Sociology Key Words

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All Key Concepts for Sociology from Rob Webb AQA book

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Question Answer
Ageism the negative stereotyping of people on the basis of their age
Alienation where an individual or group feels socially isolated and estranged because they lack the power to control their lives and realise their true potential
Banding a form of streaming
Birth Rate the number of live births per thousand of the population per year
Bourgeoisie a Marxist term for the capitalist class, the owners of the means of production
Case Study research that examines a single case or example
Childhood a socially defined age-status.
Civil Partnership the 2004 Civil Partnership Ace has given same-sex couples similar legal rights to married couples in respect of pensions, inheritance, tenancies and property.
Closed-ended Questions questions used in social survey that allow only a limited choice of answers from a pre-set list.
Comparative Method a research method that compares two social groups that are alike apart from one factor.
Compensatory Education government education policies such as Operation Head start in the USA that seek to tackle the problem of under-achievement by providing extra support and funding to schools and families in deprived areas.
Comprehensive System a non-selective education system where all children attend the same type of secondary school.
Conjugal Roles the roles played by husband and wife.
Content Analysis a method of analysing the content of documents and media output to find out how often and in what ways different types of people or events appear.
Control Group in experiments, scientists compare a control group and an experimental group that are identical in all respects.
Correlation when two or more factors or variables vary together.
Correspondence Principle Bowles and Gintis' concept describing the way that the organisation and control of schools mirrors or 'corresponds to' the workplace in capitalist society.
Cultural Capital the knowledge, attitudes, values, language, tastes and abilities that the middle class transmit to their children.
Cultural Deprivation the theory that many working-class and black children are inadequately socialised and therefore lack the 'right' culture needed for educational success
Culture all those things that are learnt and shared by a society or group of people and transmitted from generation to generation through socialisation.
Curriculum those things taught or learnt in educational institutions.
Death Rate the number of deaths per thousand of the population per year
Deferred Gratification postponing immediate rewards or pleasures, generally with the aim of producing a greater reward at a later date
Demography the study of population, including birth, death, fertility and infant mortality rates, immigration and emigration, and age structure, as well as the reasons for changes in these.
Dependency Culture where people assume that the state will support them, rather than them relying on their own efforts and taking responsibility for their families.
Dependency Ratio the relationship between the size of the working population and the non-working or dependent population.
Deviance behaviour that does not conform to the norms of a society or group.
Differentation distinguishing or creating differences between individuals or groups.
Discrimination treating people differently, whether negatively or positively.
Documents are of two types: Public Documents are produced by organisations such as governments, schools, media, etc. Personal Documents are created by individuals and often provide first-person accounts of events and experinces
Domestic Labour work performed in the home, such as childcare, cooking, and cleaning.
Dual Burden when a person is responsible for two jobs.
Education Triage the process whereby schools sort pupils into 'hopeless cases', 'those who will pass anyway', and 'those with potential to pass'
Emotion Work the work involved in meeting the emotional needs of other people
Empathy an understanding of how another person thinks, feels or acts, achieved by putting oneself in their place.
Empty Shell Marriage a marriage in name only, where a couple continues to live under the same roof but as separate individuals.
Ethics issues of right and wrong; moral principles or guidelines.
Ethnic Group people who share the same heritage, culture and identity, often including the same language and religion, and who see themselves as a distinctive group.
Ethnocentric seeing or judging things in a biased way from the viewpoint of one particular culture
Exchange Theory the idea that people create, maintain or break off relationships depending on the costs and benefit of doing so
Experiments a laboratory experiment is a test carried out in controlled conditions in an artificial setting to establish a cause-and-effect relationship between two or more variables.
Exploitation paying workers less than the value of their labour
Expressive Role the caring, nurturing, 'homemaker' role in the family.
Extended Family any group of kin extended beyond the nuclear family
Family Diversity the idea that there is a range of different family types, rather than a single dominant one
Family Practises the routine actions through which we create our sense of 'being a family member', such as doing the shopping or the DIY
Family Structure the composition of a group or people who live together as a family unit.
