Alevel Sociology Wikia

[Update] the NEW SYALLABUS 2021

For examination in June and November 2021, 2022 and 2023.

Also available for examination in March 2021, 2022 and 2023 for India only.

AS Level

Paper 1 – Socialisation, identity and methods of research

Paper 2 – The Family

A Level

Paper 3 – Education

Paper 4 – Globalisation

Paper 4 – Media

Paper 4 – Religion

AS Level 2021

Paper 1 – Socialisation, identity and methods of research

This topic area has two central aims: first, to examine the role of socialisation in the creation of social identities; second, to introduce the basic methods of research, including concepts that can be used to evaluate the relevance and accuracy of sociological findings.

Socialisation and Identity

1.1 The process of learning and socialisation

  • Culture, roles, norms, values, beliefs, customs, ideology, power and status as elements in the social construction of reality.
  • The importance of socialisation in influencing human behaviour, including the nurture versus nature debate.
  • Agencies of socialisation and social control, including family, education, peer group, media and religion.

1.2 Social control, conformity and resistance

  • The role of structure and agency in shaping the relationship between the individual and society, including an awareness of the differences between structuralist and interactionist views.
  • Factors explaining why individuals conform to social expectations, including sanctions, social pressure, self- interest and social exchange.
  • The mechanisms through which order is maintained, including power, ideology, force and consensus.
  • How sociologists explain deviance and non-conformity, including subcultures, under-socialisation, marginalisation, cultural deprivation and social resistance.

1.3 Social identity and change

  • Social class, gender, ethnicity and age as elements in the construction of social identity.
  • How social class, gender, ethnicity and age identities may be changing due to globalisation, increased choice and the creation of new/hybrid identities.

Research Method

Candidates will examine the different research methods and types of data used in sociological research, exploring the strengths and limitations of these. They will look at the process of designing research, and at key ideas for assessing the value of different research methods. Candidates will examine questions such as whether sociology can and should be based on the natural sciences.

2.1 Types of data, methods and research design

  • The differences between primary and secondary sources of data and between quantitative and qualitative data.
  • The strengths and limitations of different secondary sources of data, including official statistics, personal documents, digital content and media sources.
  • The strengths and limitations of different quantitative research methods, including questionnaires, structured interviews, experiments and content analysis.
  • The strengths and limitations of different qualitative research methods, including overt and covert participant and non-participant observation, unstructured interviews, semi-structured interviews and group interviews.
  • Stages of research design, including deciding on research strategy, formulating research questions and hypotheses, sampling frames, sampling techniques, pilot studies, operationalisation, conducting research and interpreting results.

2.2 Approaches to sociological research

  • The use of approaches drawing on different research methods, including case studies, social surveys, ethnography and longitudinal studies.
  • The mixed methods approach to research, including triangulation and methodological pluralism.
  • The positivist approach, with reference to scientific method, objectivity, reliability and value-freedom.
  • The interpretivist approach, with reference to verstehen, meaning, subjectivity and validity.
  • The debates about whether sociology can/should be based on the methods and procedures of the natural sciences and the role of values in sociological research.

2.3 Research issues

  • The theoretical, practical and ethical considerations influencing the choice of topic, choice of method(s) and conduct of research.
  • How research findings may be biased by the actions and values of the sociologist and by choices made in funding, designing and conducting the research.
  • Validity, reliability, objectivity, representativeness and ethics as important concepts in assessing the value of different research methods

Paper 2 – The Family

This topic area develops candidates’ understanding of the family in a social context. The aim is to explore different sociological perspectives on the role of the family and family diversity, and to understand the way social change influences family life and different family members.

3 Theories of the family and social change

Candidates will explore different perspectives of the role of the family in society, giving an opportunity for them to reflect on the key concepts of Power, control and resistance, and Socialisation, culture and identity. Candidates will examine the effects of social change on the diversity of family and household forms, which link to the key concept of Social change and development.

3.1 Perspectives on the role of the family

  • Functionalist accounts of how the family benefits its members and society and how the functions of families have changed over time, including the ‘loss of functions’ debate.
  • Marxist accounts of how the family benefits capitalism, including ideological control, reproduction of labour and consumption.
  • Feminist responses to functionalist and Marxist accounts of the role of the family.

3.2 Diversity and social change

  • The causes and consequences of changing patterns of marriage, cohabitation, divorce and separation.
  • Different family and household forms, including nuclear, extended, lone-parent, reconstituted, same-sex families, families of choice and single-person households.
  • Dimensions of family diversity, including organisational, cultural and class diversity.
  • The debate about the extent of family diversity and the dominance of the nuclear family.
  • New Right and postmodernist perspectives on family diversity.
  • The state and social policy as influences on the family.

4 Family roles and changing relationships

Candidates will consider different ways in which the behaviours of some family members are controlled by others, and will examine equality in the family. These issues provide a context for the key concepts of Power, control and resistance, and Inequality and opportunity.

4.1 Gender equality and experiences of family life

  • Different feminist perspectives on equality and power in the family, including liberal, radical and Marxist feminist.
  • Conjugal roles and debates about gender equality in the family, including housework, childcare, power and emotion work.
  • Debates about whether the experience of family life is positive or negative for family members.

