Examples of social pathologies

Social Pathologies- Definition, Theories & Examples


Social pathologies are the study of certain social conditions existing within a society, which cause harm to members of that community. The conditions may include poverty, social class, sexual orientation, ethnic background, gender identity, and other economic or social disadvantages.

It is the study of phenomena in society that are harmful to the members of society. Social pathologies can also refer to dysfunction within a community or social institution, such as familial dysfunction or internal conflict.

Social pathologies have different origins, types, and effects depending on the social structure.

For example, a person may belong to a particular social class that gives them access to power in the community. Let us look at the various examples of social pathologies then go to the associated theories!

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This social pathology is when a small segment of society lacks the essential resources to survive. Poverty can be absolute or relative depending on its deprivation or lack of necessities, such as food, shelter, and clothing.

Absolute poverty is the level of poverty defined by monetary standards, while relative poverty indicates non-monetary criteria, such as education, occupation, and standard of living.

People from poor backgrounds might not have the same opportunities or access to educational resources that may help them boost their social position. If poverty becomes chronic, it can result in a cycle of poverty or even be passed on to the next generation.

Chronic poverty is defined as being in a state of long-term poverty, which can place one in a position of powerlessness.

Social Class

The study of differences in social status in society is known as social stratification, which involves the economic, social, and political inequality among various groups in a society.

Class relations refer to hierarchal inequalities between classes, which tend to develop in a society based on social relations.

According to Marxists, the most important class divisions are how people’s labor and life activity are distributed and class consciousness.

Common examples of social classes in society include the middle class, working class, upper-class, and poverty class.

Sexual Orientation

It is a social pathology that refers to different sexual preferences. It can be towards a person of the same sex or of the opposite sex.

This pathology can be distinguished by eroticism (e.g., lesbianism, gay male, etc.) and sexual orientation (e.g., heterosexuality, bisexuality, asexuality, etc.). It is also described as being non-heterosexual or having an altered sexual orientation.

The issue of sexual orientation provokes many social problems, especially in a traditional community. Social pathologies associated with sexual orientation include homophobia, inter-generational conflict, violence, religious condemnation, persecution of homosexuals and the LGBT community.

In the 21st century, most young people have decided to explore their sexuality and accept their sexual orientation. The global trend is now moving towards the acceptance of all types of sexuality.

Ethnic Background

It refers to the racial, cultural, and national backgrounds and identities of groups of people. It is also the definition of a social group based upon common ancestry, language, or culture with shared traditions and history.

Ethnicity is commonly identified by nationality, the language of the country, skin color, and religion.

It is seen as a way for people to find comfort in a society that is often unaccustomed to the traditions of ethnic minorities. If one belongs to an ethnic minority, one may be stigmatized and discriminated against because of it.

Cultural differences such as language, food, and clothing can also influence social stratification in society. In the United States of America, African Americans are an example of a minority. They are seen as negatively different in society.

Gender Identity

Gender identity is the personal sense and perception of how individuals see themselves in terms of their gender. Gender identity can be following one’s biological sex, or it might not be, for example, androgyne, bigender, genderqueer, male-female transgender, or transsexual.

The term gender expression refers to external symptoms of one’s gender identity that are perceived as socially acceptable expressions of one’s gender.

Gender dysphoria is the clinical distress or impairment that results from a discrepancy between gender identity and designated sex.

Physical Disability

This social pathology refers to any chronic physical condition that limits an individual’s ability to perform daily activities. Physical disability can be either congenital or acquired.

A person with a physical disability may have limited movement, agility, range of vision, hearing, and speech. It could also be a condition that affects a person’s cognitive abilities, mental health, and life expectancy.


A disease is an abnormal condition of the body or mind that affects a person’s health and can result in death. A disorder refers to the order of things out of place that may cause a problem or lead to an unhealthy situation.

Disease and disorders are commonly referred to as medical conditions. They are social pathologies because they can potentially influence social stratification in society and cause problems for individuals.

Some diseases can be spread from one individual to another. Individuals with diseases and disorders may experience stigmatization from society.


Schizophrenia is a mental disorder of a spectrum relating to the condition called schizophrenia. It includes psychotic symptoms such as hallucinations, delusions, disorganized speech and thoughts, grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior.

People who have schizophrenia have a very high risk of suicide and self-harm, leading to death. Social problems relating to schizophrenia are stigmatization, discrimination, and poverty.

It is a social pathology because people with schizophrenia may be discriminated against in society and lose opportunities to succeed in life.

Corporal Punishment

Corporal punishment is the intentional infliction of pain as a form of punishment to correct or control behavior. It refers to the use of physical force to punish.

This social pathology takes place in various settings such as in schools, homes, and the workplace. Many countries have banned the use of corporal punishment. It is seen as a violation of human rights and may negatively affect a person’s self-esteem.


Homophobia refers to the fear, dislike, and intolerance of people interested in members of their sex. It is a type of social stigma that can lead to discrimination, violence, and harassment.

This fear harms the mental and physical health of individuals. Homophobic behaviors are due to socially learned perceptions of what is considered normal and what is not.

Homophobia can lead to the exclusion of members of the homosexual community, which could cause a lack of social support.

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Maladaptive Behavior/Personality Disorder

This type of social pathology is related to dysfunctional personality traits that appear throughout a person’s life. It contains signs and symptoms such as inappropriate, hostile, or aggressive behavior, difficulty maintaining relationships, and frequent conflicts with others.

Personality disorders are considered symptoms of an underlying disorder, but they can lead to impairment and disability. This condition is usually treated with therapy, medications, and social support from family and friends.

A personality disorder is a social pathology because maladaptive behaviors can cause problems for the individual. It can also be associated with negative societal attitudes and stigma.


