Social Problems

1.    What are the major research methods employed by sociologists in studying social problems.  Give an illustration of each method.

Sociologists employ a variety of methods to explain and understand various social phenomena. While these approaches are similar to what scientists and psychologists use, sociologists normally has to make inferences based on the context of history, economy and politics. In Macionis’ book, he describes four basic research methods and they are: 1.) Survey Research or Asking Questions; 2.) Field Research or Joining In; 3.) Experimental Research or Looking for Causes; and 4.) Secondary Analysis or Using Available Data.

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The survey research involves the researcher selecting a sampling of the target population. From the sample, the researcher will then have the participants answer a standardized questionnaire. The survey or questionnaire can be conducted via a sheet of paper, through email, or through phone or face-to-face interview. Depending on how much time the researcher can devote to the survey, this form of research can be conducted on small or large populations. A very common example of survey research is used to determine the popularity of certain shows, consumer brands, or political candidates.

The field research refers to the gathering of data in real life, as opposed to lab research. Field researcher may be used in tandem with survey or observation methods. For sociologists pure field researcher involves the actual immersion into the subject of the research. An example would be the research conducted by Jane Goodall on chimpanzees.

Experimental research refers to a study that involves the manipulation of some elements of the study in order to arrive at generalizations. The purpose is to establish causality or a significant, consistent, and reproducible cause-effect relationship between elements. Sociologists can use this to test how some factors affect the general population.            The last is the secondary analysis approach. For this method, evidences from a variety of records are collated and the analyzed. More records mean more reliable findings. The secondary analysis method can be time consuming because it involves poring over documents and archives in different places. This is ideal for doing preliminary research in preparation for the actual field work. Most sociologists employ this in combination with the other research methods previously mentioned.

2.    Health status is not just about biology.  Briefly discuss how social class, race, and gender influence the health of people in the United States today.

Health status is not just a function of the physical body. It is actually affected by other factors, not the least of which is the social status of the individual. Those who are well-off in society have access to better, more nutritious food. The rich in society also have access to better health services should they get sick or have a medical condition. In contrast, the lower and middle class would have to depend on their insurance plans to afford medical services.  Moreover, the middle and lower class do not have much time to attend to their health as they are preoccupied with the daily struggle to make ends meet. On the other side of the coin, some affluent members of society may also have health issues secondary to overindulgences that they are prone to. The excesses of their privileged life can also be detrimental to their health.

Aside from the social class, race and gender are also factors that affect one’s health status. There are some diseases that are more gender and race-specific. For example, hemophilia is carried by women but only manifested in male. White people are more susceptible to skin cancer because of their lack of protective melanin.

3.    Identify the basic drug control strategies discussed by the author.  Briefly discuss the strengths and limitations of each strategy.

Macionis dicusses four basic strategies that societies and governments can employ as a means to control and curb drug-related problems. They are interdiction, prosecution, education, and treatment.

Interdiction refers to the active strategies that the state employs to prevent or discourage the entry of drugs into the country. This involves the participation of the military, police, and intelligence agencies to stop drug trafficking before it gets to the streets. Interdiction involves border patrols, check points, raids, and other similar pursuits. While interdiction is very effective, it is highly dependent on the information or intelligence that the government is able to gather. It can also complicate relations with other countries as most drugs are imported from other countries. For interdiction to be really effective, the cooperation of the international community is required.

Prosecution refers to punishment under the law for those who are caught in drug trading, pushing, or using. This is considered a form of drug control strategy because the sever punishment that will be imposed on those found guilty are believed to discourage those who plan to become involved in the drug trade. Prosecution is not very effective because it is reactive. Rather than address the roots of the drug trade, it merely responds to the problem.

Education refers to the campaign of the government to inform its citizens about the issue of drugs and the various problems that it causes society. Education is believed to empower individuals and gives them enough information to make an informed choice over issues that affect them. It is hoped that an educated society will be able to take a more active role in the effort to solve the drug problem by being more vigilant and concerned about what goes on in their environment. While education may help solve the drug problem at grass-roots level, education is not enough to guarantee that an individual will not be involved in drugs. There are other factors that must be addressed for this strategy to be truly effective. These issues include the influence of family, friends, and other factors that shape the character of a person.

The last strategy is treatment. This is very similar to punishment in the sense that this strategy is reactive. Only this involves the rehabilitation of those who are addicted to drugs. Treatment of a drug addiction involves more than treating the physiological addiction, it involves a complex process that requires the willingness of the patient to help himself.

4.    Identify and briefly explain the flaws that exist in the “logic of growth” perspective regarding the environment.

The “logic of growth” theory about the natural environment refers to the notion that in time, the world would ultimately run out of most of the crucial resources that it needs to survive. This premise is based on the belief that as the world’s population continues to grow, important resources such as food, fuel, and land will not be able to keep up with the growing demands of a congested world and thus would create chaos and anarchy.

The main flaw of the “logic of growth” is that it lacks faith in the resilient spirit of mankind, as well as our collective ability to step up and rise to the occasion when the situation calls for it. The logic of growth attempts to put man in a box and tries to limit his potentials and what he is capable of doing if given the chance. I believe that while the logic of growth may be true in some aspects, it cannot justify nor capture the dynamism of life that makes it so exciting and challenging. It takes a very pessimistic view of life which is a limiting and constricting and does not contribute to helping the many problems of the world. What we need are more constructive and not pessimistic views of how the world is and what it will be.

5.    In Chapter 17, the author asks, “What is the state of the natural environment today?”  Identify two (which you would consider most important) of the environment issues presented by the author and briefly describe the environment concerns/possible solutions to these issues.  In your own opinion, what are you willing to do to help protect the environment?

Of the many environmental issues that beset our world, I think that the most important would have to be the issue of global warming and the declining biodiversity. Although I believe that all of these environmental concerns are interrelated, these two that I have mentioned have direct bearing to the quality of human life. Global warming refers to the increase in the average temperature of the earth, a phenomena that can cause a cascade of events that may irrevocably change our lives. Already we are seeing signs of this dire occurrence. Scientists believe that global warming will melt the polar ice caps, creating a global climate change that will affect all of us.

The decline in biodiversity refers to the alarming rate with which animal and plant species are disappearing, due to the adverse changes in the environment. The extinction of animals and plants are primarily caused by mankind’s encroachment of their natural habitats as well as the decline in natural food sources.

I believe that our world exists on a delicate balance that involves the intricate interplay of all creatures in this earth. That man should be so arrogant as to presume that he can control the world may very well spell disaster for all life on Earth. We must change our ways and protect the precious few resources that are left before it is too late.

Indeed environmental issues are more complex than for any one county, much less one person or organization to solve. But every individual can do their part. In my case, I will recycle and avoid using non-biodegradable materials that will pollute the Earth for thousands of years. I will support the use of biofuels and electrical cars which are more fuel efficient and have no harmful emissions. If people make a collective effort to do something for the environment, then it will snowball into a campaign that may very well change the world for the better.