Social Problems

I.     Course Prefix/Number: SOC 103

       Course Name: Social Problems

       Credits: 3 (3 lecture; 0 lab)

II.    Prerequisite

Recommended: SOC 101

III.   Course (Catalog) Description

Course investigates social conditions that contribute to contemporary U.S. social problems.  Content includes globalization; poverty; discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, age or sexual orientation; crime and criminal justice system; substance abuse; environmental problems; and war and terrorism.

IV.   Learning Objectives

General education objectives
The student will:

  1. gather and analyze social science data using appropriate research methods, e.g. observations, surveys, and/or secondary analysis, and use theory to interpret these social science data.
  2. critically read sociological materials in order to compare and evaluate alternative explanations of social behavior.
  3. communicate sociological research and theory effectively in written assignments.

Course objectives
The student will:

  1. apply functional, conflict, and symbolic-interactionism theoretical perspectives to social problems.
  2. identify social factors that contribute to the emergence of social problems.
  3. differentiate between subjective concerns and objective conditions of social problems.
  4. explain how the definition of social problems changes over time and from one cultural context to another.
  5. assess how change within social institutions, structures, and societies produces social problems related to urban life, population and food, the environmental crisis, and/or war and terrorism.
  6. assess how structures of inequality within society are linked to a wide range of social problems related to wealth and poverty, race and ethnicity, sex and gender discrimination, and/or physical and mental health.
  7. assess how the violation of laws and other social norms creates problems within society such as those related to human sexual behavior, alcohol and other drugs, violence in society, and/or crime and criminal justice.
  8. compare and evaluate different societal responses to the problems discussed in class and demonstrate how social barriers often prevent a complete solution to social problems.

V.    Academic Integrity and Student Conduct

Students and employees at Oakton Community College are required to demonstrate academic integrity and follow Oakton's Code of Academic Conduct. This code prohibits:

• cheating,
• plagiarism (turning in work not written by you, or lacking proper citation),
• falsification and fabrication (lying or distorting the truth),
• helping others to cheat,
• unauthorized changes on official documents,
• pretending to be someone else or having someone else pretend to be you,
• making or accepting bribes, special favors, or threats, and
• any other behavior that violates academic integrity.

There are serious consequences to violations of the academic integrity policy. Oakton's policies and procedures provide students a fair hearing if a complaint is made against you. If you are found to have violated the policy, the minimum penalty is failure on the assignment and, a disciplinary record will be established and kept on file in the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs for a period of 3 years.

Please review the Code of Academic Conduct and the Code of Student Conduct, both located online at

VI.   Sequence of Topics

  1. The Sociological Study of Social Problems
    1. Defining social problems
    2. Theoretical approaches to understanding them
    3. Analyzing social problems
  2. Social Inequality within U.S. Society -- Poverty, Race and Ethnicity, Gender, and Age
    1. The scope of the problem
    2. Looking at the problem theoretically
    3. Research findings
    4. Solving the problem
  3. The Analysis of Some Specific Social Problems
    1. Human sexuality -- teen pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, homophobia
    2. Divorce
    3. Violence in the family
    4. Substance abuse
    5. Crime and violence
    6. The failure of the educational system to educate
    7. The health care crisis
  4. The Future Direction of Social Problems Within U.S. Society
    1. The future of social inequality
    2. The future of specific social problems

VII.  Methods of Instruction

  1. Lecture and discussion
  2. Role-play, simulation, small and large group discussion, guest speakers, forums, audiovisual and other classroom activities

Course may be taught as face-to-face, hybrid or online course.

VIII. Course Practices Required

  1. Reading: weekly reading assignments from an assigned text; supplemental readings from outside sources are encouraged.
  2. Writing: students will be required to write for the class the equivalent of 12-15 typed pages of material that will be graded. This writing may take the form of a research or term paper, summaries of journal articles, and/or a series of shorter, analytical papers.
  3. Attendance and Participation: Students are expected to attend class regularly and to participate while in class. Participation is reflected in a student’s overall preparedness and involvement in class discussions. Good participation can also mean facilitating the contributions of others, not just dominating the discussion. Students are expected to listen carefully to others, ask questions, and share ideas.
  4. Tests: students will be required to take a minimum of 2 exams during the term.

IX.   Instructional Materials

Note: Current textbook information for each course and section is available on Oakton's Schedule of Classes.

Henslin, James M. (2011).  Social Problems: A Down-to-Earth Approach.  (10th ed.).  Upper Saddle River, NJ:  Allyn & Bacon.

Representative supplemental text:
Kotlowitz, Alex (1992).  There Are No Children Here:  The Story of Two Boys Growing up in the Other America.  Lancaster, VA:  Anchor Communications Book Publishers.

Both the textbook and the supplemental book cover topics such as crime and violence, gender, racial, and social class inequality, substance abuse, violence, urban problems, and changing family life.  In addition, articles that deal with topics on the outline may be assigned.

X.    Methods of Evaluating Student Progress

Representative methods include:

  1. Quizzes and tests.
  2. Written work, such as a term paper or several short papers and/or interviews or other projects of a written nature.
  3. Classroom participation, such as listening, sharing experiences, relating the course materials to the world around him/her.

XI.   Other Course Information

If you have a documented learning, psychological, or physical disability you may be entitled to reasonable academic accommodations or services. To request accommodations or services, contact the Access and Disability Resource Center at the Des Plaines or Skokie campus. All students are expected to fulfill essential course requirements. The College will not waive any essential skill or requirement of a course or degree program.

Oakton Community College is committed to maintaining a campus environment emphasizing the dignity and worth of all members of the community, and complies with all federal and state Title IX requirements.

Resources and support for
  • pregnancy-related and parenting accommodations; and
  • victims of sexual misconduct
can be found at

Resources and support for LGBTQ+ students can be found at

Electronic video and/or audio recording is not permitted during class unless the student obtains written permission from the instructor. In cases where recordings are allowed, such content is restricted to personal use only. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited. Personal use is defined as use by an individual student for the purpose of studying or completing course assignments.

For students who have been approved for audio and/or video recording of lectures and other classroom activities as a reasonable accommodation by Oakton’s Access Disabilities Resource Center (ADRC), applicable federal law requires instructors to permit those recordings. Such recordings are also limited to personal use. Any distribution of such recordings is strictly prohibited.

Violation of this policy will result in disciplinary action through the Code of Student Conduct.