Chapter 1: 
The Sociological Study of Social Problems Flashcards Preview

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The Sociological Study of Social Problems > Flashcards

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The Sociological Study of Social Problems Deck (26)
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1

Sociological Imagination

Mills’s term for the ability to see the impact of social forces on individuals, especially on their private lives.

2

Social Forces

Forces that arise from the society of which we are a part.

3

Emile Durkheim

French sociologist
(1858–1917)
Discovered variations in the rates of suicide among different countries and groups as a result of the social force, social isolation.

4

Social Problem

Social Problem = A social condition that is perceived to be harmful to more than just a few people.

Both an objective reality and a subjective perception.
(For example: Abortion)

Social Problems include suicide, poverty, violence, alcoholism, terrorism, and human trafficking.

5

Positivist Perspective

believes that a social problem is absolutely real in that it possesses some negative qualities.
Ex: Racial hatred as opposed to racial harmony.

6

Constructionist Perspective

believes that a social problem is an idea that people use to define a certain condition as a problem. The so-called intrinsically negative characteristics of a social problem are socially constructed.

7

Conflicting Constructionist Views

Positivist perspective believes that a social problem is absolutely real in that it possesses some negative qualities. (Ex: Racial hatred as opposed to racial harmony)

Constructionist Perspective believes that a social problem is an idea that people use to define a certain condition as a problem. The so-called intrinsically negative characteristics of a social problem are socially constructed.

8

Sociological Theories of Social Problems

Macroview: focuses on the large social phenomena of society, such as culture, institutions, and inequality.

Microview: zeroes in on the immediate social situations in which people interact with one another.

3 well-known perspectives in sociology:
the functionalist perspective,
the conflict perspective, and
the symbolic interaction perspective

9

Functionalist Theory

Every part of society performs certain functions for the society as a whole.

Dysfunction: the failure of some parts of society to perform their functions and the resulting disruption of the network of interdependence among all parts.

Manifest function: A function that is intended and widely recognized.

Latent function: A function that is unintended and unrecognized

Macroview of society

10

Conflict Theory

Sees society as always changing and always marked by conflict

Class conflict: Marx’s term for the struggle between capitalists, who own the means of production such as factories and machineries, and laborers, who do not.

Proletariat: The laborers who do not own the means of production.

Bourgeoisie: The capitalists who own the means of production such as factories and machineries.

Macroview of society

11

Symbolic Interaction Theory

Views society as being made up of countless social interactions, therefore focusing on the details of any specific situation and the interaction between individuals in that situation

Microview of society

12

Evaluating the Theories

The Functionalist Theory has been criticized for portraying society as stable blindly focusing on the positive, being inherently conservative.

The Conflict Theory has been faulted for going too far in blaming inequalities for the prevalence of social problems, assuming that in a classless society harmful human acts will disappear.

The Symbolic Interaction Theory offers a microscopic view of social problems and consequently tends to ignore how the larger social forces may have influenced it.

13

Research Methods:
Seeking Facts

Facts are sought in order the create credibility

4 methods for researching social problems:
survey,
observation,
experiment,
and secondary analysis.

14

Survey

A research method that involves asking people questions about their opinions, beliefs, or behaviors.

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Population

The entire group of people to be studied.

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Sample

A relatively small number of people selected from a large population.

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Survey: Structured Interview

An interview in which the researcher asks standardized
questions that require respondents to choose from several standardized options.

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Survey: Unstructured Interview

An interview in which open-ended questions are asked and respondents are allowed to answer freely, in their own words.

19

Observation

Detached observation:
A method of observation in which the researcher observes as an outsider, from a distance, without getting involved.

Participant observation:
A method of observation in which the researcher takes part in the activities of the group being studied.

Ethnography:
An analysis of people’s lives from their own perspectives.

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Ethnography

An analysis of people’s lives from their own perspectives.

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Participant observation

A method of observation in which the researcher takes part in the activities of the group being studied.

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Detached observation

A method of observation in which the researcher observes as an outsider, from a distance, without getting involved.

23

Experiment

Experiment:
A research operation in which the researcher manipulates variables so their influence can be determined

Independent variable:
the cause of a problem

Dependent variable:
the effect of a problem

24

Secondary Analysis

Searching for new knowledge in the data collected earlier by another researcher.

25

Content analysis:

Searching for specific words or ideas and then turning them into numbers

26

Critical Thinking Questions

Identify a social problem that you consider to be a relevant concern in your own community and address the following:
a. Describe the problem and explain how you know this is a true “social” and not a “personal” problem.
b. What are the primary “social forces” that you see at work behind this problem?
c. Do you see any potential solutions for coping with this social problem?

Do you favor the positivist or constructionist view of social problems?
Discuss what you consider to be the strengths and weaknesses of each approach to studying social problems.