The glossary contains useful terminology for studying sociology.

CIE AS Level Glossary

Unit One (Family) Concepts


distinctive phase of childhood, first theorized by Hall (1904), which starts with the onset of puberty and ends at the beginning of adulthood


Stereotyping and discriminating individuals on the basis of their age. E.g. low status of elderly in some societies.

Age set

people of a similar age who share certain rights and responsibilities because of their age

Age stratification

system of social ranking by age. For example children may be ranked lower than adults because they have fewer rights

Beanpole family

an inter-generational, vertically extended family structure with very weak intra-generational links. Develops in societies with low or declining birth rates and increasing life expectancies

Civil partnership

same-sex relationship giving the participants similar legal rights to married couples


socially variable period of pre-adulthood

Common-law family

adult couple and children living together as a family without the adults being legally married


shared household involving a group of largely unrelated people living together

Confluent love

idea of love being contingent; it is given in return for something else.

Conjugal roles

male and female roles played within the home

Demographic transition

The change in a society from high birth and death rate to low birth and death rate.

Dependency ratio

relationship between the economically inactive section of a population and those who are economically active. For example a high dependency ratio means that there are more elderly people who depend on fewer younger people to maintain things like state pensions or health services funded through taxation


The process whereby people withdraw from social relationships as they age.


The legal dissolution of marriage.

Domestic division of labour

The division of tasks domestically between spouses, each performing a different role. See segregated conjugal roles.

Domestic labour

work done within the home, often performed by women

Domestic violence

any form of physical or verbal abuse towards family members within the home

Dual burden

(=double shift) the idea that women perform ‘two shifts’ one inside the home as domestic laborers and one outside the home as paid employees

Dysfunctional family

the idea that something such as a family structure is not performing its function correctly and that it may be actively harmful to the individual and/or society

Empty-shell marriage

when a couple continues to live together even though the marriage may be effectively over, for the reasons other than love

Extended family

family structure containing more than the parents and children of nuclear structures.

Family diversity

A term coined by sociologists Rappaport and Rappaport to describe the increasing forms that a family can take besides the traditional nuclear family. See family diversity.

Family functions

the various purposes the family group exists to perform in society such as primary socialization

Family ideology

A set of beliefs and values that about how family life should be like.

Family carer-core

The individual responsible for domestic housework and childcare within a family.

Fertility rate

a measure of the number of children born to women of childbearing age (usually taken as 15-44) in a society each year

Functional fit

the idea that social institutions such as the family, education and work are closely related. The functional fit between the family, education and work is such that while the family produces socialized individuals for the workplace, work provides the physical means for family survival

Functional prerequisites

Basic needs that a society needs to fulfull for it to maintain social order. It can also refer to the basic needs of an individual for it to live out of poverty.

Same-sex families (gay and lesbian)

family group involving same-sex parents and children such as those from a previous heterosexual relationship

Gender inequality

unequal relationship between males and females, usually expressed in favor of men

Horizontal and vertical structures

A family has a horizontal structure if it contains many people in one generation, a vertical structure if it contains many generations.


An individual or group living in the same area sharing the facilities within it.


The process that changes a society from agrarian-based to industrial-based, usually marked by the society adapting itself into a structure that is fit for large-scale manufacturing.


The act of prolonging a person's infantile state by treating them like an infant.

Instrumental/expressive roles

Instrumental role refers to the breadwinner role (taking paid work) in the family. Expressive role refers to the emotional and nurturing role.

Joint/segregated conjugal roles

Joint conjugal roles refers to the partners performing and sharing similar tasks within the household. Segregated conjugal roles refers to the partners in a family performing different tasks; usually the male takes paid work outside home while the female deals with domestic duties.


A type of society originating in Isarel which emphasizes equality; it features collective working, ownership and childcare.

Kinship patterns

Life course analysis

A research approach used for analyzing people by researching the social, structural and cultural context of his/her surroundings.

Lone/single parent family

A family that is headed by a single parent with dependant children. Usually created by divorces.

Loss of function

Refers to the functions that are once performed by the family being transferred to other institutions. E.g. modern healthcare.


