What are some examples of social structures?

Some examples of social structures are an egalitarian society, the nuclear family unit, class structure, and the patriarchy.

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Social structures refer to the ways society is organized. The organized grouping of social institutions and social relationships is essentially what defines social structures. Some examples of social structures include family, economy, education, religion, law, class, and others.

Family, for instance, is one of the oldest and most classic examples of a social structure. The definitions of family vary. According to some, a family is a structure that usually consists of two individuals, often romantically involved, who take care of their biological and/or adopted children. Other definitions include only one parent or guardian, along with step families, extended families, childless couples, and so on. Families contribute to society by giving each family member a distinct social role and identity; families essentially keep the society running.

Religion is another example of a social structure or social institution; it exists in pretty much all cultures and societies, and it can either contribute to the general social development or damage society as a whole.

The economy is also a social structure that deals with the production and consumption of goods and services within a society.

Education is a social institution that provides people with knowledge and skills that contribute to societal growth and development.

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Social structures are how societies are organized. One common example of a social structure is a patriarchy. In this kind of society, prevalent through much of the world, society is structured according to a binary notion of gender, with men on the top and women on the bottom. In the more extreme manifestations of this system, men own the vast bulk of the property, and with marriage, the woman is understood to "merge" with the man so that any property she owns becomes his. Women do not vote in this system of social organization, the children in a marriage "belong" to the man and take his last name, and men hold all the positions of power and authority in the society. While this can seem cruel and unjust—and it often was—proponents saw it as the only way to insure social stability.

In the southern plantation social structure that existed in the American South prior to the Civil War, one's place in the social structure was determined by birth, with men at the top, white women below them, then black people below white people. It was believed that, ideally, if everyone simply smiled and graciously accepted their predetermined slot in the social order, the society would function smoothly. Of course, as in patriarchy (and this society, too, was patriarchal), those "born to" the classes below tended to rebel against their lack of privilege.

An alternative social structure, one many countries have gravitated towards in the last one hundred years, is egalitarian: all citizens of a nation, regardless of gender or race, are treated equally under the law and are supposed to have the same opportunities to rise in the social order.

In communist countries in the twentieth century, all hierarchy was supposed to be flattened into a classless society. People referred to each other as comrade, and women and minorities were supposed to be treated equally. In the Soviet Union, women served beside men in the army and worked beside men in the factories.

It is difficult to achieve purity or equity no matter what the social structure. In highly hierarchical structures, people tend to get out of their assigned "place," and in more equalitarian structures, hierarchies have a way of popping up.

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 A social structure is a group of people that interact together on a consistent basis. The family unit is the universal social structure. Think about your family. The parent or parents head the social structure, and the children are cared for and directed via that structure. Now throw the net out to your larger world. How about your classroom, your school, the clubs, and sports groups? These are social structures.

Social structures help us define who we are in a society and how we function in that society. Such things as our race,  our economic status, and gender play a role in social structure. 

We hear politicians discuss the social structure when they talk about  marriage, divorce, welfare, and all the laws that govern our society. Some people see us changing our social structure too rapidly, others feel we are not moving quickly enough. Just look at how we have changed as a society by the Supreme Courts ruling allowing same sex marriage. Institutions and society are slow to change, but social structures do morph as the peoples' understanding of an issue changes. 

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Social structures exist in all societies and have an effect on how humans operate within society. These structures make up our society in which we live and are very organized. Most people do not even know that these social structures even exist and I did not either, until my studies in college. Social structures consist of social relationships, as well as any social institutions within a society. One example of a social structure is social class (upper-class, middle-class, and poor). The different social classes vary in the fact that they do not have access to the same resources that society has to offer. In addition, these social classes view one another differently. The interactions between one social class might be completely different from the interaction within another social class. Another example of a social structure is the different levels of government. For example: the federal, state, and municipal levels of government.

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