Sociology first half term

  • Created by: holly6901
  • Created on: 27-10-19 17:42

What is culture

Culture refers to the way of life of a society and includes

  • Values - principals or beliefs eg. education
  • Morals
  • Beliefs
  • Knowledge
  • Norms - Social rules or expectations that reflect values eg. attending school
  • Traditions
  • Customs
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Types of culture

  • Subcultures - a minority group that share values, norms and beliefs eg. goths. A culture with many subcultures is culturally diverse.
  • High culture - the cultural products associated with the higher classes eg. opera. They are thought to be above other activities.
  • Popular culture - the activities enjoyed by the mass of the population eg. watching TV. These are viewed as trivial by those associated with high culture.
  • Global culture  - the idea that some companies are becoming universal due to transnational corporations eg. Starbucks. Societies are starting to become global eg. the US.
  • Consumer culture - The mass media encourages the value of materialistic items and shopping.
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Cultural diversity

Cultural diversity -  refers to a variety of ethnic or cultural groups in society. 

Intercultural diversity - cultures differ in terms of norms and values

Intercultural diversity in the UK can be illustrated by;

  • Regional differences 
  • Class differences
  • Ethnic and religious differences
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Cultural hybridity

Cultural hybridity comes about when cultures mix. For example, British culture is hybrid as it is influenced by English, Scottish, Welsh and Irish cultures but is influenced by ethnic minorities and global culture. 

There is evidence of children of immigrants mixing their original culture with British Culture. This is sometimes called 'Brasian'

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Primary and secondary socialisation

Primary socialisation is the most important form of socialisation and occurs in early childhood. Parents teach their children the dominant norms and values needed for them to take their roles in society. This is usually done through informal social control and role models. This is usually done from 0-4.

Secondary socialisation is socialisation outside the family from 4+. This is done through school, peer group, the media, religion and the workplace.

The agents of socialisation are;

  • Family
  • Peer group
  • Education
  • Media
  • Religion
  • Workplace
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The family is the main agent of primary socialisation Functionalists see females as the expressive leader who is responsible for the nurturing and socialisation of children. Talcott Parsons (1951): The family is like a warm bath.


  • P - primary socialisation
  • E - economic function
  • E - emotional function
  • R - Reproductive function
  • S - Social status
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Peer group

The peer group refers to those of a similar age. It includes friendships, networks, year groups and subcultures. The peer group is important as children and teenagers spend most of their time with their peers. 

The peer group is often more important than parents in shaping the identity of young people as young people want to be liked and to be popular with their peers so they have a strong desire to conform. This can sometimes lead them into crime. Not conforming can sometimes lead to bullying.

Tony Sewell observed that young people like to spend time with people from similar ethnic and class backgrounds. 

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Another important agent of socialisation is the mass media. Some sociologists suggest that casual violence and anti-social behaviour is increasing due to exposure to violent images in media.

Feminist sociologists argue that mass media has a huge negative influence over female identity as women are sexualised in mass media and regularly focus on an ideal body image which promotes thinness and fat-shaming. As a result, it is argued that girls often suffer anxiety about their bodies and consequently suffer from eating disorders.

Young argues the mass media has created a bulimic society in which advertising focuses on celebrity culture has encouraged people to aspire for materialistic success has created a culture of envy and has encouraged those from deprived areas to commit a crime to obtain material goods.

Sociologists have neither proved nor disproved the view that the mass media is the sole reason for violence and anti-social behaviour among young people.

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Until the mid-20th century, the Christian religion in the UK  was a key agent of socialisation. Christianity promoted social attitudes and the moral code people lived by.

However, in the late 20th century there was a major decline in church attendance and belief. This decline is known as secularisation and some sociologists say religion is no longer an important agent. 

Despite secularisation, some sociologists argue religion is still important in two main  ways

  • Not all religions are in decline
  • Although the UK is less religious, our laws are still shaped by religion
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There are two key elements of education as an agent of socialisation

  • The formal curriculum - The academic subjects taught at school that usually focus on local culture.
  • The hidden curriculum - the ways that routines and organisation of schools shape pupils attitudes and behaviours in order to produce conformity. Marxists such as Bowles and Gintis (1976) argue that school socialises children into fitting into a hierarchy and blind obedience to prepare working-class children for work.

The workplace

The workplace is a key agent of socialisation for adults

The experience of the workplace teaches skills but it also socialises people into the rules that underpin an organisation.

There also may be a 'canteen culture' that sets informal rules for getting on. Canteen culture can be negative like in the police

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Nature/Nurture and social control


Nature - Characteristics caused by genetics or hormones eg. masculine or feminine behaviour.

Nurture - things caused by the environment and the way you were raised such as cultural values.

The best way to illustrate the argument is by referring to studies of feral children and Margaret Mead's study of the Tchambuli tribe.

Social control

Social control is the way deviant or abnormal behaviour is deferred. There are two methods of social control.

  • Formal social control is focused on the law. Agencies include the police and the criminal justice system.
  • Informal social control is about controlling social norms. Agencies include family and peer group.
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Identity refers to how you see yourself. Social identity is how other people see you. During socialisation, we internalise all the social expectations associated with social roles - we learn how children, friends, pupils, believers and workers are expected to behave and adjust our social identity accordingly.

When we reach adulthood we have acquired a social identity that fits expectations about family, friends, respectable citizens and workers.

Some sociologists argue aspects of our identity are imposed on us by social forces such as ethnicity, nationality, gender, social class, sexuality, age and disability.

The 7 strands of identity are

  • Class
  • Age
  • Disability
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Sexuality
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