4.2 Age and family life

  • The social construction of childhood, and changes in the role and social position of children in the family.
  • The role and social position of grandparents in the family, including cross-cultural comparisons and the impact of changing life expectancy upon the family.
  • Social class, gender and ethnicity as factors affecting the experiences of children in the family.
  • Changes in the concepts of motherhood and fatherhood.

Cambridge International AS Level

Unit 1: The family

This unit examines the family and how the processes of social change have affected it. The aim is to explore the diverse forms of family life and to understand the role of the family in relation to individuals and the social structure.

The family and social change

-The distinction between households and families and between types of families: lone parent, nuclear and extended.

-Changes in family and household structure and their relationship to industrialisation, urbanisation and globalisation.

-Family diversity according to class, ethnicity, religion, family size, marital status, age and family life cycle.

-The debate about the postulated universality of the nuclear family.

-Different theories about the relationship between the family and the economy

Family roles, marriage and changing relationships

-Changes and continuities in family functions; debates about the relationship between the family and the state.

-Roles and responsibilities within the family, including the roles of parents, children and grandparents.

-Conjugal roles and debates about gender equality within the family. (Feminism)

-Changing patterns of marriage, cohabitation, civil partnership, separation, divorce and child bearing; the causes and consequences of these changes.

-The impact of family life on individual members.

The social construction of age

-The social significance of divisions based on age groups.

-Childhood as a concept that is socially constructed.

-Class, ethnicity and gender as factors affecting the experience of childhood.

-Debates about the social position of the elderly in different societies.

Unit 2: Theory and methods

This unit contains two central aims. Firstly, it introduces candidates to the key concepts and theories associated with a sociological understanding of human behaviour. Candidates begin to explore the nature of sociological enquiry and the insights that it provides into the relationship between individuals and social structures. Secondly, the unit introduces candidates to the basic concepts and issues in research design and evaluation. The aim is to make candidates aware of the way in which sociologists can claim that their findings are truthful and worthwhile.

The sociological perspective

-Sociology as a reasoned and rigorous study of social life.

-Sociology as a science: positivist, interpretivist and post-modernist perspectives.

-The uses of sociological knowledge; the role of values in sociology.

-Sociology and social policy; the differences between sociological problems and social problems

-The diversity of human behaviour and cultural variation.

-The nature of social order, social control and social change.

Socialisation and the creation of social identity

-Structuralist and interactionist views of the relationship between the individual and society.

-The processes of learning and socialisation; how the individual becomes a competent social actor.

-Agencies of socialisation: family, education, peer group, media, religion.

-Culture, roles, norms, values, beliefs, ideology and power as elements in the social construction of reality.

-Social class, gender and ethnicity as elements in the construction of social identities

-Theories of culture and identity with reference to modernism and post-modernism.

Methods of research

-The distinctions between primary and secondary data and between quantitative and qualitative data.

-The different quantitative and qualitative methods and sources of data, including questionnaires, interviews, observation techniques, experiments, longitudinal studies, case studies, content analysis, semiology, documents and official statistics.

-The stages of research design: deciding on research strategy; formulating research problems and hypotheses; sampling and pilot studies; conducting the research; interpreting the results and reporting the findings.

The relationship between theory and methods

-Positivist and anti-positivist approaches.

-The theoretical, practical and ethical considerations influencing the choice of topic, choice of method(s) and the conduct of research.

-The strengths and limitations of different sources of data and methods of research.

-Validity, reliability, objectivity and representativeness as key concepts in assessing the value of different methods of research.

-Triangulation and methodological pluralism.

Cambridge International A Level

Unit 3: Education

Education in social context

-Theories about the links between education and the economy.

-Explanations of educational achievement and intelligence.

-The relationship between education and social mobility.

-Debates about the links between social inequality (class, gender, ethnicity) and educational opportunity and achievement.

Structures and processes within schools

-The social construction of knowledge and learning; power and social control as factors influencing the structure, content and development of the curriculum.

-Language, deprivation and knowledge.

-Teacher/pupil relationships: streaming, labelling, hidden curriculum, and the gendered curriculum.

-Pupil sub-cultures and attitudes to education.

Unit 5: Media

Ownership and control of the media

-Trends in the organisation and control of the media; ownership patterns.

-Different perspectives on the relationship between ownership and control of the media.

-Pluralist, Marxist and Postmodernist theories of the nature and role of the media.

-Different explanations of the processes of selection and presentation of media content.

-Debates about the relationship between the media and the State.

-The impact of the media on the political process in democratic and authoritarian states.

-The impact of the ‘new media’ on society.

Media representation and effects

-The role of the media in the representation of social groups and ideas, with particular reference to class, gender, ethnicity and age.

-Social patterns in listening, viewing and reading.

-Different theories of the effects and uses of the media; hypodermic syringe; uses and gratification; cultural effects studies.

-Impact of the media on behaviour, violence, deviance amplification.

-Problems of researching the effects of the media on audiences.

Unit 6: Religion

Religion and social change

-Sociological perspectives on religion.

-Religion and social change.

-Religion and its links with modernity and post-modernity.


Religious movements

-Different religious movements and their power within society: cults, sects, denominations, churches, new religious movements, New Age ideas.

-Debates about secularisation.

-Sociological studies of the relationship between religious beliefs, organisations and social groups (including links to class, gender and ethnicity). For the PDF version of the 2016 syllabus visit the Cambridge CIE website: