SOC101: Unit 1 Discussion


Explain how each of the three major theoretical paradigms discussed in this section (structural functionalism, symbolic interactionism, and conflict theory) might be used in looking at the issue of inequality and share some examples.

Structural functionalism is the idea that parts of society function to provide the needs of the people and organisms living within it. For example, the bad behavior of criminals works to provide police with work to do. This of course ignores things like racial bias that are involved in many police interactions. Symbolic interactionism is the idea that society results from the many small actions of all the people within it. For example, criminals are looking down upon even after they serve their time because people have “learned” that criminals are bad and dangerous. The actions of law makers have allowed people to legally discriminate those who have been in jail, by denying them food stamps, housing, and jobs. Conflict theory views society as a push and pull between those with varying degrees of privilege. For example, those of color tend to be more easily viewed as criminals by law enforcement.

Using the sociological imagination, how might one explain the personal trouble of experiencing an eating disorder?

A common eating disorder among young females is anorexia. Young women feel pressured by peers and the media to be thin because it is considered beautiful. They may then influence their own peers to strive to be thin as well. Society influences them, but then they can influence others in society.

How can sociological theories be beneficial when studying various groups or institutions within a society? Provide some examples which support your claims.

They can help people study various groups because they offer the researcher different lenses to view a society. Viewing a society from multiple angles can help one better understand and get a fuller picture of what they are looking at. For example, in trying to understand a cult such as the KKK. While it may be hard to have compassion for a cult, forcing yourself to view their situation from multiple angles can help to understand why they felt threatened by people of color, and why they felt justified in their actions. Understand why they did those things does not mean you have to believe those things were moral or just.

Why is it so vital to follow ethical standards and guidelines when conducting sociological research? Can you think of a time when ethical guidelines were violated during scientific research? Please share some examples.

It is vital to follow ethical standards so that the research is not harming people. The goals of research should be to create better understanding of others, not harm others. For example, I learned about a Native American tribe who consented to their blood being taken to see what diseases they are susceptible to. However, the blood was used to trace their ancestry back to Asia. They did not consent for their blood to be used for that research. The findings conflict with their beliefs that they came from within the Earth of America. They were outraged to find that an article was published proving their heritage beliefs were wrong, with blood used against their will.

  1. Structural Functionalism sees society as a structure with interrelated parts designed to meet the biological and social needs of the individuals in society. It can be used to look at the issue of inequality in society by looking at why the inequality exists. It might say that peoples social needs are not being met by society and why they are not being met.
    Symbolic Interactionism sees society as the result of many individual and every day interactions. It could be used to look at inequality by how people treat each other every day. How people treat each other may relate to inequality because they are not having positive interactions.
    Conflict Theory sees society as a place for conflict base of inequality. Inequality happens because of conflict between people and that is how society is, such as wars. We are at conflict and have inequality because that is how society functions.

  2. A person may explain the trouble of an eating disorder by explaining how it effects their body. They might also cite conventional views on beauty in Western society and that they want to fit that mold no matter the cost. A person could explain all the health issues that also come with it but may easily dismiss them if they are getting the results that they want to see.

  3. Sociological theories can be beneficial when studying various groups or institutions because each group is different. They may have to look at different theories to choose which one is most beneficial when studying a group. Such as using symbolic interaction theory to look at society on a micro level to see why society as a whole functions as it does.

  4. It is vital to follow ethical standards and guidelines so as to not corrupt the data being collected. It is also important so that the research methods can then be used once again.


Unit 1 Discussion

Inequality can be seen in various school systems . For example, a student’s parents may be of a lower socioeconomically background and have to work more hours to make ends meet. This could mean having less time to help their child with school work for school, causing the child to get poor grades.

Conflict Theory
Conflict Theory is focused on inequality in many aspects of society. For example, some businesses make huge net profits while deciding not to supply their hard workers with the overtime or benefits they deserve.

Symbolic Interaction
Inequality can be seen on a smaller, micro scale when it comes to this theory. Teens are focused on important meaning to expensive clothing items, like sneakers. If a teen from a lower socioeconomic background isn’t able to afford such items, they’re often excluded from the group of more affluent teens.

