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SOC 2551 Social Problems

Course Description

Introduces the contemporary social issues such as poverty, unemployment, energy, pollution, sexual deviance, drugs and crime. Includes causes, interactions, policy and possible solutions.

Course Objectives

Upon completion of this course, students should be able to

  • Distinguish between the basic elements and components that underlie our labeling a social issue a social problem
  • Compare and contrast how social values influence the definition and identification of social problems and shape responses to them
  • Communicate how legislative, judicial, and administrative systems respond to social problems
  • Critically analyze the assumptions on which social problems rests and solutions created by society

Week 1

Lecture: Thinking About Social Problems


  • Define a social problem and be familiar with the components of this definition
  • Identify the elements of social structure and culture
  • Identify and describe the three sociological perspectives on social problems: Structural-Functionalism, Conflict Perspective and Symbolic-Interactionalism
  • Discuss C. Wright Mills sociological perspective
  • Identify and describe the major research strategies used in social problems
  • Identify the goals given by this text
Lecture: Illness and the Healthcare Crisis


  • Be familiar with health care as a global social problem; identify the issues faced by developed and less developed nations (longevity, mortality, patterns of burden of Disease)
  • Identify the facts concerning HIV/AIDS globally and in the United States
  • Describe the extent and impact of mental illness as a social problem in the United States
  • Identify and discuss the causes of mental disorders
  • Recognize and apply the sociological theories to illness and healthcare
  • Identify and discuss the relationship between socioeconomic status, education, racial and ethnic minority status and availability to healthcare
  • Discuss the relationship between gender (women) and healthcare in the United States and the world
  • Recognize the forms of health care available to Americans and compare with health care systems of Canada and European nations
  • Discuss the high cost of health care in the United States and why so many Americans lack adequate insurance protection
  • Examine the facts surrounding HIV/AIDS and the strategies developed to alleviate the problem
  • Discuss strategies utilized for the reform of the health care system in the United States

Week 2

Lecture: Alcohol and Other Drugs


  • Discuss the extent of drug use worldwide
  • Discuss the differences in drug policies around the world
  • Identify and discuss the sociological, biological and psychological theories used to explain drug use and abuse
  • Describe the frequently used drugs identified in this text (alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, cocaine, crack cocaine, club drugs, heroin, psychotherapeutic drugs and inhalants)
  • Identify and discuss the social problems associated with the use of drugs (family problems, crime, economic problems and health problems)
  • Discuss the different treatment options possible (inpatient/outpatient treatment, peer support and therapeutic communities)
Lecture: Crime and Violence


  • Compare and contrast the nature of crime and violence in the United States and other countries
  • Describe and compare the data-gathering procedures for collecting crime statistics in the United States
  • Discuss the various types of crime identified by the Uniform Crime Index
  • Discuss the sociological perspectives related to crime and violence (Differential Association, Labeling Theory, Control Theory, Strain Theory and Subculture theories)
  • Compare and contrast the patterns of crime see in America related to gender, age, socioeconomics and race and ethnicity
  • Identify and discuss the cost of crime and violence to the American society
  • Identify and discuss the strategies designed to control crime and violence in America
  • Name the current controversies seen in crime prevention

Week 3

Lecture: Family Problems


  • Identify the global differences in defining the family
  • Describe how the family structure has changed in the United States
  • Discuss how the sociological perspectives view family problems
  • Define family violence and abuse and the causes that lead to the abuse
  • Describe the different forms of intimate violence
  • Describe elder abuse and child abuse
  • Explain the causes of divorce in America
  • Describe the impact that increases in divorce have had on the United States
  • Describe the factors associated with unmarried and teen pregnancy in the United States
  • Discuss the social and cultural factors that contribute to intimate partner and family violence and abuse
  • Discuss the strategies used in preventing violence and abuse discussed in this text

Week 4

Lecture: Race and Ethnic Relations


  • Explain why race is a social construct and not a scientifically valid category
  • Identify and be able to give examples of the different forms of interaction present between minority-majority populations
  • Trace the pattern of how race and ethnic populations have been classified in the United States
  • Explain the race and ethnic composition used in the United States and the benefits as well as concerns of mixed-race identification
  • Describe the ethnic composition and patterns seen in immigration and requirements for United States citizenship
  • Explain how the sociological perspectives can be applied to race and ethnic relations
  • Define prejudice and discuss the various aspects of prejudice, modern racism and aversion racism
  • Discuss how prejudice can be learned (role of socialization, stereotypes and the media on the theories of prejudice)
  • Define discrimination and discuss individual discrimination 
  • Identify the process of institutional discrimination and how seen in education, housing, employment, income, housing and justice system
  • Describe how discrimination is manifested in hate crimes against racial and ethnic groups
  • Identify and discuss the strategies used to respond to prejudice, racism and discrimination
Lecture: Gender Equity


  • Define sexism and describe the differences in treatment of women worldwide
  • Describe the inequity experienced by women in the United States
  • Explain how the sociological perspectives view gender and gender inequity
  • Define structural sexism and describe the ways in which institutions and organizations subordinate women (education, income, work politics and law)
  • Define and discuss cultural sexism, sexism in family relations, technology, schools, media and feminization of poverty
  • Describe how traditional gender roles develop and the social problems associated with them
  • Identify and describe the strategies associated with the grass roots movements and gender inequity
  • Discuss the public policy strategies criticized in combating gender inequity