Fertility Rate the total fertility rate (TFR) is the average number of children women will have during their fertile years.
Feminism a sociological perspective and political movement that focuses on women's oppression and the struggle to end it.
Fordism a type of industrial production based on a detailed division of labour, using closely supervised, low-skilled workers and assembly-line technology to mass-produce standardised goods.
Function the contribution that a part of society or well-being of society as whole.
Functional Fit Parsons' theory that, with industrialisation, the structure of the family becomes nuclear to the fit the needs of industrial society for a geographically and socially mobile labour force
Functionalism a consensus perspective in sociology that sees society as based on shared values into which members are socialised.
Gender the social and cultural characteristics of men and women.
Globalisation the idea that the world is becoming increasingly interconnected and barriers are disappearing.
Hawthorne Effect where the subjects of a research study know they are being studied and began to behave differently as a result. thereby undermining the study's validity
Hierarchy an organisation or social structure based on a 'pyramid' of senior and junior positions and top-down control
Household a group of people who life together and share things such as meals, bills, facilities or chores, or one person living alone
Hypothesis an untested theory or explanation, expressed as a statement.
Identity the individual's sense of self, influenced by socialisation and interactions with others; a sense of belonging to a community.
Ideology originally a Marxist idea meaning a set of beliefs that serve the interests of a dominant social group by justifying their privileged position
Immediate Gratification a preference for immediate pleasure or reward, without regard for the longer-term consequences
Industrialisation the shift from an agricultural economy to one based on factory production
Individualism the belief that the individual is more important than the group or community.
Infant Mortality Rate The number of infants who die before their first birthday, per thousand live births per year.
Informed Consent where those taking part in a study have agreed to do so and understand the purpose of the study
Instrumental Role the breadwinner or provider role in the family
Interactionism a sociological perspective that focuses on small-scale interactions between individuals and groups, rather than on the large-scale workings of society.
Interpretivism a term covering a range of perspectives including interactionism. Interpretivists focus on how we construct our social worlds through the meanings we create and attach to events, actions and situations.
Interview Schedule the list of questions to be asked in an interview.
Interviews a method of gathering information by asking questions orally, either face-to-face or by telephone.
Labelling the process of attaching a definition or meaning to an individual or group
Legitimation justifying something by making it seem fair and natural.
Life Chances the chances that different social groups have of obtaining those things society regards as desirable or of suffering those things regarded as undesirable
Life Course Analysis an approach focusing on the meanings family members give to life events and choices
Life Expectancy how long on average people who are born in a given year expect to live
Living Apart Together ('LATs') couples who are in a significant relationship, but not married or cohabiting.
Longitudinal Study study of a sample of people in which information is collected at regular intervals over an extended period of time
Macro-Level theories such as functionalism and Marxism that focus on the large scale.
Marketisation the policy of introducing market forces of supply and demand into areas run by the state, such as education and the National Health Service.
Marxism a conflict perspective based on the ideas of Karl Marx. It sees society as divided into two opposed classes, one of which exploits the labour of the other.
Material Deprivation poverty; a lack of basic necessities such as adequate diet, housing, clothing or the money to buy these things.
Meritocracy an educational or social system where everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed and where individuals' rewards and status are achieved by their own efforts rather than ascribed by their gender, class or ethnic group.
Micro-Level theories such as interactionism that focus on small-scale, face-to-face interaction.
Mobility movement; change of position. Sociologists distinguish between geographical mobility.
Modernism modernists perspectives believe that society has a fairly clear-cut, predictable structure and that it is possible to gain true and certain scientific knowledge of how society functions.
Multicultural a society or institution that recognises and gives value to different cultures and/or ethnic groups.
Myth of Meritocracy Functionalists argue that the education system is meritocratic, but Bowles and Gintis claim that meritocracy is an ideology legitimating inequality by falsely claiming that everyone has equal opportunity and that unequal rewards are the 'natural' of unequal ability.
