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Sociology Vocab

Key concepts and processes of cultural transmission


The unwritten rules of society that determine acceptable behaviour, for example, queuing in a supermarket


A belief that something is worthwhile, for example, in British culture we value education


An individual’s social standing

Ascribed status

A status which is fixed at birth, for example, being born into the royal family

Achieved status

A status with is earned, for example, Lord Sugar worked hard to achieve his status

Master status

A status that overrides all other statuses you may have


A part you play that is associated with particular norms and expectations

Multiple roles

Where an individual has a number of different roles to fulfil

Role conflict

Where the demands of one role clash with the demands of other roles played


The way of life of a society


The way of life of a small group within wider society. Subcultures’ norms and values will often differ to those of the mainstream culture


The process whereby we learn the norms and values of the society into which we are born

Primary socialisation

Socialisation that happens largely within the family, during a child’s early years (0-5)

Secondary socialisation

Socialisation that happens within other institutions, such as the media, education and peer group, from the age of 5 upwards

Feral children

Children who have not been socialised and therefore do not behave as expected of human beings, for example, Oxana Malaya

Social control

The methods used during the socialisation process in order to learn the difference between right and wrong within our society

Formal social control

Written rules and laws enforced by powerful agents such as the police and courts

Informal social control

Carried out informally by family members, peers, teachers, etc. through means such as positive and negative body language

Positive sanctions

Rewards for good behaviour, for example, a star on a chart or a smile of approval

Negative sanctions

Punishment for bad behaviour, for example, being put on the naughty step or getting a detention

Agents of socialisation

The places or social groups involved in the socialisation process

Primary agents


Secondary agents

Peers, education, media, workplace

Peer group

Others of the same age


How we see ourselves and how others see us

Gender identity

How we behave according to our gender


A generalised and simplistic view of a group of people which ignores individual differences. They are often negative, for example, ‘women are bad drivers’


Acting in a way that society deems is typically male behaviour


Acting in a way that society deems is typically female behaviour


Arranged marriage

Marriage partners are selected by someone who is trusted, such as a parent or a matchmaker.

Beanpole family

A family that is vertically extended but not horizontally extended.


Adult children return to the family home for financial or relationship reasons


Marrying someone while already married to another person.

Birth rate

The number of live births per 1000 of the population in a given year


Earns the family money


The way in which parents channel the child’s interests in activities or toys according to gender.

Cereal packet family

Another term for nuclear family


The child’s needs and wishes are the most important thing

Civil partnerships

Gives same sex couples similar legal rights to married couples


The practice of living together as a couple without getting married


A group of people living together and sharing possessions and responsibilities

Conjugal roles

The roles played by husband and wife

Cultural diversity

The existence of a variety of cultural or ethnic groups within a society.

Dark side of the family

Refers to abuse within the family, particularly, but not exclusively, towards women and children

Death rate

The number of deaths per thousand of the population per year

Demographic trends

Any measurable change in the characteristics of a population over time


The legal ending of a marriage

Domestic violence

Violent or aggressive behaviour within the home

Dual burden

When a person is responsible for two jobs, which is usually applied to women who are in paid work but also responsible for domestic labour

Dual worker families

When both partners contribute to the family income by having paid employment.

Dysfunctional family

A family that doesn’t function as it should

Empty-nest families

The children have grown up and left home to begin their own adult lives

Expressive role

The caring, nurturing, homemaker role in the family

Empty-shell marriage

A marriage in name only, where a couple continues to live under the same roof but as separate individuals

Extended family

A family in which relatives such as grandparents, aunts or uncles live in the same home as parents and their children

Family diversity

The idea that there is a range of different family types, rather than a single dominant one such as the nuclear family


A sociological perspective and political movement that focuses on women’s oppression and the struggle to end it

Fertility rate

The total fertility rate is the average number of children women will have during their fertile years which is defined as age 15 to 45


Refers to the culturally created differences between men and women which are learnt through socialisation


