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Defining Social Problems: Public and Professional Perspectives
Robert H. Lauer
Vol. 24, No. 1, SSSP as a Social Movement (Oct., 1976), pp. 122-130
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/800329
Page Count: 9
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A common way of defining social problems is to include a subjective element; objective conditions only become social problems when they are perceived to be undesirable by some segment of the public. In their actual treatment of social problems, however, sociologists have contradicted their own definitions by ignoring public opinion in their selection of specific problems for study. A survey of Gallup Polls from 1935 to 1975 shows certain patterns in public definitions of problems and identifies the kind of concerns held by the public. An examination of thirty-four social problems texts shows the kind of problems treated by sociologists, and there is considerable disparity between the public and the professional perspectives. A resolution of this disparity is suggested in the form of a new definition of social problems that gives both professional and public opinion a place in identifying and analyzing social problems.
Social Problems © 1976 Oxford University Press