Manifest Functions in Sociology: Examples & Summary

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  • 0:00 Social Structure & Functions
  • 1:20 Manifest & Latent Functions
  • 2:10 Example: Religion
  • 2:49 Example: Education
  • 3:27 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kimberly Moffitt

Kimberly has taught college Sociology and Criminal Justice classes and has a Master's Degree in Criminal Justice.

Manifest functions are those recognized and intended consequences that people observe or expect in a social pattern or social institution. Let's examine these concepts further and test our knowledge with a quiz.

Social Structure and Social Functions

Structural functionalism is one of the main perspectives in sociology. This approach sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote solidarity and stability. Important aspects of this perspective are social structure, social functions, and manifest and latent functions. The focus of this lesson will be on manifest functions, which are those recognized and intended consequences that people observe or expect in a social pattern or social institution. Let's examine these concepts further and illustrate them through a few examples.

Two concepts surrounding structural functionalism are social structure and social function. Social structure is any relatively stable pattern of social behavior. Social structure includes arrangements in society, such as various social classes (upper, middle, and lower) or various governmental levels (federal, state, and municipal). Functionalists also look to social functions, which are the consequences of any social pattern for the operation of society as a whole. Consider the social structure of religion - a functionalist would argue it exists to benefit society as a whole.

Manifest and Latent Functions

Robert K. Merton expanded our knowledge of social functions by pointing out that while many social functions are obvious and intended, others are unrecognized and unintended. Manifest functions are the recognized and intended consequences of any social pattern, while latent functions are those unrecognized and unintended consequences.

To analyze the manifest functions of any social institution, we have to study its contribution to the continuation of a group, community, or society. We recognize several intended consequences of various social institutions for the operation of society as a whole. To help illustrate manifest functions, let's use religion and education as examples.

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