Looks after the family home while the women work


A group of people who live together and share things such as meals, bills, facilities, chores or one person living alone

Instrumental role

The breadwinner or provider role in the family, functionalists see this as the man’s role


The development of industries in a country or region on a wide scale

Joint conjugal roles

Husband and wife share the same roles in the family


A communal settlement in Israel


Sense of duty and feelings towards family members

Life expectancy

How long you can reasonably expect to live


A society in which women dominate in family decision making


Society based on the mother as the head of the family or household

Modern nuclear family

Married or cohabiting couples with or without children


A form of marriage in which one woman and one man are married only to each other

New man

A male who behave in a way that is not traditionally masculine

Nuclear family

A married couple and their unmarried children living together

Single-parent family

A family with one parent


Is a system in which males dominate in every area of society


A form of polygamy in which a woman can have several husbands at the same time


A form of marriage in which an individual can have several husbands or wives simultaneously


A form of polygamy in which a husband can have several wives at the same time

Reconstituted family

A step family in which one or both partners has children from a previous relationship

Sandwich generation

People who care for their children (or grandchildren) and their parents at the same time


The process through which religions influence on other social institutions decreases

Segregated conjugal roles

Men and women are expected to do different things in the home

Serial monogamy

A form of marriage in which a person can have several spouses in his or her lifetime but only one spouse at a time


Refers to the biological differences between men and women as opposed to culturally created gender differences


Living alone

Symmetrical family

A nuclear family with more equal and joint conjugal roles in which husbands participate in domestic labour as well as being breadwinners and wives going out to work as well as being homemakers

Toxic childhood

A harmful or unpleasant childhood

Triple shifts

Women who have jobs, do the housework and the caring side of family life



An action based on a prejudice e.g. racial discrimination


An unfavourable simplistic image of a group based on the behaviour of a small number of individuals from within that group


The middle class who have an interest in preserving capitalism


A system of economic organisations in which businesses are owned by private individuals who profit from the labour of the workers they employ

Working class

Members of society who are engaged in some form of manual work


Important parts of the structure of society maintained by social norms

Value consensus

Beliefs that are commonly shared by a particular social group

Ruling class ideology

The ideas and beliefs of the ruling class


A label applied to another individual that influences both their behaviour and the way that others respond to them.

Master status

When an individual accepts a particular label that has been applied to them by members of the wider society, that label becomes a master status that influences both the behaviour of the individual and the reaction of others

Self-fulfilling prophecy

When an individual accepts the label that has been given to them by others and acts accordingly

Marketisation of education

Systems designed to encourage competition between schools in an attempt to raise standards


Negative sanctions are any form of penalty for unacceptable actions of an individual or group, while positive sanctions are applied for good behaviour

Secondary socialisation

A process of learning that takes place outside the family, e.g family, school, workplace, religion and mass media

Social solidarity

Common interests that bind people together


To be hostile towards another individual or social group based on previously formed opinions, frequently refers to racial prejudice


A theoretical perspective that focuses on small scale every day social interactions

Cultural deprivation

The theory that many working class and black children are inadequately socialised and therefore lack the right culture needed for educational success

Cultural capital

The knowledge, habits, and tastes learned from parents and family that individuals can use to gain access to educational success

Parental aspirations

The hopes and aspirations of parents for their children’s futures

Immediate gratification

Seeking pleasure now rather than making sacrifices in order to get rewards in the future

Deferred gratification

Giving up things in the present for the sake of greater gains in the future

Social capital

The networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society;

Becky Francis argued that working class parents do not have the knowledge of the school system to get the best results for their children.

Material factors

Factors to do with money and other material resources which might affect performance in education.

Peer group

A social group whose members have interests, social position, and age in common

Institutional racism

Patterns by which racial inequality is structured through key organisations, policies, and systems

Anti-school subcultures

Is used to refer to groups of pupils who reject the norms and values of school and reverse them so it is seen as negative to do well academically.

