Chapter One - Chapter 1 Chapter 1 Thinking about Social...

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Chapter 1 Chapter 1 Thinking about Social Problems I. WHAT IS A SOCIAL PROBLEM? A. Objective and Subjective Elements of Social Problems 1. Objective element: the existence of a social condition 2. Subjective element: the belief that a particular social condition is harmful to society or to a segment of society and that the condition should and can be changed. 3. Definition of a social problem contains objective and subjective elements: a social condition that a segment of society views as harmful to members of society and in need of remedy. B. Variability in Definitions of Social Problems 1. Individuals and groups disagree about what constitutes a social problem due to differences in their values, beliefs, and life experiences. 2. Definitions of social problems vary within societies, across societies, and across historical time periods. 3. Sociology provides a framework from which to view the complexity of social problems. II. ELEMENTS OF SOCIAL STRUCTURE AND CULTURE Social structure and culture are distinct but inseparable elements of society that help us understand the root causes of social problems. A. Elements of social structure: the way society is organized 1. Institution: an established and enduring pattern of social relationships a. Traditional institutions: family, religion, politics, economics, and education b. Other institutions important in modern society: science and technology, mass media, medicine, sports, military 2. Social groups: two or more people who have a common identity, interact, and form a social relationship a. Primary groups tend to be small and are characterized by intimate and informal interaction. b. Secondary groups may be large or small and are task-oriented, impersonal, and formal. 3. Statuses: positions within a social group a. Ascribed status is assigned on the basis of factors over which the individual has no control (e.g. sex, race). b. Achieved status is assigned on the basis of some characteristic or behavior over which the individual has some control (e.g. parent, college graduate). c. One’s ascribed status may affect the likelihood of achieving other statuses. d. Master status: the status that is the most significant in a person’s social identity 4. Roles: the set of rights, obligations, and expectations associated with a status a. Roles guide our behavior and allow us to predict the behavior of others. b. A single status involves more than one role. B. Elements of culture: the meanings and ways of life that characterize a society 1. Beliefs: definitions and explanations about what is assumed to be true a. Beliefs influence whether an individual or group views a particular condition as a social problem. b. Beliefs also influence the existence of the condition itself. 2.
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This note was uploaded on 01/31/2010 for the course SO 254 taught by Professor Simmon during the Fall '09 term at Grand Rapids Community College.

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Chapter One - Chapter 1 Chapter 1 Thinking about Social...

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