A socially or ritually recognized bonding between spouses that establishes the rights and obligations between them.

Martial breakdown

Refers to the process that results in the breakdown between the relationship between a married couple, which usually cannot be restored.


Refers to women having power over men in general in a society.

Matrifocal family

A type of family which is headed by the elder female.


A family structure where family wealth and status is pass through the female bloodline.

Modified extended family

Refers to a family type which consists of multiple nuclear families, which while geographically separated, maintain regular contact.


A form of marriage where one person can only be legally married to one spouse.

New man

A man who believes that men and women are equal, and performs roles that are traditionally undertaken by women, e.g. housework.

Nuclear family

A family consisting of a two generations, a married couple and their dependant children.

Particularistic values

Values individuals hold that priortize their personal relationships.


A legal or personal recognition of a relationship between two people. Includes but is not limited to marriage.


Refers to men having power over women in general in a society.

Patrifocal family

A type of family which is headed by the elder male.


A family structure where family wealth and status is passed through the male bloodline.

Pester power

The ability posessed by children which allows them to repeatedly request favours from parents, often resulting in the parent succumbing and the child recieving what he/she wants.


The act of a woman having multiple husbands at the same time.


The act of one person having multiple spouses at the same time.


The act of a man having multiple wives at the same time.

Postmodern family

A type of family that is characterized by postmodern theory. Family members have choice over their roles, for example male caretakers.

Primary socialization

The process whereby the people make a child learn the attitudes, values and actions appropriate to individuals as members of a particular culture

Privatized family

A type of nuclear family that has a lifestyle separated from its extended family.

Reconstituted family

A family where one or both of the partners have been divorced before.

Rite of passage

The ceremonial act that marks the transition of an individual from one age group into another. E.g from youth to adult.

Serial monogamy

Refers to the act of a person who repeatedly marries and divorces with partners one at a time.

Social construction

Refers to terms and ideas that only exist and have a meaning due to being created by an individual or society's interpretations. E.g. official statistics.

Structural dependency

Symmetrical family

A type of family coined by sociologists Wilmott and Young, it features the husband and the wife sharing paid work and housework.

Triple shift/Emotion work

Triple shift refers to a woman who performs 3 distinct roles: paid work, housework and emotion work. Emotion work means to stablize the emotion of other family members. See conjugal roles.

Universalistic values

Values of a society that apply equally to every member within the society regardless of social status.


The process in a society when an increasing amount of its population live in major cities.

Youth values

Unit Two (Methodology) Concepts

Action theory

Theories that believe individuals are not constrained by society, and individuals act by interpreting others' behaviour. The expectation of how one is supposed to act forms the norms and values of the society. See Social action theory


Ideas of things individuals hold to be true, regardless of being supported by evidence or not.


A society which consists of two social classes: The upper class (Bourgeoisie) and the working class (Proletariat). The Bourgeoisie own the tools of production, while the Proletariat work for the Bourgeoisie for wages. See Marxism

Case studies

A type of sociological study that focuses on a single case rather than a sample of the population, sacrificing representativeness for a detailed observation.


A causation describes two events where one causes the other.


The act or practice of compelling an individual or group either intellectually, morally or physically to do something.

Collective conscience

The expression of a society's 'collective will', which bears down on individuals, shaping their beliefs and behavioural choices.

Comparative analysis

The item-by-item comparison of two or more comparable alternatives, processes, products, qualifications, sets of data, systems, or the like.


Acting in a way that meets social standards and practices.


The ideology that encourages the consumption of goods.

Content analysis

A method of research that involves retrieving useful information from texts and artifacts.

Control group

A group of subjects or conditions that is matched as closely as possible with an experimental group, but is not exposed to any experimental treatment. The results are then compared to determine the changes that may occur due to the experimental treatment.


A measure of how much one factor influences another factor.

Covert observation

Participant observation carried out without the explicit awareness and agreement of the social unit being studied. This entails finding some self-explanatory role within the research setting in order to mask the researcher's true purpose. It may be used because research access to the social unit would normally be denied, or to ensure that the researcher's presence does not affect the behaviour of those being observed. 