Sociological imagination is the ability to understand how your own past relates to that of other people, as well as to history in general and societal structures in particular. An eating disorder could be caused by other people in society or by work-related pressures that result in stress. It can also be a result of the pressure by media that advertise certain body types as favorite. It can result from chronic/depression or other psychological illnesses, or any other difficult living situations

Sociological theories. It is easier to understand a group’s intentions when you know why.
When studying institutions in an inner city from a structural-functionalist stance, you may find that there is a lack of dynamic equilibrium. Racism and class struggle still run rampant among specific populations, such as African-Americans and the police force.
On a micro level, symbolic interaction theory would help you understand why individuals deviate from the norm and defy social constructs. Being familiar with this theory would be beneficial when interviewing people in the prison system one-on-one to understand their motives to commit crime.

It is vital to follow ethical guidelines so that participants are informed, safe, and free to be honest without a researcher’s bias modifying the research results. Confidentiality is important when gathering data, even if the police request personal information from research participants. Researchers have to maintain value neutrality when presenting their findings.
Ethical guidelines were violated during the scientific research of the Milgram Experiment. There was no regard for the well being of the subjects during or after the upsetting experiments.


Do you believe people that are in the prison system a product of Conflict Theory? Are the individuals are just part of the social facts? The inner city is viewed in the ethnography perspective and limited to how people in it view themselves in a positive light.


Structural functionalism example simply designates certain group of individuals, for example, those with higher education are given better pay; those that completed high school diploma or GED are paid significantly less.

Symbolic interactionism example of how individuals via male and female roles in society. If you have issue with someone with authority a male boss, you might state your case logically, listing all of required information to state their case. Female you might make an emotional appeal, by stating your positive social intentions. This type of approach would appeal to the sensitive and relational characteristics typically associated with femininity.

Conflict theory society labels male gender dominate over female gender. The mistreat of one over the other can cause unbalance of power and respect.

  1. Structural-Functionalism: Inequality can be seen in birth at hospitals. For example, if a women arrives to the hospital on government insurance and has not received prenatal care she is often looked down upon potentially resulting in subpar healthcare.
    Conflict Theory: Conflict Theory is heavily focused on inequality in many aspects of society. For example, not all people are treated the same when they arrive to labor and delivery based on if they speak English as a first language
    Symbolic Interaction: If a woman arrives without a partner when birthing she is often questioned about the status of her relationship and the father’s role.
  2. Depending on the industry a person works in could contribute to an eating disorder. For example if a person worked as an editor at a fashion magazine. This editor spends much of their surrounded by photos of very thin people therefore it could contribute to feeling they also need to look this way and adapt to ways of an eating disorder in order to have the same appearance.
  3. Using sociological theories can be beneficial in many ways. For example it can divide the whole into smaller parts making them easier to identify strengths and weaknesses, areas of improvement, and areas where others could learn from that particular subgroup. For example, a group of teachers at a school could be divided into groups based on assessments, skills, languages spoken, years of experience, additional trainings taken, and more. The other teachers could learn from the ones that appear to excel in their area of expertise.
  4. It is important to treat all people or subjects with fairness and respect. When ethics and rules are not properly followed the results are not factual results and treated with bias.

  1. a) Structural Functionalism: Structural functionalism views society as a machine. If one part of the machine is not working, then the whole machine is compromised. If there is a lack of equality, individual parts (people in the society) will not have motivation to do their share. This intern, effects the society,or “machine.” For example, if children went on strike, and stopped working in the factories in 1910, the product would have stopped being made. This would effect not only the company, but the society, because of the lack of a certain product.
    b) Conflict Theory: This is the idea that conflict is what makes a society. The belief behind conflict theory is that conflict is needed to unite a society. For example, after WW1, the people of Germany were angered about having to pay off other countries. The conflict of loosing WW1 grew the belief that Germany was superior and should not have to pay other countries. This conflict led to the rise of the Nazi Party, who wanted a new government , which united a society under the same beliefs.
    c) Symbolic Interactionism: Without symbolic interactionism, information would easily be taken out of context. This paradigm is solely based on perception. People of higher class might perceive someone less than, or not equal to them, to be less educated. For example, at a murder trial the testimony of a scientists hypothesis might be taken into consideration more than an eye witness, who is less educated. Even though the eye witness was there, we perceive the testimony to be less important than the scientists, because of his superiority.

