Category: Social Psychology & Lifecourse

The Potential of Epigenetics for Sociology

A careful understanding of epigenetic mechanisms allows sociologists to include a new biological perspective into research designs – when it is incorporated carefully and not used casually or blindly as a deus ex machina explanatory device that is. Epigenetics provides us with one of several “mechanisms by which social influences become embodied” (Kuzawa and Sweet 2008: 2). A promising place for sociologists to enter into this research or use it fruitfully is to examine how social environments and inequalities become embodied...

Old=conservative, young=liberal? Age, Generation, and Voting Patterns

We now find ourselves in a unique media period: after the midterm election digestion, and before every news outlet begins twenty-four hour coverage of the 2012 election. So, this seems like a good time to talk about age-related voting patterns. One of the most striking observations about the composition of voters in the midterm election was how few young people turned out, relative to their numbers in 2008. In 2008, about 18% of the voters were under thirty; about 16%...

Blinded by narcissism?

In the Freudian Era, Narcissism was a central psychiatric concept and diagnosis. In the last several months, the likelihood that the American Psychiatric Association will drop this diagnosis from it’s new, 5th edition of The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) has been the subject of a string of articles in prominent newspapers and other news outlets including the New York Times and NPR. Though the debate is one about professional discourse and diagnosis, it extends well beyond...

New issue of Sociology Compass out now! (Vol 4, Issue 12)

Sociology Compass © Blackwell Publishing Ltd Volume 4, Issue 12 Page 999 – 1078 The latest issue of Sociology Compass is available on Wiley Online Library Crime & Deviance Parole Revocation in the Era of Mass Incarceration (pages 999–1010) Jeffrey Lin Article first published online: 1 DEC 2010 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1751-9020.2010.00335.x Gender Men and Erotic Oases (pages 1011–1019) Richard Tewksbury Article first published online: 1 DEC 2010 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1751-9020.2010.00343.x Science & Medicine Fat Studies: Mapping the Field (pages 1020–1034)...

"Hope" and "change" don't pay the bills – and for that, the democrats will pay

In the last presidential election, “hope” that Washington could be a less partisan and ultimately a less corrupt and more transparent place, coupled with a longing for “change,” propelled Obama into office. That, and an intense disappointment with the previous administration. However, the economic meltdown and the generally painful economic situation for a large number of Americans has lead even many Obama supporters to question whether anything is actually different and whether our president can be pragmatic and effectual in...

Come as you are: The social experiences of sexual identity and mental health

On August 4, Federal Judge Vaughn R. Walker struck down California’s ban on same sex marriage ruling that the prohibition violated the right to equal protection as afforded by the United States Constitution.  Judge Walker went to great lengths to lodge his ruling in an extensive review of the facts presented. Ultimately, he determined, “Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition...

The truths of the war in Afghanistan : does visibility decrease support?

On Monday, Wikileaks, a website devoted to exposing the underbelly of the political and corporate world, revealed thousands of documents that, in a nutshell, depict the complications, perils and pitfalls of the war in Afghanistan. One piece of alarming information is that terrorist organizations in Afghanistan are clearly being supported by Pakistan. Another is solid evidence of the corruption of Hamid Karzai (though this has been suspected for quite some time). The force with which this story hit the news...

Are we informing ourselves into inaction? How much information is too much?

What does an overload of information do to our decision-making process? This question becomes, at least in part, an issue of simplicity v. complexity, so I am reminded of Durkheim’s classic argument about social integration and regulation. Too much or too little of each causes problems – for him, various types of suicide emerge because of an overbearing or under-restricting/engaging society.  Simmel’s conflict over the freedom, yet overwhelming choices of the metropolis also comes to mind. In each of these...

Oil gushes into the Gulf of Mexico, who has the expertise to stop it?

Oil has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for over a month as a result of an explosion atop a rig that was extracting crude from a 5,000-foot-deep well owned by British Petroleum. The horrific event, which killed 11 men working on that rig, set off a leak that experts say is pumping anywhere between 5,000 and 18,000 barrels of oil a day; that’s anywhere from 210,000 to 756,000 gallons of crude oil flowing into the Gulf of Mexico...

What is "taste"? : The changing nature of Kosher food comsupmtion

According to a recent New York Times article (see below), the consumption of Kosher foods is expanding; the market for these products once mostly consumed for religious reasons has widened well beyond the Jewish community – certainly to a much wider audience than Jews who abide by the laws of Kosher eating. While, historically, kosher foods were uniquely consumed by the Jewish community, health reasons have become a driving force behind the expansion of the market. For instance, the Times...

Hoarding and other disorders – are they rooted in the mind or the market? And what does this tell us about mental illness?

Of late, behaviors such as hoarding are getting a lot of attention. TV shows devoted to the tormented lives of hoarders have hit the scene and certainly, an increase in interest among mental health professionals and the media has surfaced. There are several substantive sociological issues here that go beyond the psychological elements and individual consequences of hoarding behavior – or buying, spending, drinking, gambling – all of which are considered by the American Psychiatric Association to be disorders in...

the normative influence of prescription drugs – why do placebos work so well?

Inquiries as to whether many of the drugs that millions of Americans take are any more effective than say, a sugar pill, or any other placebo pill used in clinical trials are on the rise. Sadly, especially with many anti-depressants, it does not seem as though there is any clear evidence that the drugs are more effective than the placebos and this may also be an issue in non-psychotropic drugs. What if a blood pressure medication wasn’t any more helpful...

Stigma and the Associations between Mental Illness and Violence in the Media

On February 12th, Amy Bishop walked into a meeting of the Biology department at The University of Alabama, where she had recently been denied tenure, and murdered three colleagues. On February 18th, Joseph Stack flew a stolen plane into a building that housed, among other workplaces, a number of FBI offices in Austin, Texas.  He, too, killed several people. Both are tragic events. Both were acts committed by clearly violent individuals and are possibly related to emotional or psychological problems. While Bishop had a history of violence, most...

Editor's Highlights: Engaging the Life Course Perspective to Study Same-Sex Families

As the Proposition 8 trial is underway in California, testing the definitions of family and marriage, it seems timely to look at what sociologists know about same-sex families.  Easterbrook’s December 2009 article in the Social Psychology & Family section of Sociology Compass is a review of sociological literature on same-sex families, focusing on the life course perspective.  A life course study of the family examines the transitions that families experience over time, history, and social context. Existing literature tells a...

Republican win in Massachusetts – The tipping point for abandoning health care reform?

Last week, Senator Edward Kennedy’s long-held senate seat went to a Republican, Scott Brown and marked what will likely be the beginning of the end for the health care reforms – changes that were likely to pass if this incredibly close race had gone to the Democratic candidate. This election, or more accurately, the discourse surrounding the “big Republican win”  is, in many ways, the tipping point toward more conservative fiscal and social policy. In The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make...

Creating or Identifying Mental Illness: what American psychiatric definitions of illness do

The New York Times Sunday Magazine featured an article (a preview of a book) by Ethan Watters about the globalization of American concepts of mental illness (linked below). In short, along with our flavored lattes, burgers and GAP jeans, American concepts of illness are spreading across the globe. I would argue they have spread and are relatively well-integrated into the majority of societies’ understandings of a wide range of symptoms. There are very few places untouched by American conceptualizations of...