Critical theory

Critical theory is a social theory oriented toward critiquing and changing society as a whole, in contrast to traditional theory oriented only to understanding or explaining it. Critical theories aim to dig beneath the surface of social life and uncover the assumptions that keep us from a full and true understanding of how the world works. It was developed by a group of sociologists at the University of Frankfurt in Germany who referred to themselves as The Frankfurt School.

Cross-sectional surveys

A type of survey that involves collecting data from a population at one specific point in time.


the ‘way of life’ of a particular group. This can be categorized into material culture, or the objects people produce, and non-material culture, or the ideas and beliefs the group create.


A custom is a cultural idea that describes a regular, patterned way of appearing or behaving that is considered characteristic of life in a social system.


A philosophical doctrine that all events transpire in virtue of some necessity and are therefore inevitable. 

Domain assumptions

Assumptions derived from real life experiences, helping individuals make sense of the world around them.

Economic determinism

A theory that all social and political structures are built on economic foundations.

Ethical issues

A problem or situation that requires a person or organization to choose between alternatives that must be evaluated as right (ethical) or wrong (unethical).


A sociological theory that social order is constructed mutually by individuals in a society through their everyday actions.

Experimental group

A subject or group of subjects used in an experiment.


The act of disproving a hypothesis or theory.

Feminist theory

The theory that argues women are being exploited by men, and action is necessary to bring gender equality. See feminism.

Field experiments

experiments that take place in the 'real world', beyond the closed, controlled environment of the laboratory.

Formal education

education that take place within the formal setting of the school. It involves learning a specific range of subjects(the formal curriculum), mastery of which is tested through formal examinatio

Forces of production and relations of production

Forces of production are the equipment used to produce goods in a Capitalist society. Relations of production are relations generated by the method of production, such as "management".

Free will

The argument that because humans have consciousness they can make free and informed choices about their actions.

Functionalist theory

The theory that claims the society operates as various institutions that cooperate with each other. Each individual belongs to an institution and their actions are shaped by the institution. See functionalism.

Functions, manifest and latent

Manifest functions are the recognized and intended outcomes of social functions; Latent functions are the unintended outcomes.


Roles that an institution performs in a functionalist society. See functionalism.


Characteristics that define an individual as masculine or feminine. Includes biological sex and an individual's own gender identity.


Various processes (economic, political and cultural) that occur on a worldwide basis. A wider dimension to diversity involves the idea that all societies are increasingly characterised by a globalised culture, which refers to the rapid global movement of cultural ideas.

Hawthorne effect

A type of reaction that refers to individuals modifying their behaviour due to them being under observation. Also known as observer effect.


An implied explanation or prediction not supported by evidence.

Hypothetico-deductive method

A positivist research design based on the developent and systemtic testing of hypotheses.


A collect of beliefs that an individual, group or society hold true. It consists of various ideas.


A sociological approach that sees various phenomena in the society as consequences of human interaction.


Also called ‘anti-positivism’. Interpretivisim is based on the principle that social behviour should be understood subjectively by understanding how people interpret situations give situations meanings. Interpretivists argue that different people in different situations understand or interpret the social world in different ways. Sociologists can only describe reality from the viewpoint of those who create and define it.

Interviews (structured, semi-structured, unstructured and group interviews)

Structed interview:set of standard questions asked by the research of the respondent. It is similar to a questionnaire, but is delivered by the researcher rather than completed by a respondent.

Semi-structured interview: research method in which a respondent is encouraged to talk at length about a particular subject. Also called focused interviews because the topic is decided by the researcher and is focus of their questions.

Unstructured: free-from interview method where the objective is to get the respondent to talk, without prompting or interruption, about whatever they feel is important about a topic.

Group interview:also called focus groups, these involve respondents discussing a topic as a group rather than individually.

Laboratory experiments

experiment that takes place in a closed environment where conditions can be precisely monitored and controlled.

Longitudinal surveys

a form of comparative analysis that involves tracking changes among a representative sample over time.

