Theoretical perspectives
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THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVES. Unit 1 – Chapter 2 (Continued). Symbolic Interactionism. A psychological theory Developed by Charles Cooley & George Herbert Mead Explains how individuals behave based on their perceptions of themselves and of others. Symbolic Interactionism.

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Theoretical perspectives


Unit 1 – Chapter 2


Symbolic interactionism
Symbolic Interactionism

  • A psychological theory

  • Developed by Charles Cooley &

    George Herbert Mead

  • Explains how individuals behave based on their perceptions of themselves and of others

Symbolic interactionism1
Symbolic Interactionism

  • People experience their social world, and define and interpret their experiences to give them meaning

  • The meanings that people give to their experience of the world matter, not the social facts

Symbolic interactionism2
Symbolic Interactionism

  • Only after the mental process of “giving meaning” do people act

  • Mental processes are invisible, only

    the actions that follow them are visible

  • Symbolic interactionists attempt to understand the point of view of the actor to explain the action

3 basic concepts
3 Basic Concepts

  • An individual develops a self that has 2 parts

    • The “me” that consists of objective qualities

      Ex. tall, male, student

    • The “I” that is the subjective awareness of self

      Ex. good student, shy, lonely

  • The “I” is based on how the individual interprets feedback from other people

  • Looking Glass Theory: “I am not what I think I am. I am not what you think I am. I am what I think you think I am.” (Charles Cooley)

3 basic concepts1
3 Basic Concepts

  • People must also “take the attitude of the other” to be able to anticipate what the other person will do and decide how they should respond.

    This role taking is the basis for human interaction.

    (George Mead)

3 basic concepts2
3 Basic Concepts

  • People are able to interact effectively only if they can communicate using a common language/shared symbols.

    Language is the means by which individuals interpret and give meaning to their experiences of self and others in order to interact in relationships.

    (George Mead)

Symbolic interactionism3
Symbolic Interactionism


  • Men Are from Mars,

    Women Are from Venus

  • By John Gray (1992)

Symbolic interactionism4
Symbolic Interactionism


  • Since the researcher perceives and interprets the actions of the individuals during the observation, the observations could be influenced by the researcher’s self-image and beliefs, which could be inaccurate

Social exchange theory
Social Exchange Theory

  • A psychological theory

  • Explains the social factors that influence how individuals interact within reciprocal relationships

Social exchange theory1
Social Exchange Theory

  • Individuals are constrained by role expectations

  • They act within each role to maximize the benefits they will receive and to minimize the costs to themselves

Social exchange theory2
Social Exchange Theory

  • Like Symbolic Interactionism, individuals interpret their experiences of self and others to determine the benefits and costs

  • The benefits and costs of a relationship are not facts, but are perceptions formed by each individual

Social exchange theory3
Social Exchange Theory

  • Use Social Exchange Theory to explain the relationship between Hugh Hefner and his previous girlfriends.

Social exchange theory4
Social Exchange Theory

  • Relationships are stable when benefits

    balance the costs of the relationship

  • Benefits are rewarding because they

    meet a perceived need

    Ex. Physical/emotional security, access to goods and services, social approval

  • Costs of a relationship are those actions that meet the needs of another

    Ex. Providing physical/emotional support, sharing goods and services

Social exchange theory5
Social Exchange Theory

  • Individuals prefer relationships that are cost-effective, benefits outweigh the costs

  • Social Exchange Theory is used to explain how individuals make decisions to form and maintain relationships that might appear unacceptable to others

  • Some people are offended by the cost/benefit analysis which could be a limitation of the theory

Developmental theories
Developmental Theories

  • Interdisciplinary approach

  • Describe patterns of growth and change throughout the human life span

  • As individuals progress through life, they face role expectations that challenge them to develop = developmental tasks

  • Describe predictable changes in the behaviour of individuals or families in different stages and how they adapt to changes

Developmental theories1
Developmental Theories

  • Examine biological, psychological, social and cultural factors that influence development

  • Explain factors that influence differences in behaviour demonstrated by individuals or families at different age-stages