Hidden curriculum

The informal and unofficial aspects of culture that children are taught in school, like punctuality and listening to authority

Laddish subcultures

Boys are more concerned with the approval of their peer groups than academic success

Public schools

Fee paying schools

Comprehensive school

A type of school attended by all children regardless of ability or aptitude.


A system in which promotion is based on individual ability or achievement


A social position that a person holds

Formal curriculum

Subjects and skills that are deliberately taught in school

Correspondence theory

Bowles and Gintis – Schools are run to train pupils into the skills that are needed by society’s work force

Social control

Attempts by society to regulate people’s thoughts and behaviour

Research Methods

Primary method

Methods used by a researcher to collect their own data, for example, interviews, observation, questionnaires, etc.

Secondary method

Methods used by a researcher to collect data that already exists, for example, official statistics


What you are going to research


A prediction of what you think you will find out from your research

Pilot study

A small-scale study carried out before a piece of research to identify any possible problems


A list of pre-set questions which are often used to collect data from a large sample

Structured Interview

An interview which uses a pre-set list of questions

Unstructured Interview

A very flexible interview which has no set questions

Participant Observation

Where the researcher gets involved with the group they are observing

Non-participant Observation

Where the researcher does not get involved with the group they are observing


Where the researcher does not let the people being studied know that they are being observed, for example, Laud Humphries ‘Tea Room Trade’


Where the researcher makes those being studied aware of their purpose

Content Analysis

A method used by researchers to study the content of the media

Media material

Any form of communication, either written or technological, that allows transmission to many people. For example, magazines, newspapers, television.

Sampling technique

The method used to choose a sample for a study

Random sample

The sample group is chosen completely at random

Systematic sample

Sampling every 5th, 10th or 15th name, for example, from the group being studied

Stratified sample

The research population is divided into relevant groups, such as by gender and age, and a random sample is taken from each of these groups to generate more representative data

Snowball sample

A researcher makes contact with one relevant respondent and then asks them to put them into contact with further respondents

Fit for purpose

Where the method chosen is thought to be the most suitable for the subject being studied


Using more than one research method

Case studies

A detailed and in-depth study of one particular group or situation

Longitudinal cohort study

A study which is carried out on the same group of people over a long period of time


Ideas about what is morally right and wrong

BSA – British Sociological Association

They set standards about how research should be carried out

Confidentiality – privacy

It is important to assure those being studied that what they say will be kept confidential

Informed Consent

Ensuring that those being studied are aware of the nature of the research and offer their consent


The way someone behaves


Ability to carry out a task

Primary data

Data that is collected by the researcher themselves

Secondary data

Data that is collected by someone else, and used by the researcher

Quantitative data

Numerical data such as statistics

Qualitative data

Written data, such as quotes from an interview


The truthfulness and accuracy of data; the more accurate something is, the more valid it is


If the research can be repeated by another researcher and achieve the same results, then the research is reliable


Where the findings from a study can be generalised to a wider group of people


Where the sample used for a study is representative of the target population

Social Differentiation and Stratification


The uneven distribution of resources and opportunities.

Life Chances

The opportunities for success and failure in a person’s lifetime.


Someone’s position in society (often linked to wealth, prestige, power and influence)


The thoughts, attitudes, and feelings someone holds about someone based on little information.


Acting on prejudice, treating someone differently due to a certain characteristic.


The resources an individual or household receives over a certain period of time. Income may be in the form of wages, benefits or pension.


Everything somebody owns of monetary value. Often passed down the generations through inheritance or it can be built over one person’s lifetime.

Social Inclusion

When individuals or groups are able to participate in everyday events and opportunities in society and feel fully integrated and part of society.

Social Exclusion

When individuals or groups are unable to participate in everyday events and opportunities in society.

The Equality Act (2010)

Made all discrimination illegal.

Charismatic Authority

Authority gained through the power of the leader’s personality.

