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:

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