Social structure refers to a society’s patterned social arrangement that determines the behaviors and actions of different people within the society (Martin, 2011). This involves the relationships that exist between different groups or entities that emphasize the notion that society consists of structurally related entities, which have different purposes, functions, or meanings. Social structure influences various social systems, such as the legal system, economic system, cultural system, political system, just to mention a few (Martin, 2011). Some of the social structures in human society include family, class, religion, economy, and law. Social structures create predictability and order in the society; thereby they are necessary for human development. People can learn values, attitudes and behaviors from other people by interacting in person or over the Internet. Individuals will be able to interpret various social situations they encounter because of social structures (Martin, 2011). For instance, people expect families to provide children with basic needs, police to offer individuals the protection against criminal activities, hospitals to provide patients with medication, and schools to give students high quality education. This discussion will consider the patterned nature of interactions that exist in social institutions, groups of people and among individuals, as well as the influence of social structure on youth’s lives.
An analysis of the patterned nature of interactions among social institutions, individuals and groups of individuals will provide an understanding of social structure. Social institutions refer to the organized rules and beliefs that determine how the society will meet vital social needs (Martin, 2011). The most important social institutions include family, education, religion, government and economy. In the contemporary society, people consider mass media, science and medicine, the military, and sports as social institutions. A social institution consists of standardized behavior patterns and ideologies. For instance, a family contains statuses that depict various relationships like husband-wife, brother-sister, and parent-child relationships (Martin, 2011). Functionalists believe that social institutions satisfy vital social needs of every person in the society. On the other hand, conflict theorists suggest that some people continue to experience problems despite the existence of social institutions. For instance, the homeless individuals lack the resources and power to support their interests when the dominant groups oppose them. Social institutions like the government encourage the powerful and wealthy people’s privileges, while promoting powerlessness and poverty among others (Martin, 2011). Therefore, social institutions may lead to social forces that will put some people in advantaged social positions, while others would be in disadvantaged social positions.
The most common social structures depend on the social interactions of individuals, during which persons share opinions and behaviors. A person is likely to acquire a variety of behaviors by interacting with other individuals in the society (Martin, 2011). Interpersonal interactions regulate the value and belief systems, behavioral systems, and cognitive meanings of individuals in the society. It has been evident that the interpersonal agents, such as parents, family and peers influence social interactions significantly. In the collective societies, interpersonal elements influence interpersonal interactions more than the personal elements do. For instance, a young person may acquire antisocial behaviors after interacting with other peers, who always portray social evils, such as robbery, burglary, and bullying in the society (Martin, 2011). A computer illiterate person may become literate by interacting with people, who have enough computer knowledge. However, a social structure may depend on individualism, which consists of the behaviors of a person, independent from other people’s opinions and attitudes.
Individualism refers to the social outlook, moral status, ideology, and political philosophy of a person, which have a close association with the person’s desires, interests, goals, and lifestyles (Martin, 2011). The living standards in the contemporary society have enhanced individualism. For instance, a lot of people spend many hours in front of their computers to master various functions, including education, job, shopping and others. The Internet allows individuals to work from their homes, thereby weakening interpersonal interactions among employees. Web technology has influenced the whole world positively because every person can be able to gain knowledge without interacting with other people in person (Martin, 2011). People can share insights or personal information over the Internet, which promotes the acquisition of knowledge for personal wellbeing. However, the Internet leads to the development of weak and temporary relationships among people due to the lack of face-to-face interactions (Martin, 2011). Once people gain the necessary information from their online friends, the rate of further interaction may diminish significantly. Online friends usually interact when there is a need for assistance.
Social Structure and the Lives of Youths
Social structures are significant in influencing the lives of young people in the society (Lareau, 2011). Social interactions among peers and family members may determine the behaviors of the youth. Young people have a high likelihood of adopting undesirable sexual standards due to peer pressure. Research has shown that the family is a significant agent in determining the sexual behaviors of young people (Lareau, 2011). Parents play a significant role in the lives of adolescents by moderating negative influences of peer pressure. However, in the contemporary society, many parents have failed to supervise their youths because of various occupations, which force parents to spend most of their time at the workplaces. Therefore, the youth in such families may fail to understand the impacts of doing activities that expose them to risky sexual behaviors (Lareau, 2011). For instance, unsupervised youths may exchange pornographic and erotic materials over the Internet, as well as abuse drugs, such as marijuana, methamphetamine, alcohol, caffeine, just to mention a few. Social institutions, such as religion and law may better youth’s lives through discouraging social evils. For instance, Christianity considers sex before marriage as a sin. Therefore, youths may not engage in evil activities in order to be free from sin (Lori, 2005).
According to Pascoe (2005), adolescent boys gain masculinity due to persistent repudiation of the faggot identity. Fag imitations and fag talk act as a discussion that American boys use to discipline themselves, as well as disciplining their colleagues through jocular relationships. Homosexuals are likely to be less competent in achieving masculine tasks and heterosexual prowess. They reveal femininity or weakness, which is against their wish (Pascoe, 2005). The fag discussion involves racism because the white boys experience less homophobia than is the case with the African-American boys. Social institutions, such as families, sports, media, schools and workplaces, show how men portray their masculine characteristics. Pascoe (2005) suggests that gender identity results from the day-to-day interactions. People consider that all gays possess feminine characteristics, but research has shown that some of them actually possess masculine qualities. Despite the fact that some homosexuals possess masculine qualities, boys make efforts to avoid being fags.
Lori (2005) argues that the identity of a young person develops when the person interacts with other people in the society. The construction of various personal, social, and situational identities depends on the rewards and costs associated with the identities. In America, religion is a significant social institution that maintains group solidarity and identity, especially for immigrants. Religious institutions preserve ethnic boundaries and cultural traditions of different groups of people (Lori, 2005). Therefore, they determine how young people should behave and act in the society. Young people assume religious identities due to the influence of their parents. This is because they cannot be able to select and adhere to a religious identity by themselves. Religion may prevent youths from participating in various activities, as well as engaging in dangerous behaviours (Lori, 2005).