Social Issues: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:01 Social Issues
  • 1:42 Common Social Issues
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Millicent Kelly

Millicent has been teaching at the university level since 2004. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice and a Master's degree in Human Resources.

Social issues or problems are prevalent in all cultures. This lesson will describe what constitutes a social issue and provide examples of major social issues facing the United States today.

Social Issues

Jenna thinks her sixteen-year-old daughter Becky is pregnant. Jenna is worried because she wants Becky to finish high school and go to college. She takes Becky to the doctor for a pregnancy test, which confirms that Becky is about four months pregnant. After discussing options, Becky makes the decision to keep her baby and enter into motherhood. Jenna has no idea how they will cope financially or emotionally.

A social issue or problem is an issue that has been recognized by society as a problem that is preventing society from functioning at an optimal level. It is important to understand that not all things that occur in society are raised to the level of social problems. Four factors have been outlined that seem to characterize a social issue or problem. These include:

  1. The public must recognize the situation as a problem.
  2. The situation is against the general values accepted by the society.
  3. A large segment of the population recognizes the problem as a valid concern.
  4. The problem can be rectified or alleviated through the joint action of citizens and/or community resources.

Becky's teenage pregnancy, for example, is considered a social issue because it is commonplace, is recognized as a problem because it burdens the welfare system, goes against societal values, and can be alleviated through collective action and community resources. To name every social issue is beyond the scope of this lesson, but we will look at a few examples of social issues that are recognized and important problems in the United States today.

Common Social Issues

In addition to teen pregnancy, there are a vast number of important identified social issues in the United States today. Let's look at five of these and why they are problematic.

First up, we have terrorism. Terrorism is generally defined by the Federal Bureau of Investigation as illegal dangerous acts to human life that are meant to intimidate or coerce through mass destruction, assassination, or kidnapping. Terrorism can be both domestic or international. It has become a social issue because of its increased domestic prevalence within the United States. These terrorist acts have changed the general quality and way of life, and the majority of citizens believe that solidarity can minimize the occurrence of such incidents.

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