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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 activi...

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[1] Best, Joel. Images of Issues, Typifying Contemporary Social Problems. 2nd Edition. Aldine de Gruyter, New York. 1995, 3. [2] Best, 1995, 4. [3] Best, 1995, 5. [4] Best, 1995, 6. [5] Best, 1995, 6. [6] Best, 1995, 8. [7] Best , 1995, 342. [8] Best, 1995, 345. [9] Sgroi, Suzanne M. Handbook of Clinical intervention in Child Sexual Abuse. Lexington Books, Toronto, 1982. 9. [10] Kendall, Diana, et al. Sociology in Our Times. ITP Nelson and Co. Toronto, 1997. 126. [11] Best, Joel. Rhetoric in Claims about Missing Children. 1990, 31.

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