What is labeled deviant is also contingent on the community's values, standards, and when the deviance occurred.
Lemert viewed deviance as an ongoing process that varied over time, and can undergo change. An individual can progress from a act of deviance that would be considered small such as petty theft, and later move to something much more serious such as armed robbery. Also Lemert noticed that most individuals will enter into acts of deviance at some points in their life, and then will return to normal living for the majority
The observation of deviation being a process helped lead to the development of primary and secondary deviance. Primary deviance is the initial deviant behavior, and is short lived. Most people will engage in this level of deviance from time to time, and will never proceed to secondary. Whether the act will proceed depends on how public the act is and what the tolerance quotient of the reactors is, because it is the individual set of
values that determine the severity of the act. Secondary deviance is the persistent involvement in deviance,