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Foundations of Sociology : Exercise 2 - Theoretical paradigms of sociology

Instructions: Read each passage and click on the correct answer. Scroll down if you do not see the Answer box. If wrong, try again.
Click here to review the key terms for this exercise.

The Structural-Functional Paradigm

     The structural-functional paradigm views society as groups of stable systems with fixed social structures (patterns of social behaviors). These social structures have social functions or social consequences that are intended to hold society together and preserve it in its current form. Therefore, social structures work together to maintain society. This broad (large) focus on social structures is called a macro-level orientation to sociology, which examines how these social structures shape society as a whole.

     According to the structural-functional paradigm, every social structure has more than one social function. Besides the observable and intended (desired) social functions, called manifest functions, of every social structure, there are also latent functions (functions that are not intended or considered to be a result of the social structure). Let's take the social pattern of women holding jobs as an example. The role of women in society has changed greatly over the last century. The traditional woman who stays at home and raises children has increasingly been replaced by the modern woman who works outside the home and assumes equal financial responsibility with men. The financial contribution of employed women to the household income is a manifest function because it is an expected and obvious consequence. A less intended consequence, hence a latent function of this social pattern, is the redistribution of gender roles and gender power. Since employed women have now much less time to devote to rearing children and managing the household, men need to take on some of these responsibilities, which traditionally have belonged to women. Also, in the workplace, though men are still dominant, women are increasingly making claims to leadership positions, threatening to undermine men's power supremacy. The struggle of women for power, just like the redistribution of gender roles, is not an intended or direct outcome of women’s presence in the workplace.

     In addition, the social functions of a social structure affect different members of society differently. For example, the traditional patriarchal family is a good structure for raising children, so it has a positive impact on the children. The traditional family also has a positive impact on men, who tend to be freer and more independent because they are the ones who work outside the home. However, it has the negative effect of pressuring women to stay at home to raise the children.

     Lastly, social structures are not always beneficial to everyone in society. They can have negative consequences called social dysfunctions that interfere with the operation of society. However, what is beneficial for one category of people might be harmful to another. If we take divorce as an example, we can see that divorce usually has the dysfunctional (negative) consequence of making a single-parent family poor. However, divorce can also have the functional consequence of stopping an abusive situation from continuing.

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