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What are the major elements of the social structure?

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The major elements of the social structure are institutions, social groups, statuses, and roles.

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A social structure is exactly as it sounds—the way society is structured, or organized. Although the concept has been debated by social scientists over the years, there are common elements derived from a social structure’s continuous social activities in the way it has been defined, including institutions, social groups, statuses, and roles.

Institutions are the traditional, ongoing pattern of social relationships within a social structure, most often recognized as family, religion, politics, economics, and education. Contemporary society has also given root to others inherent to modern topics such as science and technology, mass media, medicine, sport, and the military that are sometimes included in this category.

Social Groups, defined as two or more individuals who share common ideals and interactions, make up the core of institutions. Families and friends are a good example of smaller scale or primary social groups, and workers and their employers are a good example of social groups on a larger scale or secondary social groups.

Statuses are the identifying roles or positions within social groups and can be assigned, relating to sex, race, ethnicity, family placement, etc., or attained through behavior or achievements such as education or other efforts.

Roles are the expectations set by a social structure to guide the behavior of its individuals and to help those within the structure understand the behavior of others. Roles can be fluid within a single status based on an individual’s interactions.

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Social structure refers to the way a society is organized.  It is about the way that various parts of society fit together and work together.  Different scholars identify differen elements of a social structure.  Among these elements are such things as:

  • Institutions.  These are established patterns of human relationships.  These include things like family and politics that provide set ways for us to interact with one another.
  • Social groups.  These are smaller groups that have something in common with one another.  This could be something as small as a family or as large as a religion.
  • Status.  Within each social group, people have different statuses.  You can, for example, be the child in a family or you can be the husband.
  • Roles.  These are the expectations that go with your status.  If you are a child in a family you are expected to obey your parents, for example, but are not generally expected to help support the family.

These are some of the major elements of a social structure.

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