Looking-glass self

is a social psychological concept, created by Charles Horton Cooley in 1902 (McIntyre 2006), stating that a person's self grows out of society's interpersonal interactions and the perceptions of others.


large-scale sociological approach where the focus is on social structures and institutions.

Marxist theory

philosophy or social theory based on the ideas of Karl Marx.

Mass culture (popular culture)

Easily accessible cultural products consumed by the majority of the population, e.g. Movies, Soap operas.

Methodological pluralism

combining research methodologies, such as positivism and interpretivisim, in ways that allow each to complement the other to improve research reliability and validity.


system based on equality of opportunity; those with ability and talent achieve their just rewards regardless of their social characteristic.

Modern industrial society

A type of society characterised by mass industrialization and bureaucratic regulation.

Modernity and postmodernity

Modernity:a stage in historical development characterized by things like industrialisation, urbanisation and the development of science and reason.

Nature versus nurture debate

within the nature debate, the argument is that there are natural and biological differences between every individua. This can be also linked to history, as it used to be considered that people were born as criminals and it their Biology to commit crime.

Neo-Marxist theory

See Neo-Marxism.

Non-participant observation

when the researcher observes behaviour without participating in that behaviour.


Actions within a society that are considered desirable and proper.


A value in sociological practice that features the elimination of personal emotions and bias to obtain scientific results.

Official statistics

Government-generated secondary source of data on areas such as crime, marriage and employment.

Organic and mechanical solidarity

Terms coined by sociologist Emile Durkheim: Organic solidarity is a characteristic of industrial societies in which people are bound together by interdependence due to specialization of work. Mechanical solidarity involves people being bound together by similar lifestyles, work and beliefs.

Over-socialised conception of man

A critique of Functionalism stating that it focuses entirely on socialization and ignores human nature.

Overt observation

pps(participan) observation in which those being studied are aware they are being researched .


An established set of sociological theories that form a structure for sociological explanations of the society. E.g. Conflict theories

Participant observation

A type of research method that involves the researcher participating in the activities of the group being researched.

Personal documents

secondary source of data covering areas such as personal letters, diaries oral(verbal) histories, websites, social networking sites and photographs.


A social action theory which states that the society is created by humans; it studies the relationship between human conciousness and their social action.

Pilot studies

'mini version' of a full-scale study designed to test its feasibility.


Methodology based on the principle that it is possible to study the social world in broadly the same way that natural scientists study the natural world. It based on the idea that it is both possible and desirable to study the social world in broadly the same way the natural scientists study the natural world. Its purpose is as same as science-to discover objective knowledge.


Microsociological perspective that rejects the modernist claim that the social world can be understood rationally and empirically. The focus is on understanding how people construct personal narratives, through which they make sense of the world.

Primary data

Information collected personally by a researcher.

Quantitative data

infromation expressed numerically that captures the 'who, what, when and where' of behaviour.

Qualitative data

Non-numeric data that expresses the quality of a relationship.


reserach method consisting of a list of written questions. Closed-ended questions provide possible answers from which the respondent can choose, while open-ended questions mean the respondent may answer in their own words.


this generally refers to the effectiveness of the research approach in generating consistent data. A researcher can check the reliability of their research by repeating (replicating) the research to see if they get the same, or very similar, results.


extent to which the characteristics of a sample population accurately reflect those of the target population.

Research funding

The source of funding for academic research.

Researcher bias

A condition in which presence or behavior of the researcher introduces uncontrolled variables into the research, making ir unreliable or invalid.

Researcher effect

also called the interviewer effect, this refers to how the relationship between researcher and respondent may bias responses and lead to invalid data.


participant who answer or respond the researcher.


The expected behaviour of an individual according to their position in society.

Sampling and sampling techniques

a sample involves a small number of subjects drawn from a much larger (target) population. Sociologists use a variety of random and non-random sampling techniques.

Sampling error

anything in the research design that causes a sample intended to be representative of a target population to become unrepresentativ; a self-selected sample, for example, is a form of sampling error.

Scientific method

a way of generating knowledge about the world through objective, systematic and controlled research. The hypothetic-deductive model is an example of a scientific method.

