Social Dynamics and Social Change

Social Interaction
By: Cas Schultz

Social interaction refers to a relationship between two, three or more individuals. Social relations, derived from individual agency, form the basis of the social structure. To this extent social relations are always the basic object of analysis for social scientists. Fundamental enquiries into the nature of social relations are to be found in the work of the classical sociologists, for instance, in Max Weber's theory of social action. Further categories can and must be established in order to carry out social theory and research, such as that of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. More recently, these relationships have become the focus of social network analysis, which brings added quantitative and graphic techniques to understanding the nature of social relations.

Disputes over the conduct of investigating social interaction relate to the core debates in sociology and the other social sciences: positivism against antipositivism, structure against agency, structural functionalism against conflict theory, as well as the philosophy of social science itself.

Forms of interaction in sociology may be described as follows: first and most basic are animal-like behaviors, i.e. various physical movements of the body. Then there are actions - movements with a meaning and purpose. Then there are social behaviors, or social actions, which address other people, which solicit a response from another agent. Next are social contacts, a pair of social actions, which form the beginning of social interactions. Social interactions in turn form the basis of social relations.

Being sociable is an important quality in adults, but it goes further than this. Your child needs to learn how to interact socially in order to make lasting friendships and enable them to belong.

There are many places where your child can improve their social skills: the park, nursery, your friends’ house, the local store. Every place that your child the opportunity to practice their ability to interact.
But why is it important? Well, let's be honest, we have all seen the child in the nursery or in the park that is unable to interact with their peers. They are self centered, unable to communicate with their peers and generally look miserable. No one wants their child to feel like this. That is why children need to be able to interact with their peers and why you need to help them to be able to do this in a positive manner.

Before entering the park, go over the rules of play with your child. Simple things like, no pushing, waiting your turn and sharing, help remind your child that when they are playing they need to be able to follow certain rules that will make their behavior acceptable to those around them, enabling them to socially interact.

From time to time (or every time you take your child to the park in my case) there will be those moments when your child will have a problem or even an altercation with another child. It could be something as simple as "they won't let me play with them" or "He took my toy". Where ever possible, try to let your child solve this for themselves (without them kicking each other!).

By giving your child the power to solve their own problems, they will become better at communicating when they are displeased and give themselves the ability to be great communicators and problem solvers. It also helps them to be able to be much more interdependent.

Children who are unable to interact socially usually are having these difficulties because they have not been given the opportunity to in the past.

Social interaction has to be one of the most important activities that your child can be involved in. It teaches them the rights and wrongs in their wider community, helps them to build relationships and teaches them how to cope in group situations.

Enroll your child in a day play class or take them to a soft play area. Your child will learn how to interact socially anywhere where they are able to meet other children their own age and have a little bit of freedom.

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Cultural Norms
By: Jed Oesterreich, Darren Sporing, and Robin Baker

Norms are established rules of behavior or standards of conduct. They operate in all levels of society and are continually changing. Social norms can vary dramatically between religions, countries, and even through the years. Some of the more modern norms in the United Sates consist of: leaving a tip for the waiter at a restaurant, saying please and thank you, marriage of one man and one woman, chewing with your mouth closed, getting a job, going to school, and many more. Some of the older norms that have changed through the years in the United States: saving sex for marriage, dressing more modestly, wife staying home with the kids, excreta. There are also many different cultural norms that are not the same as here in America. Like the way people dress, differences in customs, or even how many wives or husbands you can have. There can even be different norms in religion, like the Amish who don’t use electricity.

There are many different types of norms; one of these is prescriptive norms. It describes what kind of behavior’s are appropriate or acceptable. Like holding the door open for people or paying taxes when you make money. Another type of norm is the proscriptive norm. It is the opposite of the prescriptive norms and tells about what behaviors are inappropriate or unacceptable. It is the laws that keep us from driving too fast on the highway, and the good manners that keep us from being disrespectful in class. It is these norms that are seen everywhere in society no matter what class you are in.

Then we have our formal and informal norms. Formal Norms are “norms that are written down and involve specific punishments for violators.” The most common form of the formal norms is laws. Laws are enforced through sanctions, which can be either positive or negative. Positive sanctions are rewards for appropriate behavior, which can include: honors, praise, medals, or anything that shows appreciation for conforming to the specific norms. Negative sanctions are the penalties for inappropriate behavior, which can range from warnings to the death penalty.
Formal norms are the more cut and dried form of norms that have punishments if they are broken, informal norms are not as serious and more of a common courtesy. Informal norms are “unwritten standards of behavior understood by people who share a common identity.” When these norms are broken then people will use informal sanctions as a type of punishment. Informal sanctions are not very clearly defined or as serious as formal norms but can be applied by anyone, and consist of a negative gesture, comment or even a frown.

There is also Folkways, “Folkways are informal norms or everyday customs that may be violated without serious consequence within a particular culture.” They are generally simple and can be as simple as brushing your teeth or holding the door open for someone that has their hands full. They are often not enforced and if they are the sanction will be relatively mild and informal.

We also have mores which are “strongly held norms with moral and ethical connotations that may not be violated without serious consequences in a particular culture. They are based mainly off the culture they come from and come with severe negative sanctions if they are broken. Along with mores come taboos which are “mores so strong that their violation is considered to be extremely offensive and even unmentionable.” Violators of these taboos are punishable according to their belief system of members of their group.
an examples of a taboo is incest, which is a nearly universal taboo.

Finally we have laws. “Laws are formal, standardized norms that have been enacted by legislatures and are enforced by formal sanctions.” There are two different types of laws, civil and criminal. Civil law deals with disputes among people. It would include cases like divorce or the reading of will’s after a death. Criminal law deals with people who failed to follow the laws. They are punished by fines and prison time most commonly but if the criminal act is severe enough the death penalty is used in some states.