Absolute Poverty

When people do not have the basic necessities of life (e.g. food, clean water, shelter, heating, clothing).

Relative Poverty

When someone is poor compared to others in their society. People may not own what others take for granted.

Subjective Poverty

Whether people feel poor or not.

Environmental Poverty

The quality of life in a particular social environment or area (eg. close to healthcare, level of pollution, rates of unemployment, rates of crime, quality of schools).

The Deprivation Index

A list of indicators of society’s general ‘standard of living’, things that are considered necessities. This identifies the level of relative poverty.

The Poverty Line

A household is in relative poverty if its income is below 60% of the median household income.


When people feel left out of society


The process of bringing parts of the world closer together.


A social group whose members share an identity based on their cultural traditions, nationality, language or religion.

Ethnic Minority group

A group of people who share a cultural identity different from the general population


Prejudice and discrimination based on ethnicity.

Institutional Racism

When an organisation treats people according to their ethnicity – can be intentional or unintentional.

The Medical model

Disability is a problem for the individual/a negative thing. The disabled face everyday problems and worse life chances. Medical professionals try to fix the problem or help them through surgery, medicine etc.

The Social model

Disability is another difference, it is part of an individual’s identity. The problem is not the individual’s disability but the barriers society puts up. Society needs to change to allow access to services and facilities.

Crime and Deviance

Agencies of social control

Institutions that influence the process of social control – e.g. families, schools or the police


Individuals who feel that they have become separated from the wider society are said to be alienated – e.g. they lack power & control over their lives


A situation of normlessness in which the norms that usually regulate people’s behaviour break down

Anti-social behaviour

Behaviour that causes harassment, distress or alarm to other people (you can be given an ASBO – an anti-social behaviour order – for this)

Bedroom culture

The subculture created by girls, which allows them to develop communication skills within their own homes (McRobbie)

Boundary maintenance

Crime produces a reaction from society, uniting its members against the wrongdoer & reinforcing their commitment to the shared norms & values

Chivalry thesis

The idea that a male dominated police force & criminal justice system treats women offenders more leniently because of their gender

Collective conscience

The shared beliefs & values that bind communities together & regulate individual behaviour

Consensus theory

A theory such as functionalism that sees society based on agreement

Control theory

The idea that people do not commit deviant acts because various factors control their impulse to break social norms

Corporate crime

Crime committed by businesses that have a serious physical or economic impact on employees, consumers or the general public. It is motivated by the desire to increase profits


Any form of behaviour that breaks the law

Crime rate

A measure of the level of criminal activity in society based on crimes recorded by the police

Crime Survey for England & Wales

The CSEW is a large-scale victim survey conducted by the government to measure the amount of crime in England & Wales by asking people about crimes they have experienced in the last year

Criminal Justice System

A series of government agencies & institutions whose goals are to identify & catch criminals to punish them – e.g. the police, lawyers, courts, probation prisons

Cross-cultural deviance

Where crime & deviance vary from one culture to another due to different expectations, norms, values & laws

Custodial sentence

A punishment that involves a criminal being put in custody – either in prison or in some other closed institution (e.g. a psychiatric hospital)

Dark figure of crime

The unknown amount of criminal activity that is not reported to or recorded by the police


Relatively minor crimes, especially committed by young people


Any form of behaviour that does not conform to dominant norms, ranging from behaviours that are simply disapproved of to criminal actions

Deviancy amplification

The exaggeration of a particular social issue as a consequence of media coverage – e.g. antisocial behaviour by groups of young people – which can result in more deviance

Deviant career

A process that develops over time as the individual progresses through various stages of deviant behaviour, accepting & adopting external social labels – e.g. a young person who is labelled as a ‘trouble maker’ & who then goes on in later life to exhibit gradually more serious forms of criminal behaviour


An action based on prejudice – e.g. racial discrimination


Behaviour at the edge of what is normally allowed or accepted; risky or radical behaviour – e.g. stealing & racing a car (known as joyriding)

