Social norms refer to how people behave in accordance with what the society has defined as good, right and important, and a great deal of the society members conform to them. From a sociological perspective, social norms are most often perceived to be rules (written or unwritten) that govern behavior that is considered acceptable by a given society (Openstax College, 2013). Norms shape and constrain our day by establishing order and predictability in society. They provide a mechanism for social control. Generally, individuals seek approval and belonging, and those who fail to conform to the recognized norms stand a risk to be disapproved or even be labeled as an outcast from the society. This is how social rules and norms influence our behavior, shape and constrain our day, and consequently keep order in our society, not just with established, written rules but also expectations. When people are aware of what is expected of them, they are likely to comply. Although some people may want to be different, the majority seeks to be approved or belong to the group.
Furthermore, norms change according to the situation, context, and culture in which they are applied, and people will adjust their behavior to conform to the norms accordingly. To make a good impression, for example, we shake hands when we meet our coworkers in the morning, make direct eye contact with those we are speaking with, say hi while on their way to the gym. We also put our phone on silent mode when we are in a meeting or at church. When dining out, we avoid talking with food in our mouth or belch loudly at the table. All these and other norms in the workplace, restaurant, school, at church, and other public settings shape and constrain our behavior throughout the day.
Gender roles are the first sociological concept that applies to my field log observations. As children grow, they learn how to behave and interact with others from those around them. In this process of socialization, they are exposed to certain roles that are specific to their biological sex. These roles are depicted in my field log observation whereby I am expected to perform more feminine roles like nurturing – taking my son to daycare after breakfast. In American culture, women are perceived to play passive, nurturing and subordinating roles compared to those performed by their male counterparts.
Moreover, the family institution applies to my analysis. The family constitutes the most basic social institution upon which the society is built. I have a nuclear family – the two-parent family structure. My family mirrors the traditional American family which comprised a husband, a wife, and two children (Openstax College, 2013). The combination of husband, wife, and children is the most common family structure in the United States and across the world compared to other family life variations such as single-parenthood, cohabitation, singles, and same-sex couples.
On top of that, family structure is another interesting concept I observed in my field log. It is imperative to note that the institution of family has undergone significant changes over the past decades. The increasing number of mothers in employment is perhaps the most perverse change depicted in my analysis. Both of us (the husband and wife) work outside the home unlike earlier in the American society where most family households comprised one partner (most often the husband) working outside the home, and the other serving as the primary childcare provider (Openstax College, 2013). Because of these changes, the typical working father and stay-at-home mother model no longer holds.
Additionally, the changing gender roles and family structures elevate the achieved status – the status one chooses deliberately like income and education (Openstax College, 2013). However, participation in formal employment leads role conflict as the husband and wife clash become childcare providers and breadwinners. Lastly, I utilize ‘impression management’ to present myself to those around me as I hope to be perceived. Like Goffman (1959) asserted, each situation people find themselves is a new scene in which they perform roles that are unique to those situations and depending on others who are present. At home, for example, I play the role of a mother and wife. I exhibit different sides of myself when around my family, coworkers and church members.
Sociologists study these concepts in everyday society. In their conceptual review of the evolutionary, social-cognitive, and developmental theories and analysis of how youths learn and adopt prosocial norms, Siu Shek, and Law (2012) established very few current theoretical frameworks explicitly address how self-interest and social situations might challenge prosocial norms, particularly moral obligations when prosocial acts are needed. The study pointed out the need to develop a new social cognitive theory of norm activation that recognize prosocial norms as a fundamental construct to generate greater insights into applying prosocial norms. The paper further illuminates how little we know about how young individuals perceive and get these norms and how school policies and peers influence their development.
In another article by Gudmunson and Danes (2011) that sought to initiate a theoretical discussion about financial socialization within the family, the researchers discern what entails family financial socialization, its significance, and how its central tenets could provide greater insights individual differences in financial literacy. The article proposed a conceptual model which incorporates family socialization theory and trends that have been experienced in financial research in the past years. It wraps up with a comprehensive review of recent articles on the research topic to illustrate, identify gaps, and illuminate opportunities to advance research and understanding of financial literacy from a socialization viewpoint.
In a field survey of the effect of emotional labor on job satisfaction among nurses operating in Greek healthcare organizations, Trivellas, Reklitis, and Platis (2013) found a negative association between aspects of job satisfaction (e.g. physical environment, opportunities for career advancement, leadership style, rewards and job security) and workplace conflict, heavy workload, and lack of autonomy. The results of the investigation further showed that limited access to information and feedback positively related to the degree to which the staff was satisfied with rewards and job security.
I play a crucial role in the bigger society. In addition to the basic roles of wife and mother, I also contribute to the success and performance of other social settings such as workplace and church. From a structural functionalism perspective, I perceive myself as one of the various members of not only my family but also the larger part of the society who work together to maintain order and keep the entire system functioning and well regulated. This point is consistent with Emile Durkheim’s assertion that people in modern societies like ours serve many different functions and their ability to perform their functions depend on the ability of other to carry out theirs (Openstax College, 2013, p.18). In light of this perspective, my ability to perform various tasks at home, work, church, and other social contexts positively influence the ability of my family members, co-workers, and church members to carry out theirs, consequently contributing to social order in the society.
Different people affected me differently in the course of the day. My son and husband gave me the motivation to wake up every morning and attend to all my duties as mother and wife. Equally, some colleagues at work displayed certain behaviors that encouraged me to interact positively with others. A simple smile and a handshake in the smoke pit challenged me to act respectfully towards others. However, some people behaved in ways that affected me negatively. Social deviance scenarios such as honking horn angrily so that the line to the naval base can move faster and displaying tight annoyed faces caused me emotional labor. I believe my behaviors affected others almost in equal measure.
Gudmunson, C. G., & Danes, S. M. (2011). Family financial socialization: Theory and critical review. Journal of Family and Economic Issues, 32(4), 644-667.
Openstax College (2013). Introduction to Sociology. Rice University.
Siu, A. M., Shek, D. T., & Law, B. (2012). Prosocial norms as a positive youth development construct: a conceptual review. Scientific World Journal.
Trivellas, P., Reklitis, P., & Platis, C. (2013). The effect of job related stress on employees’ satisfaction: A survey in health care. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 73, 718-726.