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Jessica Pope eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Sociology is the study of social behavior. It encompasses the study of social groups, social interaction, and social institutions such as religion, government, and family. Sociology examines both how individuals behave within social institutions as well as how social institutions themselves change and transform through time.

Take, for example, the social institution of marriage. Sociology looks at how individuals behave within marriage. What are the motivations, choices, behavioral patterns, etc. of people within the institution of marriage? At another level, sociology asks about marriage itself. Why does marriage occur, what are its different forms, how has marriage changed through time, and why? In this way, sociology seeks to understand both individual and institutional dynamics. It also inquires into the relationship between the individual and the institution. Sociology asks how people shape and change social institutions, and how they themselves are shaped and changed by these institutions.