  2. Sociological Imagination is the why aspect of a situation. It focuses on the question of “What caused it?”, or " Why do they do this?" A reason why someone might have an eating disorder is the constant “perfect body type” Society has images of unrealistically “perfect” girls posted everywhere. When people are not accepted, they attempt to achieve this body. That can cause feelings of self-hate and feeling like you are not good enough. Not only are these ideal bodies unrealistic, they are also constantly fluctuation. For example, girls were taught that slim figures with small hips, and a small waist was perfect. Then, society decides to switch things up. Suddenly, “slim-thick” is the goal and girls who are “skinny” want to gain weight in certain areas. This can make people feel like they have lost control, or that no matter what, they will never be “good enough”

  3. It is important to know why people do what they do, it’s the basis of sociology. Using the theories, you can dig deeper and find the true meaning of why, from various viewpoints. If you were to look at a group of protesters from a structural functionist standpoint, you would ask the question " What sub group of people in this society is not working, or being harmful?" This would explain why there are protests. The question from a conflict theorist might be " What ere these protesters fighting for? What do they want?’’ A person viewing with symbolic interaction mindset could ask " What is it about this certain group of people that makes them feel attacked?’’

  4. First, it is vital to follow ethical standards to ensure the safety and privacy of all participants. Second, a more greedy reason, so that you can always be seen as a reliable source. If you break the ethical standard, your text is no longer reliable, and the reader of your text should no longer use it for secondary data.


Since sociological imagination asks why, do you think eating disorder. are a individualized disorders, or caused by society?


Structural Functionalism examines disparities and unjust practices found in society.

Symbolic Interactionism is based on how people of a different faith, race, creed, social class, treat others who have a different background than theirs.

Conflict Theory can be used to explain inequality and abuse of power by those who hold such power and the individuals within society who are on the receiving end of it.

Sociological Imagination can be useful in understanding an individual affected by an eating disorder by examining the social factors surrounding the individual.

Sociological theories can be used to understand issues affecting those individuals in society that may be discriminated against.

It is vital to maintain ethical standards in sociological and scientific research so that the participants are not treated unfairly in any ways in the process and so that the results of the research are accurate and honest.


As I read this section three paradigms have come to dominate sociological thinking, because they provide useful explanations.(1) Structural functionalism sees society as a structure with interrelated parts of designed to meet the biological and the social needs of the individuals in that society. This theory grew out of the writings of English philosopher and biologist, Herbert Spence (1820),who saw similarities between society and human body; He argued that just as the various organs of the body work together to keep the body functioning, the various parts of society works together to keep society functioning. The types of society that Spence referred to were the social institutions or patterns of beliefs or behavior focused on meeting social needs such as government, education family, healthcare,religion, and the economy. Emile Durkheim, another early sociologist, applied Spence’s theory to explain how societies change and survive. Durkheim,believed that society is a complex system of interrelated and interdependent parts that work together to maintain stability and that society is hold together by shared values,language, and symbols. He believed that to study society, a sociologist must look beyond individuals to social facts such as law,morals, values, religious beliefs, customs fashions and rituals, which all serve to govern social life.

  1. Structural functionalism and inequality- Some who are in higher economical standing have a lesser chance of being convicted due to better legal counsel vs. those in lower economical standing that don’t have access to the same legal counsel
    Symbolic Interactionism and inequality- shows how individuals in society interact together. You can see this with military spouses interacting differently based of their husbands rank.
    Conflict Theory- This can be used to look at the days of the revolution when the monarchy and nobles took most of the food and other resources and left the commoners to fight for what was left
  2. Sociological Imagination is all about understanding how your past relates to that of others. Those with eating disorders often have issues with control or stress. They could suffer from both and that might cause them to feel that they have to look a certain way or that they only thing they can control is the way they look. This could lead to extreme dieting, starving, or bingeing and purging as a way to cope with the stress or to feel like they are in control of something in their lives.
  3. Sociological theories are beneficial because it can help us understand something a group is doing and make it will help us better understand them. Like when if were to study teachers protesting outside a school we would see they are fighting for better pay or more school funds for books or new equipment.
  4. Its important to follow ethical standards so that things are done safely and fairly. Doctors broke ethical guidelines when they separated underage twins without parental consent.

