What are some examples of social structure?  

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Social structure is the underlying organization of society, including the ideological apparatus that supports the organization into the institutions by which the structure is made operational. The overall social structure is an abstraction that is distinct from any given institution and from the functioning of any of those institutions. That...

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Social structure is the underlying organization of society, including the ideological apparatus that supports the organization into the institutions by which the structure is made operational. The overall social structure is an abstraction that is distinct from any given institution and from the functioning of any of those institutions. That is, social structure includes such institutions as the family, the educational system, and the penal system. It also includes the behaviors of individuals and groups within those institutions, but it is not the same as those individuals and groups.

The structures within any given society may include particular variants of those institutions. For example, the institution called “the family” may take any number of different forms, even within the same society. In Western societies, the nuclear family has become the norm, and typically has been headed by a heterosexual couple; the composition of any given family is distinct from one of its fundamental roles in all societies, which is to socialize children. If a nuclear family is composed of a same-sex couple and their children are adopted, the institution of the family retains the same structural position and function.

Looking similarly at the penal system, all societies include a way to punish and/or rehabilitate those who break laws or otherwise fail to follow prescribed norms. In some societies, there is a distinct penal system. The actual prisons in which people are incarcerated are buildings constructed to carry out the functions of the social structure, but they are distinct from the structure.

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A social structure is made up of institutions which define a society and hold it together. These social institutions include family, religious groups or churches, schools and universities, the legal system, government and the economy.

Collectively, these social constructs create a structure in which we can relate to and interact with others without causing harm or discomfort.

At the most basic level, a family is an example of social structure in that it provides a framework for teaching children how to live moral, ethical lives.

The legal system ensures the maintenance of social cohesion by punishing those who break the laws which govern that society.

The education system, as another example, equips people with the skills and knowledge that they require to become positively contributing members of a society.

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Social structures are systems or relationships which organize the way individuals and groups of people interact with one another. We consider them to be fairly fixed, if not static, and to be understood by all members of a group. 

One example we can consider is the social structure of the family unit. Most people grow up with their families and experience power relations and responsibility in the form of older-younger. We can very easily see this in the relationship between parents and children. At the risk of being reductive, we could say that the social structure of the family unit works because parents provide for their child's wellbeing, and children obey and learn from their parents. Of course, in reality, it is far more complex than this statement captures.

Another example to consider is the concept of a class or caste system. Class and caste systems are a form of macro or societal structures-- rules which govern the functioning of an entire society based on relative access to power, prestige, and privilege. Class systems are often based on economic status but may also take into account racial or ethnic identity, heritage, gender, occupation, or health status. Caste systems are more dependent upon particularities of ethnic identity and a heritage of family members belonging to a particular class. Another difference between class and caste systems is that class offers a sense of mobility-- someone can increase or decrease their class status through particular choices in life. In contrast, caste systems offer no mobility, regardless of life decisions. 

The opposite of a stratified or differentiated social structure would be an egalitarian one. In egalitarian societies, all members of a group are valued equally and contribute their efforts and ideas for the benefit of the entire group. Early human groups were egalitarian, and some small still practice this today. Egalitarianism is not only a societal structure and may be practiced in groups of very small size. You may have experienced egalitarianism in your friend group when a decision-making opportunity arose and everyone participated in the process. 

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