Sociology: Identifying Social Problems Essay

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Identifying Social Problems

The definition of a social problem varies greatly depending on whether an objectivist approach or a constructionist approach is taken. This is because sociologists that adopt these unique perspectives will differ in how they view the nature of a social problem. The objectivist definition of a social problem is perhaps more common sense because it "suggests that the essence of social problems lies in objective social conditions and that some conditions are problems." [1] This definition focuses around the evaluation of conditions in society to decide whether they are harmful to either individuals or society, and then defining them as social problems. If a condition fails to meet a given
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[4] This approach is quite unique as a social problem refers to the activities of individuals or groups, which make assertions towards some harmful condition. The constructionists will focus on and examine what the claimsmakers say about conditions, rather than the conditions themselves. [5] This examination will often take the form of case studies, in which sociologists will look at how a particular public issue is constructed. Constructionism is also interested in problem identification, or its perception and definition. Of interest is how certain conditions come to be defined as problems by certain groups, as this usually reflects an issue of power that this group stands to lose or benefit from. Typification, or the characterization of a problem's nature [6] is also important to sociologists. Typification will take the common forms of assuming a particular orientation for a problem, in order to provide a solution, as well as using typifying examples to capture public attention. Examples of this can be found later in this paper, in the discussion of Best's logical structure of claimsmaking as applied to child sexual abuse. While constructionists agree that social problems are a subjective phenomenon, there is a division among them over the nature of constructionism, which manifests into
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