  • Structural functionalism framework is aimed at viewing society as a complex system with each part of this system working together to allow for proper functioning within the society. Evaluating the issue of inequality through this lens brings focus to the social structure of society and the importance of have equality throughout each social structure to allow for the system as a whole to function together.
  • Symbolic interactionism theory aims at viewing how individuals interact between one another to have a better understanding how of society is formed and preserved through there interactions. Society is built through the shared understandings and interpretations. When viewing inequality through this lens the theory can help evaluate how individuals oppressed by the inequality interact with one another and society to evaluate the effects on individual behaviors and the interaction with society.
  • Conflict theory is having the view that society is in a state of competition for limited resources resulting in a state of conflict and social orders are created through power and domination instead of consensus. Inequality is based around the theory because those with wealth and power will try and remain in power by any means even if the result is suppressing those below them, the poor and powerless.
  1. Sociological imagination looks at the view of the world an individual has and how we are shaped by the situation we are in, the values we have, and how our peers interact with one another. With all these factors considers it aims to looks at how these all relate to a certain outcome. Regarding eating disorders this is a perspective of an individual that has been created by factors throughout society an as a result has influenced a person’s perspective. Social imagination is one’s individual capacity to step back from this perspective and evaluate alternative points of view.
  2. Sociological theories are beneficial when studying groups within society because sociological theories analyze social phenomena at different levels and perspectives at the micro level of social patterns to macro level of large social patterns. The three main perspectives above include all of these levels of social interactions to allow for a better understanding of how various groups or institutions interact with one another at multiple levels.
  3. It is extremely important to follow ethical standards when conducting research because if neglected this violates basic human rights issues in some cases. If not done this presents cases where scientists intentionally deceive subjects and can result in detrimental consequences because of the actions. An example of unethical research being conducted was in “1932 the U.S Public Health Service began studying several hundred poor, illiterate African American men in Tuskegee, Alabama. The men have syphilis, for which no cure then existed, and were studied to determine its effects. After scientists found a decade later that penicillin could cure the disease, the government scientists decided not to give penicillin to the men because doing so would end their research” As a result several of the men died from the disease and many of their family members came down with it. This shows the detrimental effect of unethical standards being brought to the sociological field.
    (2016, April 08). Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World. Retrieved from


1.Use the three major theoretical paradigms to explain inequality and share examples.
-structural functionist theory
How do institutions or patterns of beliefs or behaviors in a society work to create inequality.
e.g. The roles sought in women in an average family in one society may be a factor contributing to the inequality between women and men career development.
-conflict theory
How do women fight for equal rights in a traditionally patriarchal society/ community.
e.g. How do existing promotion systems in big influential companies work to maintain male dominance, how do women fight for changing these systems, and how these changes reshape the whole business communities.
-symbolic interactionism
How do people interact with each other in a society and how these interactions form a common sense of female roles that lead to the inequality between the men and women career development in this society.
e.g. How does a husband think of the roles of his wife, how does a wife herself think of her own roles, and how they behave based on these consensus.

2.Using the sociological imagination to explain the personal trouble of experiencing an eating disorder.
One may look to the social factors that may have put pressures on the individual experiencing an eating disorder.

3.How can sociological theories be beneficial when studying various groups or institutions within a society? And some examples.
Sociological theories are beneficial because they provide to us with clear and systematic perspectives on societies, especially the 3 paradigms with their different frameworks helping us to find a suitable way to view different aspects of different groups, communities, and societies.
e.g. The functionalism tells us that how different parts of a society work together to keep its stability. And I think it is not all about the stability. It is also about how to keep the stability: How may some functions change over time, and how are these changed parts reintegrated into the system to get the society rebalanced and to regain the stability. For instance, one can use this theory to study how the function of the business sector was changed in one society during the process of reacting to the globalization, and how the whole society got rebalanced and settled itself into a new stability (or lost its balance and got collapsed finally).

4.The importance of ethical standards, violation examples.
It is the most basic and fundamental requirement for any sociologists to follow these rules. Not following this ethical standards means losing trust between the researchers and the subjects, putting subjects’ safety in risk, becoming a means for some specific interest groups to pursue their interests, destructive to forming an open-minded, vigorous and sound sociological field, or even causing or complicating social biases due to a skewed picture provided.
e.g. When leaking the name of an information provider who is also the subject of one research and who does not want to be named in the research report. Or manipulating research results to make it meet the predicted outcomes, etc.