Folk devil

A person or group of people who are portrayed (e.g. by the media) as outsiders & deviant, who are blamed for crimes or other sorts of social problems. Can also be referred to as a ‘scapegoat’

Formal social control

Where our behaviour is controlled through organisations that exist to enforce order – e.g. the police

Glass ceiling

An informal barrier said to exist that prevents women from achieving senior positions in their chosen career

Hate crime

Crime based on prejudice towards another because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or because they are transgender

Home Office

Government department responsible for immigration, security & law and order (e.g. the police, fire & rescue services, counter-terrorism & M15)

Indictable offence

An offence where the defendant has the right to trial by jury – e.g. murder

Institutional racism

Organisational procedures & practices that either intentionally or unintentionally discriminate against ethnic minorities

Labelling theory

A sociological theory that, in relation to crime, tries to explain why only some people & some acts are defined as deviant or criminal, while others, carrying out similar acts, are not

Master status

When a label becomes a person’s controlling identity & influences both the behaviour of the individual & the reaction of others – e.g. a person is no longer a sister, colleague or neighbour but a drug addict

Ministry of Justice

Government department which has responsibility for courts, prisons & probation services

Moral panic

Exaggerated public concern created by media coverage of an event

News value

The importance given to a particular event by newspaper editors or television producers

Official crime statistics

Government statistics on crime based on official sources, e.g. police records

Prison system

Taking away someone’s freedom is the ultimate punishment in British society; British prisons vary from open institutions for low-level offenders to high security institutions for offenders who are convicted of serious offences & pose a risk to other members of society


The suspension of a prison sentence; convicted prisoners are allowed to leave prison & enter the wider community under supervision, provided that they follow certain conditions set by the court

Recorded crime

Crime that is reported to & recorded by the police


The action of restoring something that has been damaged – e.g. re-integration of a criminal back into society so that there is less chance of reoffending

Relative deprivation

When an individual lacks the resources to do the activities that are widely available to the majority of people in the society in which they live

Reported crime

Crime that is reported to the police – not all reported crime is recorded


An individual or group that is blamed unfairly for a negative event

Self-report study

A survey that asks respondents to identify crimes they have committed, but for which they may not have been caught

Serious Fraud Office

Prosecutes serious or complex fraud & corruption and investigates a small number of large, economic crime cases

Social cohesion

A sense of belonging to the wider society

Social construct

Patterns of behaviour based on the norms & expectations of a society – crime is said to be socially constructed because what counts as a crime changes over time, place & culture

Social control

The process by which the members of a society are persuaded to conform to the rules of that society, e.g. the actions of the police who enforce the law (formal) & the disapproval of the other members of society (informal)

Status frustration

A sense of frustration arising in individuals or groups because they are denied status in society


An unfavourable simplistic image of a group based on the behaviour of a small number of individuals from within that group

Strain theory

A theory by Robert Merton that stems from functionalism which suggests that crime & deviance are evidence of a strain between the socially accepted goals of society & the socially approved means of obtaining those goals

Structural theories

Suggest that the cause of crime & deviance is located in the structure of society – both functionalism & Marxism are structural theories


A group with a distinctive set of values & behaviours who set themselves apart from the wider society

Victim survey

A survey that asks respondents about their experience of crime, regardless of whether or not those crimes have been reported

Victimless crimes

An act that is illegal but has no direct victim – e.g. illegal drug use

Violent crimes

These are recorded as ‘violence against the person’, which covers more than 30 offences including grievous bodily harm (GBH), assault, kidnap, child abduction, harassment & threats to kill

White collar crime

Criminal acts committed by members of the middle class & linked to their employment – e.g. fraud

Youth crime

Crimes committed by individuals who are too young to be sent to an adult prison; in Britain, children aged 10 & above can be held responsible for their actions

Art Vocab

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Child Development Vocab

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Drama KS3 Vocab

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English KS3 Vocab

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Ethics Vocab

Food and Nutrition KS3 Vocab

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