Topic: Family, Life & ExperiencesRelationships

Last updated: February 17, 2019

In the text International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. by David L. Sills, the term social pathology contributes a significant part in the social sciences. Social pathology is a term used to describe “social factors such as criminal behaviours and poverty that support social disorganization” (Sutherland, 1945). Social disorganization is the corruption, weakening, and collapsing of a society such as high crime rates and high rates of poverty. “At the same, social pathology refers to the study of these factors and the social problems they lead to” (Braun, 1995). In other words, all deviant behaviours and actions such as violent crime would be considered a social pathology. In the text by R.C Smith, it was stated that in medicine, pathology means to study the causes and effects of illness, which is usually conducted in a laboratory environment (R.C Smith, 2017). After applying that same concept to society, psychologist and sociologist have started to use the term “Social Pathology” to refer to the behaviours and problems that have a negative effect on society and that often violate social norms (R.C Smith, 2017). Social pathologies are frequently used as technical terms in reference to “deviant behaviours”, or actions that societies have agreed to being immoral or nonconforming. For instance, all social norms would believe murder is a deviant behaviour, or a social pathology because it is harmful to society and a wrongdoing. That is why laws and policing is required to prevent a society from disorganizing (collapsing or weakening). In addition, homelessness is also a factor of social pathology because it drives social norms into committing deviant acts—in other words, a poverty environment leads to all sorts of deviant behaviours.
The significance of social pathology is to “find and identify the causes of deviant acts and find ways to remove them or prevent them from happening again” (Francis. T, 1981). As mentioned, an example of this is poverty. Because poverty occurs in Indigenous communities, it’s a huge factor of social pathologies and deviant behaviours. Such pathologies include drug trafficking, drug abuse, theft, burglary, high rates of suicides, and violent crimes. All of these behaviours are committed because of characteristics to poverty such as the need of money and the issue of depression. I can personally relate to theft as being a social pathology from having a friend who has experienced a low-income life which lead to him committing a social pathology such as stealing from his own family. Another significant common factor of social pathologies in many communities is the social disease of crime. “Crime contributes to social pathologies because anything that is stated as a major crime is a deviant behaviour” (Little, W. 2013). Some examples of social pathologies in crime would be rape, domestic abuse, theft by low-income individuals, and murder because of personal revenge. Other instances of social diseases similar to poverty and crime which lead to social pathologies include gangs, isolation, gender discrimination, racism, and human right violations.
Overall in-depth of R.C Smith’s book, it was stated that “psychologist and sociologist think of societies as living organisms that need certain things in order to survive and function properly” (Little, W. 2013). From their perspective, when a society contracts an illness or pathology, and the cause cannot be discovered, the society can weaken or collapse. For example, if a society did not view murder as a deviant behaviour, how long do you think it will last? In this way, labelling an action of social pathology will help prevent a widespread of harmful behaviours.
Social Process Theories
The concept of social process theories covers three main areas of sociology. “The three areas are: social learning theory, social control theory, and social reaction theory.” (Larry, J. 2000). These three theories are criminological theories which all solve the reasoning of the wrong doings in society. The concept suggests that people are raised in an environment that forms them to make unlawful decisions.
Firstly, the social learning theory “emphasizes the prominent roles played by vicarious, symbolic, and self-regulatory processes in psychological functioning” (Bandura, A. 1997). In other words, social learning theory stresses the fact of how people learn to commit crimes through observing people’s behaviours, decisions, attitudes, and outcomes of such acts. For instance, as children we tend to mock what we constantly witness. A real-life example that can occur in a child’s life is when he/she notices the older brother shoplifting at the convenience store, the child learns that it is acceptable to do this without any consequences and later grows up constantly shoplifting. Another example is when a father drinks alcohol and uses drugs infront of his children repeatedly. This could make the children think that doing drugs and drinking is normal. Therefore, to keep your child safe, the factor of education comes into play. As children go through elementary school and middle school, they learn what is right and what is wrong in society.
Secondly, the social control theory “describes internal means of social control. It argues that relationships, commitments, values, and beliefs encourage conformity—if moral codes are internalized and individuals are tied into broader communities, individuals will voluntarily limit deviant acts” (Laufer, W., & Robertson, D.1997). In other words, the theory stresses that people’s social bonds such as relationships, commitments, values, and beliefs encourage them not to break the law. The theory is simply used to help us understand and reduce criminality and to analyze the failure of society to control criminal tendencies. The social control view tends to focus on techniques to manage human behaviour and lead to conformity. In other words, to obey society’s rules. This is accomplished by defining such things as evil, immoral, and illegal. For example, it is evil for a child to hit elders, and so the youngsters refrain from that deviant behaviour because the parent’s relationship is present in the child’s mind, therefore making the child controlled by society’s (parents) rules to not assault others.
Lastly, social reaction theory is “a labelling theory which psychologically influences a person. This is when criminality is promoted by becoming negatively labeled by significant others” (Larry, J. 2000). The labelling theory is a view of deviance, and if society were to label an individual as a deviant, it will lead the person to involve in deviant behaviour. For instance, if a teen who lives in the “ghetto area” is surrounded by gangs, violence, and other deviant behaviours, he might be labeled as a gang member. Later on, the teenager would gradually begin to do such acts and behave like a gang member, or even become one. Another significant example ties on with racism and racial carding. For instance, black people are highly labelled in Canada because of social media and this results in high rates of killing by the law enforcement. Therefore, labelling someone would change their self-concept and make them think that the situation they’re in is meant for them. (As when the teenager is labelled as a gang member by society will start to feel comfortable and become a gang member.)


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