Natural Change the difference between the number of births and the number of deaths in a population, resulting in either a natural increase or natural decrease
Net Migration the difference between the number of immigrants entering a country and the number if emigrants leaving it
New Right a conservative political perspective whose supporters believe in self-reliance and individual choice, rather than dependence on the state.
New Vocationalism the idea that education should be primarily about meeting the needs of the economy, especially by equipping young people with the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values needed to prepare for work
Non-Participant Observation a primary research method where the observer records events without taking part in them.
Norms social rules, expectations or standards that govern the behaviour expected in particular situations.
Nuclear Family a two-generation family of a man and woman and their dependent children, own or adopted
Objectivity the absence of bias or preconceived ideas. It implies that we can look at things as they really are, without our opinions or values getting in the way.
Official Statistics quantitative data collected by the government
Open-Ended Questions questions in a social survey that allow respondents to answer as they wish, in their own words.
Operationalisation the process of turning a sociological concept or theory into something measurable.
Parentocracy literally, 'rule by parents'. The concept is associated with marketised education systems, which are based on ideology of parental choice of school.
Participant Observation a primary research method in which the sociologists studies a group by taking a role within it and participating in it activities.
Patriarchy literally, rule by the Father. Feminists use the term to describe a society based on male domination.
Pilot Study a small-scale trial run, usually of a social survey, conducted before the main study.
Polarisation a process that results in the creation of two opposite extremes
Population in a social survey, the population is all the members of the group that the researcher is interested in
Positivism the belief that society is made up of 'social facts' that can be studied scientifically to discover laws cause and effect.
Post-Fordism a type of industrial production. A highly skilled, adaptable workforce, combined with computerised technology.
Postmodernism a perspective that rejects the modernists' belief in progress and their view that we can have certain true knowledge of society that will enable us to improve it.
Primary Data information collected first hand by sociologists themselves for their own research purposes.
Privatised Family a nuclear family whose lifestyle and leisure patterns centre on the home rather than the extended family, workmates or wider community.
Proletariat the working class in capitalist society they own no means of production and are 'wage slaves', forced to sell their labour-power to the bourgeoisie in order to survive
Pure Relationship one which exists solely to meet each other partner's needs.
Qualitative Data information, usually expressed in words, about people's thoughts, feelings, motivations, attitudes, values etc.
Quantitative Data information in numerical form.
Questionnaires list of questions. Written or self-completion questionnaires are widely used in large-scale social surveys, where they may be sent out and returned by post.
Racism a system of beliefs that defines people as superior or inferior, and justifies their unequal treatment, on the basis of biological differences such as skin colour.
Reconstituted Family a stepfamily, in which one or both partners has children from a previous relationship.
Reliability a piece of research is reliable if it produces exactly the same results when repeated using identical methods and procedures
Representative typical; a cross-section. A researcher may choose to study a sample of a larger group.
Reproduction the re-creation or continuation of something into future generations.
Reserve Army of Labour a Marxist concept describing groups who can be brought into the workforce when there is a labour shortage as the capitalist economy expands during a boom, and discarded when it contracts
Response Rate the proportion of those people included in a social survey who actually reply or respond to the questions asked.
Role how someone who occupies a particular status is expected to act.
Sample a smaller group selected from the larger survey population to take part in a study.
Sampling the process of selecting a sample. The aim of sampling is usually to select a sample that is representative of the wider survey population, so to allow the study's finding to be generalised.
Sampling Frame the list of people from which a sample for a social survey is selected
Secondary Data information collected not by sociologists themselves for their own research purposes, but by other people or organisations for non-sociological purposes.
Secularisation the decline of religion; the process whereby religious beliefs, practises and institutions lose their importance or influence.
Selection in education, the process of choosing and allocating pupils to particular school, class, stream etc.
Self-Fulfilling Prophecy where a prediction made about a person or group comes true simply because it has been made
Separatism a radical feminist idea that women should live independently of men as the only way to free themselves from the patriarchal oppression of the heterosexual family.