Parentification refers to children becoming responsible for supporting, caring for, and nurturing their parents or adults. This pathology often occurs in dysfunctional families where one parent struggles with a mental health issue like depression, anxiety, or addiction.

These children experience negative social consequences such as isolation and neglecting schoolwork. Parentification is considered a type of child abuse. Children can be victims of maltreatment in society due to a situation they have no control over.

Eating Disorder

It is a mental disorder that involves abnormal eating habits, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, or binge eating disorder. It is a psychological problem with disturbances in how one’s body weight, shape, and behavior are perceived.

Eating disorders are a type of pathology because there is an obsessive preoccupation with food and weight. This obsession may lead to self-harm or suicide. It can also cause a person to be discriminated against and become socially isolated.

Eating disorders are a significant public health problem because they affect the psychiatric, medical, and general population.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder

Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder is characterized by a range of disabilities caused by prenatal exposure to alcohol. It is associated with abnormalities in a person’s growth and development, physical features, and cognitive functioning.

This disorder affects children in their early stages, mainly before or immediately after birth through breastfeeding.

Sex Addiction

It is an addictive disorder related to excessive sexual thoughts and behaviors. It is defined as a psychological dependence on non-paraphilic sexual activities to the extent that disruptions exist in one’s life. This addiction includes sexual activities that involve genital stimulation with or without arousal, including masturbation and sexual fantasies.

Mental Disorders

Mental disorders are medical conditions that affect the mind and may cause mental pain. They differ from person to person based on their symptoms and severity. There are many types of mental disorders, with the most common being mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and psychotic disorders. Mood Disorders affect a person’s mood.

Anxiety Disorders

Anxiety Disorders cause one to have feelings of fear and anxiety. They are the third most common mental illness in the US. Dealing with anxiety disorders can be debilitating and difficult for a person to function in society.

Psychotic disorders

It is a mental disorder involving the loss of reality. People suffering from this condition commonly have hallucinations and delusions. They also experience disorganized thinking and speech.

Dissociative disorders

This mental illness is related to memory loss and a sense of identity. It causes disruptions in one’s consciousness and daily functioning. People with dissociative disorders often feel detached from their bodies, have nightmares, and feel like they are in a dream.

Mood disorders

These are mental disorders involving depression or mania. Mood disorders affect one’s mood and make one feel sad, hopeless, empty, anxious, or irritable.

The world is full of hopeless situations that make life more complicated. There is unlimited access to resources, crime, among others.

Compulsive Gambling Disorder

People with compulsive gambling disorder often have to gamble until all their money is gone and they feel empty inside. The disorder is characterized by

  • A preoccupation with gambling
  • An uncontrollable urge to gamble
  • The inability to limit one’s gambling when it causes serious problems
  • A continuation of the behavior despite negative consequences.

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

This disorder is characterized by an inflated sense of one’s importance, a lack of understanding of others’ feelings and behaviors, and little concern for them.

People with Narcissistic personality disorder are often described as manipulative charmers. In some cases, the person may come across as ego-dystonic and be aware of the deviance from what they consider normal behavior.

It is believed to be caused by severe traumatic experiences during childhood, such as extreme neglect or abuse.

Theories Related To Social Pathologies

Social Exchange Theory

The social exchange theory focuses on how people weigh costs and benefits when making decisions. It suggests that people consider the amount of resources invested against the reward.

The theory helps explain deviance, as it states that individuals are more likely to engage in deviant behavior if they perceive a small chance of getting caught or punished, and the rewards outweigh the costs.

Social Ecology Theory

This theory suggests that an individual’s behavior results from social interaction with their environment and the conditions within it. Social factors are often the most important determinants of behavior. If individuals lack social skills or cannot find a job, they may be more likely to engage in deviance.

Social Control Theory

Social control theory argues that the more people value conformity, the less likely they will break the rules. It also suggests that an individual’s likelihood of engaging in deviant behavior is affected by their relationship with society. In societies where deviant behavior is expected, an individual’s possibility of participating in criminal activities is greater.

Labeling Theory

It claims that people are labeled as deviant by society, regardless of their behavior. This theory suggests that labeling is the leading cause of deviant behaviors in society.

Once people are labeled, they decide to act in a particular way to confirm the label. This theory helps us understand how social pathologies develop and allows us to understand the role of community and culture.

Anomie Theory

According to Anomie theory, the norms of society change so quickly that people never have a chance to adjust. This leads to an unstable society where individuals do not know what to expect from society.

The theory suggests that people are more likely to engage in deviant behavior if they do not conform to normal standards of conduct.

Societal instability leads to social pathologies. People become frustrated by the constant change in society. Also, because people are unable to adjust to these changes, they look for alternative solutions.


Social Sciences

Social sciences study society and human behavior, like sociology, economics, anthropology, history, and political science.

These studies often focus on society as they describe and highlight the problems of society.

Social sciences are also used to study social behavior across societies, including biological, psychological, social, and other properties. They present a scientific study of the social world.

Examples of social sciences are:

Sociology is the scientific study of human social life and its origins, development, organizations, and institutions. It has focused on the study of society and its parts.

Economics is the science that studies the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services and their management.

Political science studies government and associated fields, including politics, legislatures, policy, and public administration.

Social structure

It is based on many principles, and one of them is the principle of ability. In a society where there are social hierarchies, this will make discrimination inevitable. This principle also makes it hard for individuals to move from the lower social class to the higher one.

It can be seen as a society in which there is a concentration of power and authority at the hands of very few individuals. These individuals are likely to hold high positions in employment and wealth ownership.


One of the most important things to understand about social pathologies can be challenging for those afflicted and their families. It’s difficult to diagnose what may cause a particular pathology, but there are some general patterns in how they manifest themselves.

Understanding the different types and causes of social pathologies will help you treat people appropriately since you know how they got there.

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