Social Problem – Definition, Effects, Characteristics, Classification & Causes

Sat, 08/13/2011 - 05:21 -- Umar Farooq

Social Change and Social Problems

Social change creates so many social problems in a functional society. The norms, values, customs, traditions, mores and law of the society get changes as the changes are occurring inside the society. It means that the society disturbed by external or internal forces of social change. A changing society inevitably develops problems, either the conditions themselves change and become unacceptable (population growth, soil erosion, and deforestation create a conservation problem) or the society's changing values define an old condition as no longer tolerable (child labor, poverty, racism. or sex inequality). Social problem is part of the price of social change. In the coming pages we are discussing various dimensions created by social change.

Definition of Social Problem

Some important definitions of soial problems are given below:

  1. Horton and Leslie: It is often defined as a condition which many people consider undesirable and wish to correct.
  2. Lindbergh: "It is any deviant behavior in a disapproved direction of such a degree that it exceeds the tolerance limit of the community".
  3. L.K. Frank: Any difficulty of misbehavior of a fairly large number of persons which we wish to remove or correct."
  4. Fuler & Mayer: "A social problem starts with the awakening of people in a given locality, with the realization of certain cherished values that are threatened by the conditions which have become acute."

We can say that an undesirable and unwanted disturbing situation, which has no readymade solution, is called a social problem.

Effects of Social Problems

Social problem very adversely affect our society. One of the major effects is that our harmony disturbed and in its stead in the society there is hostility and suspicion. These also result in large-scale social dissatisfaction and create suffering and misery. On the whole These do not at all help in solving any problem but creates problem of serious magnitude, which is disadvantageous to the whole society. But in this connection it may be pointed out that 'problem' is not an absolute term. It is only a relative term because what is problem for one society may not be problem for the other. Similarly 'problem' is not permanent and universal. What may appear problem today may not remain so tomorrow.

We found that in India child marriage was problem till yesterday but today it has received universal condemnation and as such is no problem at all. So is the case with Sati System and so on. But in spite of this there are still some universal problems which are same all around e.g. poverty, unemployment and crime etc.

Characteristics of Social Problems

Salient features and characteristics of social problem are that it changes the situation in such a way that a problem is created to the extent that existing social order have to be changed. It also means that it is difficult to solve the problem but to feel that such a solution is inevitable or undesirable is not proper. But one of the significant characteristics are that it becomes problem only when the people begin to feel and take that in that sense. As long as the people are not aware of the problem, even though that exists, there is no social disharmony, but maladjustment comes to the front only when the masses become conscious of it.

Classification of Social Problems

So far no universally accepted classification has been produced about social problem. Our sociologists have tried to give different classifications. According to Harold A. Phelps classification such problems as biological. e.g. physical defects; bio-psychological e.g. feeble mindedness cultural, e.g. juvenile delinquency and economic e.g. poverty and unemployment. Another classification is based on heritage e.g. physical heritage, biological heritage, and social heritage. But so far no universally accepted classification has been produced. Primary reason for this is that in society no problem is absolute. Every problem is relative and is also linked with one or more aspects of our life.

Causes of Social Problems

Social problem is not welcomed in any society. Problems create disharmony and maladjustment but still the problems exist. What are the main causes, which has been posed by our sociologists. So far the problem has found no solution and every attempt made in this regard has failed. The main reason for this is that the sociologists cannot pinpoint a single cause responsible for creating such problem. The cause, which may be responsible in one society, may not be responsible in the other society. Similarly what may be responsible under certain circumstances may not be under certain other circumstances and so on. In fact in actual practice it has been found difficult to find out any single cause responsible for creating social problem. Some of the many causes include feeble mindedness of the individual and his physical disability. Industrialization, immobility and weak social institutions may be other causes responsible for it.

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