Personal Choices – Sociology Class Paper

Question: According to the text, in what ways are personal choices affected by social influences such as historical events, race and ethnicity, social class, and age expectations? Be sure to support your answer with data or facts from the text. Answer: Personal choices are affected by many social influences.

Making a choice based on what society “says” a person should do is often the way people decide. An

example given in class is that our society says people should wear clothes. Whereas in many societies this is not the case, in our society people wear clothes because if they didn’t, they would feel out of place. An example from the textbook is that “in the 1950s and early 1960s people tended to marry earlier than they do now. With the median age at marriage at about 20 for women and 22 for men then (compared with about 24 for women and 26 for men now), it was more difficult to remain single after graduation, and women in their last year of college sometimes became panicky enough to marry men they did not really care for.” Fortunately, our society today sees marriage as something that can wait a little longer, and people aren’t getting married as soon, so hopefully this pressure has been somewhat alleviated from women.

Historical events like war, depression, inflation, and social change, affect the decisions people make also. In a depression there are less jobs to be found, so a person might not be as willing to quit the job they currently have if they are unhappy. On the other side of the coin, a person who is looking for a job and can find one would probably take whatever he or she could get. The textbook gives the example that “the Vietnam War may have played a part in the rise in the American divorce rate in the sixties and seventies.”

Another important factor in making personal choices lies in race and ethnicity. The textbook says “Asian Americans may be more strongly influenced by their parents in choices about marriage than are other Americans.” Often, people of a certain race believe in a certain religion, which may limit choices that another race/religion offers. Also, racial discrimination is a huge limiting factor on choices that a person can make.

Social class is still another factor that influences the choices people make. A wealthy person many times has more options than a poorer person has. These options include better health care, better schooling, etc. Social class also affects the way people raise their children. According to the textbook, “middle-class parents value self-direction and initiative in children, whereas parents in working-class families stress obedience and conformity.”