What Is Social Structure Theory Quizlet?


Diego Sanchez

What Is Social Structure Theory Quizlet?

Social structure theory is a concept in sociology that examines the influence of social structures on individual behavior and outcomes. It focuses on how social institutions, such as family, education, and the economy, shape individuals’ opportunities and constraints.

Understanding Social Structure Theory

Social structure theory suggests that people’s behavior is not solely determined by individual characteristics but is also influenced by their position within society. It recognizes that individuals are embedded in a complex web of social relationships and institutions that impact their choices and actions.

Key Elements of Social Structure Theory

1. Social Institutions: Social structure theory emphasizes the role of various institutions, such as family, education, religion, and the economy. These institutions provide individuals with socialization, resources, and opportunities for success or failure.

2. Social Stratification: Social structure theory examines how society is organized into different strata or levels based on factors like social class, race, gender, and age. It explores how these stratifications create inequality and affect people’s life chances.

3. Social Networks: Another important aspect of social structure theory is the examination of social networks – the connections between individuals or groups. These networks can provide support or act as barriers to individuals’ opportunities for upward mobility.

The Role of Social Structure Theory in Understanding Crime

Social structure theory also plays a significant role in explaining criminal behavior. It suggests that crime is not solely a result of individual pathology but is influenced by structural factors such as poverty, limited educational opportunities, and neighborhood characteristics.

Sociological Perspectives within Social Structure Theory

1. Strain Theory:

Strain theory, a subtheory within social structure theory, posits that individuals engage in criminal behavior when they experience strain or stress due to the discrepancy between their goals and the means available to achieve them. It suggests that individuals may turn to crime as a means of achieving success or relief from strain.

2. Social Disorganization Theory:

Social disorganization theory focuses on how neighborhood characteristics, such as poverty, residential instability, and weak social ties, contribute to higher crime rates. It suggests that communities with disorganized social structures are more likely to experience criminal behavior.


In conclusion, social structure theory is a valuable framework for understanding the influence of social institutions, stratification, and networks on individual behavior and outcomes. It provides insights into the complexities of society and helps explain phenomena such as crime through various subtheories like strain theory and social disorganization theory.