Exploring the Problem of Violence in the United States

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There is this idea of “The American Dream” that encompasses people’s hopes and visions when imagining life here in the United States. However, if you look deeper into U.S. society you will find that life here in America is not such an idealistic dream. This is a country plagued by violence. This paper will discuss the social structural factors that contribute to the problem of violence here in the United States. It will attempt to identify the causes of and the conditions that facilitate violence. It will also discuss the role of the media and its contribution to this massive problem. In this paper, the model for the analysis of social problems created by Lauer & Lauer (2008) is used in its exploration of violence in the U.S. Finally, this paper will attempt to offer some solutions to this problem, and how these solutions can be used in the United States to reduce the amount of violence and create a more safe and peaceful nation. Lauer and Lauer (2008) have devised a model for analyzing social problems that utilizes all three of the major theoretical perspectives in sociology: structural functionalism, conflict theory and symbolic interactionism. Lauer and Lauer (2008) contend that the use of all three approaches is necessary to attempt to analyze any social problem. The first theory, structural functionalism, is based on a view of society as a system of many different parts, including all structural factors, that work together to generate relative stability (Lauer & Lauer, 2008). When using this theory to explain the problem of violence, one might suggest that violence is a result of a weakening in society’s structural factors, causing instability within the societal system. In other words, the focus is on how the relationships between social institutions affect the society and the individuals living within it. The weakening of social institutions, such as family and government, negatively affects individuals and creates feelings of frustration, hopelessness and despair, causing individuals to vent their negative feelings using violence as an outlet.

Common values play a critical role in the extent of violence in society. In the United States, citizens are likely to place value on retribution, or the idea that people need punishment for their socially unacceptable behavior and are more likely to see violence as justifiable when used in this sense (Lauer & Lauer, 2008). In addition, American’s typically accept violence as a problem solver, and two thirds of American’s believe that the use of physical force is justifiable (Lauer & Lauer, 2008). These values support the use of violence as a means to achieve goals.

Group norms in the United States also play an important role in contributing to the problem of violence. The use of physical punishment, as described as retribution, is a norm in the United States, especially in regards to child rearing practices. Physical punishment teaches children to conform to adult expectations out of fear of being harmed. Lauer & Lauer (2008) state that , “national studies that have concluded that over time the use of physical punishment increases the likelihood of delinquent and antisocial behavior by children and is associated with violent crime in adulthood.” In essence, the use of physical punishment with children teaches children that physical force is a normal way of achieving desired results. Some of these children become anti-social and delinquent, and these behaviors may eventually turn into violence as the children grow to become adults. The next theory, conflict theory, assumes that the contradictions and inequalities that exist between the different social classes causes conflict. In regards to the problem of violence, the conflict caused by the inequalities in the stratification system can be attributed to bringing about violence. The United States’ stratification system is made up of clear inequalities in regards to wealth, power and prestige....
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