28: Sociology

Chapter 28


By the end of this chapter you should be able to:
1. Define sociology and socialisation and explain factors that influence the uptake of health care.
2. Define and differentiate between primary and secondary socialisation.
3. Explain what is meant by values and norms.
4. Show awareness of the UK Office for National StatisticsRegister of Social Groups and give examples of social class differences within the population.
5. Explain what is meant by the iceberg effect, victim blaming and the performance gap.


Sociology can be defined as the study of the structure and functioning of human society.

In order to understand the uptake of dental treatment by the UK population, the oral health educator (OHE) needs to study the way that society functions and is structured. Sociologists tell us that individual behaviour in the uptake of health care is influenced by [1]:

1. Political decisions. For example, UK government funding changes to NHS Dentistry in 1990 resulted in many dentists entering the private sector. Consequently, many people marginally above the social benefits line could no longer afford to visit the dentist.
2. Cultural influences. For example, certain immigrant sections of society, particularly the older generation who have not always lived in the United Kingdom, were not brought up to attend the dentist unless they experience pain (see Chapter 25).


Socialisation is the process by which infants and young children become aware of society and their relationships with others [2]. From the moment of birth an infant begins the learning process. For example, in these early days parents talk to babies, smile at them and very soon the baby responds and imitates smiles and sounds. Thus, begins the process of socialisation.

The OHE needs to understand the two main stages of socialisation:

1. Primary socialisation – describes learning that takes place before school, beginning as soon as the child is born. Many sociologists think that beliefs and attitudes learned in these years are almost impossible to change in later life. This is when a child is very receptive to learning about topics such as toothbrushing and a healthy diet, and the values and norms of family life and behaviour. The child learns from:

– Parents.
– Close family members (grandparents and siblings) – about how to behave within the family. This learning is vital to establish healthy behaviour patterns. Children deprived of these early learning opportunities often grow up with behavioural problems.
– The reconstituted family – many families are involved in relationship breakdown and repair, which can have a profound effect upon primary social/>

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Jan 4, 2015 | Posted by in General Dentistry | Comments Off on 28: Sociology
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