broken home. In the article Green writes the following:


After a divorce, children from pre-school through late adolescence can experience deficits in emotional development. Children of all ages may seem tearful or depressed, which is a state that can last for several years after a child’s parents’ have separated, explains psychologist Lori Rappaport. Additionally, some older children may show very little emotional reaction to their parents’ divorce. According to Lori Rappaport, this may not be developmentally beneficial. Some children who show little emotional response are actually bottling up their negative feelings. This emotional suppression makes it difficult for parents, teachers and therapists to help the child process her feelings in developmentally appropriate ways.


Slowed academic development is another common way that separation of the parents affects children. The emotional stress of a divorce alone can be enough to stunt your child’s academic progress, but the lifestyle changes and instability of a broken family can contribute to poor educational outcomes. This poor academic progress can stem from a number of factors, including instability in the home environment, inadequate financial resources and inconsistent routines.


Divorce affects children’s social relationships in several ways. First, some children act out their distress about their broken family by acting aggressive and by engaging in bullying behaviour, both of which can negatively affect peer relationships. Other children may experience anxiety, which can make it difficult for them to seek positive social interactions and engage in developmentally beneficial activities such as teen sports. Teens from broken families might develop a cynical attitude toward relationships and harbour feelings of mistrust, both toward their parents and potential romantic partners, explains psychologist Carl Pickhardt in the article, ‘Parental Divorce and Adolescents’ published in Psychology Today."

Sociological Perspectives:

From the sociological perspective, the relevance of broken home or society on deviant behaviour can best be linked from the way and manner in when parents got divorced and end up their relationship.  Now, the deviant behaviour might occur to a child due to the nature of the upbringing he/she may encounter in the absence of one parent. Furthermore, a single parent may not even have time to check on the way such a child is behaving. If that happens, the child may develop an attitude of behaving contrary to the norms of society (deviant behaviour).

Looking at society from a wider perspective and  attributing the question to society, Albert Bandura in his "Social Bonding" theory believed that children learn how to talk and interact with their society from what they learned in their immediate environment. As such, if the family is broken,  a single parent alone can't guide the child to the right part. The child might copy all the deviant attitudes from the immediate environment. For instance, due to the broken homes in Nigeria, many children are exhibiting the attitude of engaging in burglary, pickpocketing, smoking, and the rest due to the desertion of their parents, and some due to the divorce of the parents.

Broken home is not a factor alone that's influencing deviant behaviour amongst children, the structure of the society in which the child lives can also be a factor that influences or affects the parents and children and may lead them toward a broken home. This can be understood because a  society is an institution, a rotten society is liable to produce deviant individuals. For instance, slum areas often include all sorts of atrocities like drug, fraud and other crimes that are openly carried out and will definitely affect the behaviour of the younger generation. They will grow up to see crime as a normal thing, arrest as a routine and violation of rules as parts of lives.

In conclusion, the nature and nurture are two deterministic factors that can either make or mar the behaviour of children. The upbringing coupled with the structure of the society needs to be carefully structured to avoid conscious and unconscious transfer of what might be called deviant behaviours in human social. Lastly, I end this discussion with one important question: would broken homes exists without broken societies?


If you enjoyed this piece, please share or let us know your thoughts on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram and don't forget to follow us on social media for more content from Applied Worldwide!

How to contribute to Applied Worldwide
Learn sociology with applied worldwide
explore society with applied worldwide
teach socially with applied worldwide