A social issue (also called a social problem, social conflict, or social illness) refers to an issue that influences and is opposed by a considerable number of individuals within a society. It is often the consequence of factors extending beyond an individual's social issue is the source of a conflicting opinion on the grounds of what is perceived as a morally just personal life or societal order. Social issues are distinguished from economic issues; however, some issues (such as immigration) have both social and economic aspects. There are also issues that don't fall into either category, such as wars.
There can be disagreements about what social issues are worth solving, or which should take precedent. Different individuals and different societies have different perceptions.
There are a variety of methods people use to combat social issues. Some people vote for leaders in a democracy to advance their ideals. Outside the political process, people donate or share their time, money, energy, or other resources. This often takes the form of volunteering. Nonprofit organizations are often formed for the sole purpose of solving a particular social issue. Community organizing involves gathering people together for a common purpose.
A distinct but related meaning of the term "social issue" (used particularly in the United States) refers to topics of national political interest, over which the public is deeply divided and which are the subject of intense partisan advocacy, debate, and voting. Examples include same-sex marriage and abortion. In this case "issue" does not necessarily refer to an ill to be solved, but rather to a topic to be discussed.
- 1 Personal issues versus social issues
- 2 Valence issues versus position issues
- 3 Types
- 4 By country
- 5 Other issues
- 6 See also
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Personal issues are those that individuals deal with themselves and within a small range of their peers and relationships. On the other hand, social issues involve values cherished by widespread society. For example, a high unemployment rate that affects millions of people is a social issue.
The line between a personal issue and a public issue may be subjective and depends on how groups are defined. However, when a large enough sector of society is affected by an issue, it becomes a social issue. Returning to the unemployment issue, while one person losing their job is a personal and not a social issue, firing 13 million people is likely to generate a variety of social issues.
Valence issues versus position issues
A valence issue is a social problem that people uniformly interpret the same way. These types of issues generally generate a widespread consensus and provoke little resistance from the public. An example of a valence issue would be incest or child abuse, which are universally condemned across civilized societies.
By contrast, a position issue is a social problem in which the popular opinion among society is divided. Different people may hold different and strongly-held views, which are not easily changed. An example of a position issue is abortion, which has not generated a widespread consensus from the public.
Here are some generic types of social issues, along with examples of each.
The caste system in India resulted in the oppression of those referred to as Untouchables for the past 3,000 years. The caste system was recently banned by the United Kingdom, and the United States is also planning to ban it.
In most countries (including the developed countries), many people are poor and depend on welfare. In 2007 in Germany, one in six children depended on welfare. That is up from only one in seventy-five in 1965.
So-called "problem neighbourhoods" exist in many countries. These neighbourhoods tend to have a high drop-out rate from secondary school, and children growing up in these neighbourhoods have a low probability of going to college compared to children who grow up in other neighbourhoods. Abuse of alcohol and drugs is common in these neighbourhoods. Often these neighbourhoods were founded out of best intentions.
Widespread health conditions (often characterized as epidemics or pandemics) are of concern to society as a whole. They can harm quality of life and the ability of people to contribute to society and to work, and most problematically result in death.
Infectious diseases are often public health concerns because they can spread quickly and easily, affecting large numbers of numbers. The World Health Organization has an acute interest in combatting infectious disease outbreaks by minimizing their geographic and numerical spread and treating the affected. Other conditions for which there is not yet a cure or even effective treatment, such as dementia, can be viewed as public health concerns in the long run.
Age and the life course
Throughout the life course, there are social problems associated with different ages. One such social problem is age discrimination. An example of age discrimination is when a particular person is not allowed to do something or is treated differently based on age.
Inequality is "the state or quality of being unequal". Inequality is the root of a number of social problems that occur when things such as gender, race, and age may affect the way a person is treated. A past example of inequality as a social problem is slavery in the United States. Africans brought to America were often enslaved and mistreated, and did not share the same rights as the white population of America (for example, they were not allowed to vote).
A number of civil rights movements have attempted to, and often succeeded at, advancing equality and extending rights to previously marginalized groups. These include the women's rights movement (beginning around the 1920s), the civil rights movement in the United States for African-American equality (beginning around the 1950s) and the LGBT rights movement (beginning around the 1960s).