All of these can vary greatly from country to country. Norms are a main part of what makes up society and what is acceptable.

Cultural Diversity
Cultural Diversity- refers to the wide range of cultural differences found between and within nations. In the United State, we have a lot of cultural diversity. We have different types of churches, different race, different social background, etc. It started with the Indians, and then the Europeans came over and took over some from Ireland some from Germany. Now we are getting a lot from Mexico.


College has people coming over from Africa with a Visa so they can get an education that make college very cultural diverse. But the U.S. is not the only diverse countries many are diverse countries like for example Africa, Asia, and Europe. Different place has different norms like for example Canada gay people marry each other; some countries have polygamy/polyandry. If they ever come over here it would a cultural shock to some people. If anybody from the U.S. goes to different countries they might have a cultural shock. Some of the norms in China is like you can only have two kids and the first one has to be a boy. There different norm, mores, folkways, and law for different countries.

Subculture- is a category of people who share a distinctive set of cultural beliefs and behaviors that differs in some significant way from that of the larger society. The United State is a subculture because we have different religion, race, and age categories. For example Old Order Amish they arrived in the U.S. in the early 1700’s and today 75% live in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. Amish have a strong belief in god and reject worldly concerns. They practice their religious beliefs and remain a relatively closed to social network. Their women are to stay home and do the house work and have kids and take care of them, and they do not accept birth control. They should have lots of kids and the kids help out on the farm. A lot of them speak Dutch as well as English and they dress traditional and their transportation is a horse and a buggy.
Ethnic subcultures- some people who have unique shared behaviors linked to a common racial, language, or nationality background identify themselves as members of specific subculture, whereas others do not. For example of ethnic subculture is they live in one culture but have a little bit of the culture within like Chinatown, and reservation. It so that they feel close to culture back at home so they can fit in with others and get help forms others. So they don’t have to get use to other food they can eat what they are use to eating for an example Asian can their kind of food like rice and noodles.

Counterculture- a group that strongly rejects dominant societal values and norms and seeks alternative lifestyles. For example is like cults or other nonmainstream religious sects. For example heavens gate cult. They believe that the earth was going to be destroyed and they had one chance to go to heaven. For another example gothic, punk, emo, and skater.

Culture Shock
Our environment isn’t just the air we breathe and the food we eat, but a big part of the environment is culture. Culture is made up of the common things that members of a community learn from their surroundings. Often, people don’t realize they are learning these things because they become second-nature to us.
When we go to a new country or even a new city, individuals enter a culture that differs from the one that they left. Sometimes it can be very similar to their culture and other times they can be very different. What might seem perfectly normal to some families might be unusual to other family cultures. This is known as culture shock.
Culture shock is the disorientation that people feel when they encounter cultures radically different from their own and believe they cannot depend on their own and taken-for-granted assumptions about life. The concern that results from losing familiar signs and symbols in society is also known as a culture shock. Activities that seem so familiar to us, waving hello or good-bye to someone or giving a person a hug, can seem very unfamiliar just by moving from state to state let alone traveling to another country.
The differences between cultures can make it difficult to adjust to the new surroundings. A lot of people struggle to do things in the new environment that seemed so easy back home. This can be very upsetting to some people; those feelings are just another part of adjusting to the new culture. However, in some situations, people can be very excited about moving to a new place. They may be a little sad about leaving the place they know so well but they think of the move as an adventure to start great things at a new home.
People experience culture shock in different ways, but these feelings are common:
not wanting to be around people who are different from you
trouble concentrating


feeling left out
feeling misunderstood
having negative views of the new culture
These difficult feelings tempt people to isolate themselves from the new surroundings.
When an individual enters a strange culture, they are like a fish out of water. They don’t know what the “norms” are which causes them to get frustrated and fearful. Many people start judging another culture just because it is not familiar to them. In other words, societies are practicing judging all other cultures by one’s own culture which is known as ethnocentrism. For example, Americans have Thanksgiving in November where as Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving in October. Us Americans would find it strange to be in Canada in October when they are having Thanksgiving just like they would more than likely find it odd that we have our Thanksgiving in America in November. Basically, ethnocentrism means that people are making false assumptions about others’ ways based on our own limited experience. The key word is assumptions, because we are not even aware that we are being ethnocentric. Another example would be if we were to go to a clothing store and ask for a green hat and the associate gave us a blue one we would think that employee is color blind at the best or stupid at the worst. Assumptions can also can also reflect false positive attitudes about others’ ways. False positive assumptions are just as misleading as false negative assumptions.
Everybody is ethnocentric whether we think we are or not. Have you ever heard the expression “don’t judge a book by its cover”? If we don’t want to be ethnocentric all we have to do is quit judging just like that quote states.
Another choice to ethnocentrism is cultural relativism which is the belief that the behaviors and customs of any culture must be viewed and analyzed by the culture’s own standards. This is based on the idea that there is no standard of good or evil, so every right or wrong judgment is a product of society. This means that no moral or ethical system can be considered “best” or “worst” or even “right” or “wrong.”
It is the view that no culture is superior to any other culture when comparing systems of morality, law, politics, etc. Cultural relativism pervades today’s world. As long as we don’t “hurt” anyone, anything goes. Of course, it is appropriate in some ways. For example, food, language, clothing, and driving rules are different within cultures. However, these are not issues of universal “right” or “wrong.” In truth, if the standard of right and wrong is based on relativism, then society has no standards at all.

Works Cited

Sociology In Our Times The Essentials Diana Kendall 6e and 7e

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