  • Differences in behaviour could reflect factors that are typical of those born in the same period of time = cohort

  • Differences could also reflect social change rather than development

Developmental theories2
Developmental Theories

Family Life-Cycle Framework

  • Applies the developmental perspective to the life-spans of families

  • Families, like individuals, have life spans with predictable stages = normative events

    Ex. Marriage, birth of a child, child leaving home

  • At each stage, the family faces specific developmental tasks that are prerequisites for moving on to the next stage

Developmental theories3
Developmental Theories

Family Life-Cycle Framework

  • Not all stages will fit all families

  • Some families will experience non-normative events

    Ex. Death of a child

  • Assumes families at a similar stage of their life cycles face similar tasks

Conflict theory
Conflict Theory

  • A sociological and political theory

  • Explains how power holds a society together

  • Power = ability to control the behaviour of another

  • Conflict exists between groups in society because of inequalities in power

  • Groups compete with one another to meet their needs

Conflict theory1
Conflict Theory

  • If groups are in competition, then the needs of all will not be met equally

  • Competition can result in exploitation by individuals in the group with greater power over the group with lesser power

  • Society is organized into groups to divide people according to their power and to encourage competition

Conflict theory2
Conflict Theory

  • Unlike Functionalists, Conflict Theorists question why the structure of society does not work for everyone

  • “Functional for whom?”

Conflict theory3
Conflict Theory

Karl Marx

  • Explained class divisions in Capitalist Societies in the 19th Century

  • Bourgeoisie: those who controlled the means of production, the wealthy owners of businesses and factories

  • Proletariat: the working people

Conflict theory4
Conflict Theory

Karl Marx

  • The bourgeoisie were a small group in society with tremendous power because they controlled the livelihood of the proletariat/the masses

  • Eventually the bourgeoisie will become smaller and richer and the proletariat will become larger and poorer

  • Gap between the 2 groups will grow

Conflict theory5
Conflict Theory

Karl Marx

  • A society would be stable if people perceived the dominant group as being more entitled to the benefits of society

  • Marx argued that inequalities need to be eliminated

Conflict theory6
Conflict Theory

Friedrich Engels

  • Divisions between the sexes in marriage = Divisions between the classes

  • Maintains the class distinction of Capitalism

  • Men’s labour outside the home was paid

  • Women’s labour inside the home was unpaid

Conflict theory7
Conflict Theory

Friedrich Engels

  • From all classes, men had the most economic power in the household

  • Women had to marry, reproduce and provide unpaid labour to maintain the family

  • Men could maintain their power by continuing to sell their labour for wages

  • Women could not have economic support without maintaining a marriage

Conflict theory8
Conflict Theory

Friedrich Engels

  • Oppression of women was linked to Capitalism and would not end until Capitalism was eliminated

    Conflict Theory

  • Explains the relationship of men and women within a family as one of exploitation and oppression

  • Used for analyzing power and authority within the family

Feminist theories
Feminist Theories

  • Developed in the 2nd half of the 20th century

  • Explains the impact of sex and gender on behaviour

  • Considers issues of human behaviour from the point of view of women

  • Rooted in Conflict Theory, developed to separate sex and gender from class

Feminist theories1
Feminist Theories

  • Developed as a reaction to gender biases in sociology

  • Androcentricity: bias that assumes male experience and behaviour is human/female experience and behaviour

  • Double Standards: biases that apply different principles for evaluating the behaviour of men and women

  • Like Conflict Theory, change is required so the needs of all people are met

Feminist theories2
Feminist Theories

  • Explains social inequalities between men and women from a female perspective

    Liberal Feminism:

  • discriminatory policies force women into an inferior social class that restricts their rights to participate fully in society

  • tries to change social policy through political means

Feminist theories3
Feminist Theories

Radical Feminism:

  • Argues that the differences in power between men and women result in any male-female relationship as being exploitative

  • Only the development of a separate female culture can correct this

Feminist theories4
Feminist Theories

Socialist Feminism

  • Based on the assumption that the status of women is a social inequality rooted in the sexual division of paid and unpaid labour

  • Challenges Capitalism and the Patriarchal model of the family