Secondary data

data that already exists; data not personally generated by the researcher


the study of cultural meanings embedded in media forms, often used to explore and interpret 'hidden meanings' embedded within texts.

Significant others

A person who is of great importance to an individual's life and wellbeing.

Social change

On a marco level, social change invovles a major shift in the political economic or cultural order. On a micro level, it involves everyday changes in political, economic and cultural relationships.

Social construction

behaviour that is culturally, rather than naturally, produced. Sociologists believe behaviours is socially constructed because it varies both historically and across different societies.

Social control

Various mechanisms, such as rewards and punishments, that individuals and societies use to maintain order.

Social engineering

A practice that involves influencing certain social behaviour and public opinion on a large scale. E.g. propaganda

Social identity

A person's sense of who they are based on the society they are in.

Social order

The behavioural patterns and regularities established by societies that make social action possible.

Social policy

A set of ideas and actions pursued by governments to meet a particular social objective.

Social problems

A problem in society that affects a considerable number of individuals.

Social sanctions

A form of social control from external sources such as rewards and punishment, as opposed to self-control through norms and values.

Social self

A sociological theory by Mead


The process of providing an individual with skills necessary to become a functional member of a society.

Status group

social group sharing similar levels of status and often similar lifestyle or occupations.


A methodology in Sociology arguing that human behaviour must be understood by looking at their relationship with a large social structure. See Structural theoriy.


A sociological perspective that combines structuralism and social action; it acknowledges that a dynamic relationship exists between individuals and the society allowing them to influence each other.


A culture within the mainstream culture with a distinct set of norms and values.


A value of sociological practice that features individual perspectives, emotions and beliefs.

Symbolic interactionism

See symbolic interactionism.

Traditional society

A type of society characterized by an orientation towards the past, putting emphasis on customs and traditions.


the use of two or more research methods where the weaknesses of one method, such as a quantitative interview, can be offset by the strengths of another, such as qualitative pps observation, to improve overall research reliability and validity.


the extent to which a research method measures what it claims to measure.

Value consensus

agreement about the things a society, and by extension individuals within that society, thinks are importan.

Value judgement

Judgement based solely on the values of those making a decision; value judgement are, by definition, subjective.


A general principle that the conduct and findings of the research process should not be influenced by the values of the researcher.


A set of beliefs in a society which state what is considered desirable and proper.


Factors that can be changed(manipulated) by the researcher to understand their effect on behaviou.


Research strategy central to participant observatio, which takes advantage of the researcher's ability to see things from the subject's viewpoint(empathy).

Weberian theory

A sociological perspective, deriving from the work of Max Weber, focused on understanding and explaining social action. Contemporary forms of Weberian sociology are usually expressed as interactionalist sociology.

CIE A-Level Glossary

Unit Three (Education) Concepts

Compensatory education

supplementary educational programs designed to compensate children for their deprived home background

Comprehensive education

Correspondence principle

Counter-school culture

Cultural capital

Cultural reproduction

Deferred/immediate gratification



Educational achievement

Elaborated and restricted speech codes

Equality of opportunity


Ethnocentric curriculim

Formal education


Gender stereotyping

Gendered curriculim

Hidden curriculim

Ideological state apparatus

Informal education



Inteligence quotient






Minority ethnic group

Positional theory

Peer group

Positive discrimination

Pupil subcultures

Self-fulfilling prophecy

Social class

Social capital

Social democratic theory

Social exclusion

Social inequality

Social mobility



Unit Five (Media) Concepts

Agenda setting

Audience reception




Content analysis

Cultural effects model

Corss-media corporations


Deviance amplification

Discourse analysis


Folk devils



Hegemonic/professional/negotiated/oppositional codes


High culture


Hypodermic syringe


Ideological state apparatus

Interpretative community

Interactive media

Media effects

Mass culture


Media manipulation

Media ownership


Moral panic

Media regulation

Media representation

Media sensationalism


New media

Normative model

Opinion polls

Political socialisation

Popular culture


Selection and presentation of media coontent


Social media



Traditional media

Two step flow model

Uses and gratifications

Youth subculture

Unit Six (Religion) Concepts


A belief that it is impossible to prove whether the supernatural exists.


