The sociological perspective deals with the development of people and societies. Sociological thought focuses on the examination of how people are influenced by the world around them. Essentially, it seeks to answer the question of why we are the way we are. Sociological theory maintains that, with a few biochemical exceptions, people are not born good or bad, happy or depressed, and intelligent or ignorant, but are shaped into their personalities over time by the interactions that they have and the situations with which they live.
Numerous influences upon people shape their personalities and their lives. This process is known as socialization. Among these socializing factors are gender, economic status, attitudes of parents, level and quality of education, and the influence of peers. While it is easy to say that you can reach wondrous goals by working hard and putting forth a hard effort, it is far easier for some people to climb the social ladder than it is for others. For example, sociological reasoning argues that a baby born to a wealthy married couple who demonstrate a great deal of love and nurturing is going to have an easier time getting ahead in life than a baby born to an impoverished, homeless, single mother.
The sociological perspective holds that free will is a myth. While we believe that we are making our own conscious decisions, each decision that we make is influenced by outside social sources, inside biological and chemical causes, or a combination of both. Big decisions such as the decision of whether to have children or to get married are formed based on a vast plethora of complex influences on our socialization. Even small decisions like what to order at a restaurant are not simply free choices. The way that your taste buds register certain flavors influences what kind of foods you will enjoy.
Criminology, why people commit crimes, is a core facet of sociology. The sociological perspective, when it comes to crime, seems to be far from the current American policy of dealing with criminals. Sociological research suggests that crime, like all other decisions, is not something that someone simply chooses to do. When we examine the data, we see a strong correlation between crime and factors like poverty, low levels of education, and deviant activity by family and peers.
Society, rather than the individual, is responsible for generating crime and the means of dealing with that crime should be shaped as such. The current American system of imprisoning even the most nonviolent of criminals is one that has not reduced crime, but it has led to more prisoners than any other country in the world. Current policy deals more with a reaction to rather than a prevention of crime. Sociological research aims to determine the strongest predictors of such behavior so that they can be reduced before leading to further criminal activity.