Week 5

Lecture: Sexual Orientation


  • Explain the terminology used to define sexual orientation
  • Identify the global laws and social attitudes of homosexuality worldwide
  • Discuss the prevalence of homosexuality, bisexuality and heterosexuality in the United States and the research that has been done
  • Describe the conflicting views of the origins of sexual orientation
  • Examine the sociological perspectives and how they explain the differences in sexual orientation
  • Identify and discuss the issues surrounding heterosexism, homophobia, and biphobia
  • Identify and discuss the cultural origins of homophobia in the United States
  • Describe the effects of homophobia and heterosexism on heterosexuals
  • Describe discrimination against sexual orientation in the workplace, family relationships, child custody, adoption and foster care and laws
  • Identify and discuss the forms of violence and hate crimes against sexual orientation minorities (schools, technology)
  • Discuss the strategies developed to reduce antigay prejudice and discrimination (legislation, education, workplace, support for couples and parents)
Lecture: Poverty and Wealth


  • Define poverty and the extent of it globally
  • Identify and discuss the international measures of poverty (HPI-1, HPI-2) and those used in the United States
  • Describe how the sociological theories apply to economic inequity and poverty in the United States
  • Describe wealth, economic inequity and poverty in the United States
  • Discuss the relationships between poverty and education, gender, age, family stresses, race and ethnicity and work
  • Discuss how health problems, education, family and parenting problems, housing problems and homelessness, war and social conflict are affected by poverty
  • Explain how a cycle of poverty is created
  • Discuss the government public assistance and welfare programs in the United States
  • Identify and discuss the myths and realities of the welfare programs in the United States
  • Discuss how minimum wage and charities affect poverty
  • Describe the international responses to poverty

Week 6

Lecture: Work and Unemployment


  • Discuss global economics
  • Compare and contrast Capitalism and Socialism
  • Describe corporate multinationalism, how they developed and the effects
  • Describe and discuss the sociological perspectives and how they relate to work and the economy
  • Describe the problems of work and unemployment associated with sweatshops, child labor worldwide and its causes, child prostitution, health and safety hazards, dissatisfaction and alienation, work and family concerns, unemployment and underemployment and labor unions
  • Describe the worldwide strategies used to control and combat sweatshops and child labor
  • Describe the problem aspects of work including worker health and safety concerns, family policies and programs
  • Discuss the benefits of technology in the workplace
Lecture: Education


  • Discuss the vast differences in education provided cross-culturally
  • Discuss the sociological perspectives as they relate to education
  • Describe the inequities of education based on social class, race and ethnicity and gender
  • Describe and discuss the problems seen in the American educational system today (poor academic achievement, school dropouts, violence, inadequate school facilities and personnel and deficient teachers)
  • Discuss the innovations taken to improve American education including National Educational policy, character education, computer technology in education, school choice, home schooling and private schools

Week 7

Lecture: Urban Problems


  • Describe urbanization as a worldwide phenomenon
  • Describe the history of urbanization and suburbanization in the United States
  • Describe metropolitan growth and urban sprawl in American cities
  • Describe the sociological theories used in describing urbanization
  • Identify and discuss each of the urban problems discussed in this text (poverty, housing problems, inadequate schools, the three-headed monster, transportation and urban sprawl and displacement)
  • Describe the strategies used in saving our cities as urban development and revitalization, reducing HIV/AIDS, addiction, crime, transportation and urban growth
Lecture: Population and Environmental Problems


  • Trace the enormous population growth that has occurred in the United States and worldwide
  • Describe what is meant by doubling time
  • Identify and describe the sociological theories used to explain population problems
  • Identify and describe the sociological theories used to explain environmental problems
  • Recognize the problems associated with population growth discussed in this text (poor maternal and infant health, global food requirements, water shortages, depletion of natural resources and urban crowding)
  • Identify and discuss the strategies discussed in the text for slowing population growth
  • Identify and discuss the causes and consequences of environmental problems (air pollution, global warming, land and water pollution, pesticides, depletion of natural resources, environmental illness, environmental injustice, biodiversity and disappearing livelihood)
  • Discuss the environmental and public health hazards associated with computers
  • Discuss the effects of industrialization and cultural values on environmental problems
  • Describe the strategies that have been identified to respond to the environmental problems

Week 8

Lecture: Science and Technology


  • Identify and describe the differences between science and technology
  • Define and give examples of the levels of technology
  • Discuss the globalization of technology
  • Explain the differences between the four sectors that fund research in the United States
  • In the resolution of social problems, describe the differences between social engineering and a technological fix
  • Discuss how the sociological theories relate to science and technology
  • Trace how technology has transformed work
  • Discuss how computers have changed work and commerce
  • Discuss how biotechnology has transformed reproductive strategies giving the pros and cons
  • Discuss the societal consequences that have arisen as a result of science and technology (alienation, deskilling and upskilling, loss of privacy, unemployment, inequity, health issues and the challenges to traditional values)
  • Discuss the strategies outlined in this text to control science and technology
Lecture: World Conflict


  • Trace how war has influenced the development of the world's civilizations
  • Discuss the various aspects of military spending
  • Identify and discuss the sociological theories developed concerning conflict and war
  • Identify and discuss the sociological problems that are associated with war (death and disability, rape, forced prostitution and displacement of women and children, disruption of social-psychological comfort, diversion of economic resources and destruction of the environment)
  • Discuss the post Cold War era
  • Discuss the effects of terrorism as a form of war
  • Describe the action taken worldwide to maintain world peace

The course description, objectives and learning outcomes are subject to change without notice based on enhancements made to the course. November 2011