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study of social problems

The definition of a social problem varies greatly depending on whether an objectivist approach or a constructionist approach is taken. This is because sociologists that adopt these unique perspectives will differ in how they view the nature of a social problem. The objectivist definition of a social problem is perhaps more common sense because it “suggests that the essence of social problems lies in objective social conditions and that some conditions are problems.” [1] This definition focuses around the evaluation of conditions in society to decide whether they are harmful to either individuals or society, and then defining them as social problems. If a condition fails to meet a given criterion of harm, it then would not be considered a social problem. While this process of defining social problems in terms of objective conditions may seem adequate, further analysis reveals serious flaws. Foremost “it minimizes or even ignores the subjective nature of social problems.” [2] This becomes apparent when one realizes that not all harmful conditions are considered to be social problems, such as the nutritional concerns of a high fat diet. Another flaw in considering social problems to be the result of objective conditions of harm is that “the objective conditions that people define as social problems have relatively little in common.” [3] A list of social problems will have a great variety of topics with no common theme, nor common causes and effects. It may appear that social problems are inevitably subjective, and that a more valid definition could be sought in the constructionist perspective. The constructionist perspective to social problems focuses on the processes by which people designate some social conditions as social problems. This approach assumes that what is or is not a social problem is a product, or construction of social activities known as claimsmaking. [4] ...

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