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Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology. Explain what theoretical p...

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Theoretical Perspectives in Sociology. Explain what theoretical perspectives are. Name and explain the three major sociological theoretical perspectives and give examples.

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  • Feb. 23, 2004
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Sociology is the scientific study of society and human behavior. Webster's Dictionary defines a perspective as a "view of things in their true relationship or importance". Therefore, the sociological perspective provides viewpoints used to look at human behaviors and interactions as they relate to individuals and groups within a society. The sociological perspective stresses that to understand humans, not what is inside of them, but instead the external factors influencing them, should be observed. There are several theoretical perspectives in sociology that are used to understand social relationships and behaviors. The three theoretical perspectives discussed here are symbolic interactionism, functional analysis, and conflict theory.

Symbolic interactionism is a microsociological theoretical approach that examines small-scale patterns of social interaction. Interactionists focus on how humans use symbols (signs, gestures, language) to develop views of the world, others, and themselves, as well as the importance of these symbols in social interaction and communication. Interactionists also believe that humans use these symbols to define the self, by comparing themselves to others and by constantly adjusting their view of themselves. Interactionists see reality as being negotiated based on shared agreements and perceptions about events and therefore reality is not stagnant but instead fluid, ever changing. Also, symbolic interactionists try to understand how an individual feels in order to understand why they act the way they do.

For example, many female babies are killed in India. To understand why they are killed, Interactionists look at what makes people kill them. Raising a girl is very expensive in India. The meaning that Indians attach to the birth of a baby girl is that of a burden to the family. However, western cultures tend to think of every child as a gift and a blessing, no matter what gender. A doctor interviewed for a TV documentary said that...