Sexism prejudice and discrimination on the grounds of sex
Sexuality sexual orientation; a person's sexual preference; e.g heterosexual, homosexual (gay or lesbian)
Social Action Theories see individuals as having free will and choice, and the power to create society through their actions and interactions, rather than being shaped by society.
Social Class social groupings or hierarchy based on differences in wealth, income or occupation.
Social Construction where something is created by social processes, rather than simply occurring naturally.
Social Control the means by which society tries to ensure that its members behave as others expect them to.
Social Policy the actions, plans and programmes of government bodies and agencies that aim to deal with a problem or achieve a goal.
Social Survey and research method that involves systematically collecting information from a group of people by asking them questions.
Socialisation the process by which an individual learns or internalises the culture of society.
Speech Code patterns of ways of using language.
Stabilisation of Adult Personalities according to Parsons, one of the two functions of the nuclear family along with primary socialisation.
Status a position in society.
Stereotype a simplified, one-sided and often negative image of a group or individual which assumes that all members of that group share the same characteristics
Stigma a negative label or mark of disapproval, discredit or shame attached to a person, group or characteristic.
Stratification the division of society into a hierarchy of unequal groups.
Stratified Diffusion the spread of beliefs and practices from one social class to another.
Streaming where children are separated into different ability groups or classes and then each ability group is taught separately from the others for all subjects
Structural Theories see individuals as entirely shaped by the way society is structured or organised
Subculture a group of people within society who share norms, values, beliefs and attitudes that are in some ways different from or opposed to the mainstream culture
Symmetrical Family Young and Willmott's 'stage three' privatised nuclear family with more equal and joint conjugal roles, in which husbands participate in domestic labour as well as being breadwinners and wives go out to work as well as being homemakers
Triangulation the use of two or more different methods or sources of data so that they complement each other, the strengths of one countering the weaknesses of the other and vice versa.
Tripartite System the system of secondary education created by the 1994 Education Act, based on three types of school. The 11+ exam was used to identify pupils' aptitudes and abilities.
Underclass those at the lowest level of the class structure; a class below the working class with a separate, deviant subculture and lifestyle, including a high rate of lone-parent families, male unemployment and criminality.
Unit of Consumption unlike the pre-industrial family, the modern family no longer works together, but still consumes together as a single unit or group the income that its members earn
Unit of Production where family members work together as economic producers, said to be more common in pre-industrial society
Urbanisation the process of change from a rural society where the majority of the population lives in the countryside to an urban society where most people live in towns and cities
Validity the capacity of a research method to measure what it sets out to measure; a true or genuine picture of what something is really like.
Value Consensus agreement among society's members about what values are important; a shared culture.
Values ideas or beliefs about general principles or goals.
Variables any factor that can change or vary; such as age, gender, occupation or income.
Vocational connected to a career. Vocational education and training transmits knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to pursue particular careers.
Welfare State where the government or state takes responsibility for people's well being, especially their basic minimum needs.
Bourgeoisie Marx argues that the bourgeoisie's ownership of the means of production also gives them political and ideological power
Childhood Western societies today define children as vulnerable and segregate from the adult world, but in the past they were part of adult society from an early age
Curriculum The overt or official curriculum includes the subjects, courses etc offered while the hidden curriculum includes all those things learnt without being formally taught and often acquired simply through the everyday workings of the school, such as attitudes of obedience, conformity and competitiveness.
Dependency Culture The New Right see the welfare state as over-generous, encouraging people to remain unemployed and dependent on benefits, and as responsible for the growing number of lone parent families and rising crime rates
Deviance Deviance is a social construction. Deviance is relative.
Feminism Feminists argue that sociology has traditionally taken a 'malestream' viewpoint that ignores women.
Identity Postmodernists see identity as a choice of individuals make from among different sources of identity, such as gender, ethnic group, religion, sexuality, leisure interests, nationality etc.
Interviews Structured Interviews use pre-set, standardised, usually closed-ended questions producing quantitative data. Unstructured Interviews are more like a guided conversation and use open-ended questions producing qualitative data. Semi-Structured interviews include both types of question.