• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Defining Social Problems

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Defining Social Problems A distinction is made between the definition of a social problem and sociological problem by Peter Worsley (1972). The latter refers to the problem of explaining social behaviour in terms of a sociological theory, whilst the former is some piece of social behaviour that causes public friction and or private misery and calls for collective action to solve it. The study of social problems is a complex and very controversial undertaking. Broadly speaking, this is not understandable to the average layman whose concepts of what constitutes a social problem is firmly established by the rhetoric of his/hers everyday social discourse and indeed the classification of acts or situations as social problems seem to be a relatively simple exercise. It is becoming more and more evident by present day sociologists and social scientists alike the complexities involved in defining, identifying and classifying a social situation as a social problem. This process has far-reaching implications on the focus, scope and projected recommendations of studies conducted of a particular social situation. There are two major conceptualizations of defining a social situation as a social problem. ...read more.

Middle

The supporters of the public opinion approach contend that this approach limits the subjectivity of the researcher. Turner and Beeghley believe that by relying on the public's conceptualization of what constitutes a social problem that the sociologist remain neutral and value-free thereby playing a passive rather than active role in the process of defining social problems, since he/she is unable to impose his values, morals and ethnics. Gross dismisses the proposed objective rational proposed by the supporters of the public-opinon approach. He believes that for the sociologist even to interpret a public response to a social situation as negative or positive, good or bad is in itself a value judgment! This method of defining social problems is not as value free and objective as Beeghley and Tuner insinuate. If one is to speak of the majority, then what of the minority. In all fairness some public-opinion supporters have attempted to address this aspect of the debate around the definition of social problems. Sheppard and Voss have included in their definition the point that not only is a social problem defined by the "large proportion of society" but by "powerful elements of it" who see a social condition as undesirable and in need of attention. ...read more.

Conclusion

The controversy surrounding the definition of social problems is still going strong. Some may ask why is it important to understand how a social situation is classified as a social problem. The implementation of social policies affects everyone and some policies may not always be to our benefit. For example the Mass Marriage Movement in Jamaica looked to encourage couples to marry because some British sociologists thought that single-parent families were having adverse effects on their children and this was considered a problem. Through the research of dedicated Caribbean sociologist we know differently. In conclusion, I adapt the view points of Merton and Roberts, Contempory Social Problems, that social problems 'vary among societies and it varies in the same society among social groups and from time to time, since both the social realities and the social norms differ and change.' Fuller and Myers to develop a rather accommodating definition of a social problem. They wrote 'Every social problem thus consists of an objective and a subjective definition. The objective condition is a verifiable condition which can be checked as to the existence and magnitude by impartial and trained observers....The subjective definition is the awareness of certain individuals that the condition is a threat to cherished values.' ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Sociology section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Sociology essays

  1. The Corporate Social Responsibility Debate

    As a result companies may employ fewer people than they usually would, thus increasing unemployment rates [Freeman & Edward, 1991]. Similarly, CSR promoters might urge companies in developing countries not to employ children. However, what good is this if the alternatives for these children are prostitution or starvation?

  2. Homophobia: a Definition

    be florists, but 76 percent felt they should not be school teachers. Common myths that one still hears today include the false belief that there is no homosexuality in other species (while, in fact, it has been noted in species as diverse as gulls, dolphins, cows, primates), that homosexuals can't

  1. Corporate social responsibility

    Their research showed that ethical companies (those who had ethics codes for five years) performed better on three out of four measures of financial performance. The major drug companies seem to follow Smith's logic almost as a physical law, believing that "if each individual pursues his own self-interest, an invisible

  2. Philosophies of Social Science.

    [whereby each individual] had been allotted a special function which he [sic] pursued for the common good (Ullmann, 1967, p.32 and 40). This amounted to 'the theory that the individual did not exist for his own sake, but for the sake of the whole society ...

  1. My aim is to investigate whether in some aspect` Hip-hop is a contemporary religion ...

    This can be seen in a French video called "La Haine" (hate). Referring back to my first objective (to define hiphop), hiphop is a type of music that incorporates rapping (fast vocal words), scratching (music created by spinning disc on turn tables to make a rhythmical counterpoint to the music on the track)

  2. Can built form influence social problems?

    Norman Foster can be an example of how a radical project has changed students behaviour towards education. Very different to the 1960's building where students use to attend lessons, the Academy is an open-plan where lessons are carried out in alcoves and where no division of spaces have been created.

  1. Discuss the extent to which public and social policies have impacted upon the theory ...

    Gesellschaft on the other hand was used to refer to everything that was opposite to gemeinschaft like the impersonal, superficial and transitory relationship of modern urban life. Tonnies argued urban societies were characterised by individualism where by society required a more self-interested approach to dealing with other people.

  2. "The Chrysalids" - book review.

    All around their seats are woods and wilderness. They have a special religion, it looks like ours a bit, but there is not love, there are dogmas, commands and strict rights and laws only. David is son of that preacher and he has not easy life - because he is feeling and thinking about everything he sees.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work