Education and public schools
Education is arguably the most important factor in a person's success in society. As a result, social problems can be raised by the unequal distribution of funding between public schools, such as that seen in the United States. The weak organizational policy in place and the lack of communication between public schools and the federal government has begun to have major effects on the future generation. Public schools that do not receive high standardized test scores are not being funded sufficiently to actually reach the maximum level of education their students should be receiving.
Work and occupations
Environmental racism exists when a particular place or town is subject to problematic environmental practices due to the racial and class components of that space. In general, the place or town is representative of lower income and minority groups. Often, there is more pollution, factories, dumping, etc. that produce environmental hazards and health risks which are not seen in more affluent cities.
Abortion is split between individuals who are either pro-choice or pro-life. Pro-choice people believe that abortion is a right. They believe that women have that right and shouldn't be prevented from exercising that right by governments. Pro-life people believe that person-hood begins at conception and they believe that abortion is the wrongful killing of an innocent person.
A number of social issues have taken prominence in the history of the United States. Many have waxed or waned over time as conditions and values have changed. The term "social issue" has a broad meaning in the United States, as it refers not only to ills to be solved but to any topic of widespread debate, involving deeply-held values and beliefs.
The Library of Congress has established an index of social causes in the United States. Examples include: academic cheating, church-state separation, hacking, evolution education, gangs, hate speech, suicide, urban sprawl, and unions.
Social issues take a particularly high profile when a new president is elected. Some elections revolve around a handful or even a single social issue, such as the 2004 election, in which same-sex marriage was a galvanizing issue for many voters, who turned out in large numbers to help re-elect George W. Bush.
Crime and the justice system
The federal prison system has been unable to keep up with the steady increase of inmates over the past few years, causing major overcrowding. In the year 2012, the overcrowding level was 41 percent above "rated capacity" and was the highest level since 2004.
The federal prison not only has overcrowding, but also has been the center of controversy in the U.S regarding the conditions in which the prisoners are treated.
Hate crimes are a social problem in the United States because they directly marginalize and target specific groups of people or specific communities based on their identities. Hate crimes can be committed as the result of hate-motivated behavior, prejudice, and intolerance due to sexual orientation, gender expression, biological sex, ethnicity, race, religion, disability, or any other identity. Hate crimes are a growing issue especially in school settings because of the young populations that exist. The majority of victims and perpetrators are teenagers and young adults, the population that exists within educational institutions. Hate crimes can result in physical or sexual assaults or harassment, verbal harassment, robbery, or even in death.
Advertising junk food to children
The food industry has been accused by some number of people of promoting childhood obesity and ill-health by specifically targeting the child demographic in the marketing of unhealthy food products. The food products marketed often are deemed unhealthy due to their high calorie, high fat, and high sugar contents.
In the advertisements, food companies are blamed for adjusting their ads to make seem more appealing, e.g. bigger, fresher, cleaner, smarter and much more.
Some common methods of junk food advertising include:
- Television commercial campaigns that feature celebrities
- Print media campaigns
- Billboard campaigns
- Event Sponsorship (sporting events and others)
- Product placement in films and television programs
- Various forms of branding, including clothing
- Direction signs and posters, telling people how far a fast food restaurant is
In 2005, the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (IOM) released a report requested by Congress that evaluated the influence and nature of food and beverage marketing practices on American children and adolescents. "The report concluded that food and beverage marketing influences the diets and health of children and adolescents; current marketing practices create an environment that puts young people's health at risk; companies and marketers have underutilized their resources and creativity to market a healthful diet; industry leadership and sustained, multisectoral, and integrated efforts are required; and that current public policy institutions lacked the authority to address emerging marketing practices that influence young people's diets."
According to Christian and the PHA website, the obesity epidemic in children and adolescents in the U.S. reflects changes in society: The article suggests unhealthy eating choices are due to an increase of sedentary activity (e.g., children watching too much television and playing computer games) and the influence of the media in causing children to eat unhealthy food choices.
In the view of some opponents, if governments took action to prevent the marketing of unhealthy food products, they would seriously reduce the prevalence of obesity and its serious health consequences, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. As part of the IOM food marketing report, 10 recommendations were made to both the public and private sectors. One of the recommendations was that the government partner with the private sector to "create a long-term, multifaceted, and financially sustained social marketing program to support parents, caregivers, and families to promote a healthful diet." First lady Michelle Obama and Partnership for a Healthier America have proposed new rules that would limit junk food marketing in public schools.