Strict self-discipline performed out of religious reasons.


A lack of belief for the existence of gods.


A building where Christian worship takes place.

Civil religion

Patriotic practices performed in a ritualistic way. E.g. oaths of allegiance.

Collective conscience

The set of shared values and moral beliefs in society which is crucial for the maintenance of social order, social control and social solidarity. Durkheim believes religion reinforces the collective conscience.

Cultural defence

The prosecution of an individual due to him/her performing an act due to his/her cultural background but otherwise deemed criminal. E.g. prosecution for FGM.

Cultural transition

The process of transferring to another place with a different culture.


A religious organization with devotion towards a particular entity (persons, objects, etc).


Organisations that share several but not all of the supposed features of a church (Stark&Bainbridge)


The removal of religious meaning from an entity.


Weber's idea that rationalisation and the development of science will replace the belief in magic and the supernatural in a modern world.


A sociological theory which proposes that the other people become, the less interaction they perform with others, leading to them becoming disengaged from the society.


Literal interpretation and application of religious doctrines to all aspects of social, economic and political life. 'Movements that respond to problems created by modernization by advocating society-wide obedience and seeking political power to impose the revitalized tradition' (Bruce)


The process of which organizations gain influence on a global scale.


A system of ideas.

Liberation theology

A movement of working class against economic forces and state oppression in Latin America during the 50-60s. Supported by Catholic church, notably individual priests such as Oscar Romero. Link to neo-Marxist idea of relative anatomy.


The status of being excluded from certain social groups.

Millenarian movements

Movements believing in an upcoming drastic transformation of society which would cause much social change.


The state describing something being modern.

New age

A board range of spiritual movement since the 70s. Rejects differentiation and traditional ideas; promotes individualism and inner spirituality.

New religious movements

A term used to describe religious and spritual practices of modern origins.


Dominance of men. Feminists see religion as part of the larger patriarchal society.

Post modernity

The state describing something being postmodern.

Privatized forms of worship

Religious worship performed in private. E.g. meditation.


See 'sacred'.

Protestant ethic

Weber's idea that the ascetic lifestyle promoted by Calvinism contributed to the development of Capitalism.


Bruce's view that in a modern society, social life is planned to achieve certain goals but not based upon faith or prayer.


The degree of religious activity and belief. Also known as 'religiousness'.

Religious beliefs

Beliefs related to the existence of certain deities and certain aspects of the supernatural.

Religious consumerism

The belief that consumerism has become a new religion; supported by phenomenon such as people attaching meanings to brands.

Religious diversity

Different religions coexisting in consensus in a certain society.

Religious pluralism

An idea accepting that two or more religions with mutually exclusive beliefs can be equally valid.

Religious revivals

A religious interest in the revival of dead individuals.


Customary religious practice. For example, Malinowski analysed the fishing rituals in Trobriand Islands.


Durkheim differentiates the 'sacred' from the 'profane'. In his view, sacred objects produces a sense of awe, veneration and respect, while profane objects do not.

Sectarian cycle

A term coined by sociologists Stark and Bainbridge describing the cycle which sects would follow. See the Sectarian cycle.


A group of people belonging to a certain religion but holding modified (often non-conformist) religious beliefs.


The decline of religion. Some sociologists believe religion has lost/is losing its social and cultural significance in a modern/post-modern society, while others reject this idea.

Social solidarity

The social ties that bind people together. Functionalists believe religion serves to reinforce social solidarity.

Spiritual shopping

The New Age idea of selecting your own spiritual products is seen by some sociologists as resembling consumerism


The simplest and most basic form of religion in Durkheim's narratives. Each Aboriginal clan has their unique totem as their emblem. However, Durkheim argues that behind the visual representation of a totem, the clan itself is the true object of worship.

World rejecting/accommodating/affirming sect

World-rejecting sect: Sects viewing the current social order as deviant according to their beliefs.

World-accommodating sect: Sects which separate their spiritual beliefs from the current social order.

World-affirming sect: Sects which claim to have means to 'unlock human potential'.

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