Obesity is a prevalent social problem in today's society, with rates steadily increasing. According to the Weight Control Information Network, since the early 1960s, the prevalence of obesity among adults more than doubled, increasing from 13.4 to 35.7 percent in U.S. adults age 20 and older. In addition, today two in three adults are considered overweight or obese, and one in six children aged 6–19 are considered obese.
Hunger is a fairly obvious Social Issue. Many people around the globe, especially in countries such as Burundi, Eritrea, Ethiopia, and Zambia, experience malnutrition and undernourishment.
Mass media may use propaganda as a means to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view, or to maintain the viewer's attention. Who owns a media outlet often determines things such as the types of social problems that that outlet presents, how long that outlet airs those problems, and how dramatically that outlet presents those problems. The American media is often biased towards one or the other end of the political spectrum; that is, many media outlets have been accused either of being too conservative or of being too liberal.
Alcohol and other drugs
Drugs are at times the cause of social problems. Drugs such as cocaine and opiates are addictive for some users. A minority of users of such drugs may commit crimes in order to obtain more drugs. In some individuals, drugs such as methamphetamine have been known to contribute to violent behavior, which would be considered a social problem.
Drunk driving is on the rise and is the number two cause of accidental deaths, it is a cause of around 17,000 deaths each year. All but 9 states in USA have adopted the Administrative License Revocation where if you are caught drinking and driving and found guilty you will lose your license for a full year. This is a step that is being taken in order to try to avoid the occurrence of this social problem.
- Healthcare in the United States
- Human rights in the United States
- Racial inequality in the United States
- Violence against LGBT people in the United States
- Domestic violence in the United States
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Other issues include education, lack of literacy and numeracy, school truancy, violence and bullying in schools, religious intolerance, immigration, political and religious extremism, discrimination of all sorts, the role of women, aging populations, gender issues, unplanned parenthood, and teenage pregnancy.
- Anti-German sentiment
- Population ageing
- Social inequality
- Social Problems (journal)
- The Society for the Study of Social Problems
- Social constructionism
- Moral panic
- C. Wright Mills: The Sociological Imagination
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- Nelson, Barbara J (15 April 1986). "Making an Issue of Child Abuse: Political Agenda Setting for Social Problems". ISBN 9780226572017.
- "The UK Parliament outlaws Caste-Based Discrimination"
- "Resolution on India's untouchables in US"
- Report des Kinderhilfswerkes: Jedes sechste Kind lebt in Armut
- Wolfgang Uchatius: "Armut in Deutschland - Die neue Unterschicht". Die Zeit. 10 March 2005
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- Bruce J. Biddle and David C. Berliner. "Educational Leadership:Beyond Instructional Leadership:Unequal School Funding in the United States". Ascd.org. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
- Scott, Dylan (23 August 2012). "Biggest Problem for Public Education? Lack of Funding, Poll Says". Governing.com. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
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- 14 September 2012 6:51 pm Updated: 15 September 2012 10:15 pm (14 September 2012). "Overcrowding In Federal Prisons Harms Inmates, Guards: GAO Report". Huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
- National Crime Prevention Council
- Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN)
- Barnes, B. (2007). Limiting ads of junk food to children. The New York Times, 2.
- Kraak, Vivica I., Mary Story, and Ellen A. Wartella, "Government and School Progress to Promote a Healthful Diet to American Children and Adolescents: A Comprehensive Review of the Available Evidence." American Journal of Preventive Medicine 42:3, (Mar. 2012). 250-262.
- "Targeting the Obesity Epidemic in Children and adolescents: Research Evidence for Practice." Journal of Pediatric Nursing 26.5 (Oct. 2011), 503-506. Print
- "Overweight and Obesity Statistics". Weight Control Information Network. Retrieved 4 March 2013.
- "Cocaine". Erowid.org. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
- "Social Problems in American Society | Reader's Digest". Rd.com. 15 January 2013. Retrieved 8 March 2013.
- "Berlin blues" relatively long article by The Guardian on the current economical problems and mood in Germany shortly before the general elections (15 September 2005)