GCC OBSERVATION Merton’s Functions

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Merton’s Functions

Robert Merton, a functionalist, generated a theory about social interaction that has been quite useful in understanding relatively stable patterns within society.  Merton saw all social interactions as serving a function, both a manifest function (recognized and intended consequence), and a latent function (unrecognized and unintended consequence).  In addition, interactions could serve a social dysfunction – any social pattern that may disrupt the operation of society.


Please read my essay College, noting the manifest, latent the dysfunction. You will need to provide examples from my essay to support your claim as to what is the function and why it is an example of the function you chose. 

I have provided an example below of the basic elements – your submission should include some reflection to explain why it is an example of a function. Please use these headers: Manifest Function, Latent Function, and Dysfunction. I have provided an example of applying Merton’s theory below my essay.

You should use the headers I use in my example and then apply the functions to my essay on College. Find examples each function and reflect on why you think your choice is a manifest function, latent function and dysfunction.


Starting college was a challenge. I did not know how to register for classes, where the classrooms were, or that I needed to purchase a parking permit. Once I sorted all of this out, I really wasn’t sure what classes I should take. I love literature and philosophy, but I knew there were requirements in each of the categories required by the State of California. So, I looked at the course catalog and made a list of the classes that sounded good for me, but also met the requirements.

My first semester was great! My math professor worked at NASA and for the first time in my life, I realized I was “good at math,” as I earned 100% on my exams. Not only did I really love my Southern California Wildlife class, which satisfied one of my biology requirements, I also met some really cool people in my art history class. Back in the 1980s, I was an alternative artist who loved independent film, obscure art, and avant-garde music. The art class was right after lunch so some of us met before class, share our lunches together and within a month started a band, an art cooperative, and began a life-long friendship.

Not everyone understood me. When I went to my marketing class, no one would sit next to me. I had purple hair (before it was normalized), and I realized that if I wanted to work in the business world, I would have to give up who I am to look like these people. I chose to be me and looked for a different class instead. I found a sociology class called social stratification. This changed my life. The professor asked us to take a 50-question survey to better understand who we are. When she handed them back, she asked me, “How do you know all of this already?” I was amazed. It was as if my entire life was in this one class. I thought of myself as working class and not middle class, knew what Labor and Capital were, had read philosophers Hegel and Kant, and understood that different groups have unequal treatment based solely on their group membership and not their personal effort or ability. I immediately changed my major.

It has been 40 years since I was at Cal State Long Beach. Going to college changed who I am. Not only did I earn a BA, I went on to earn an MA and a PhD. Today, I am a published sociologist who recently published a book for Cambridge University Press, the oldest press in the world. When I think about my first year in college, I did a lot. I earned a BA, but I also made lifelong friends with whom I still work. And most importantly, I discovered me in the process.  


Social Interaction

Going to the “Club.”

Manifest Function

Go out for entertainment.

Latent Function

Reinforces gender roles. {Notice how I use sociological terms here – you should, too!}

By going to the club we learn what is “normal” in terms of how to act.  Men are “supposed to be” more aggressive and women more submissive.  This interaction also causes solidarity or social cohesiveness  – the feeling of belonging.  When we go out we often speak with our friends about what is appropriate to wear, how to act and we feel like a “we” as opposed to just “me”.


The norm being enforced is that men are expected to pay for drinks.  {Notice how I use sociological terms here – you should, too!}

This creates an interaction that could harm society as men who are poor may be made to feel less “manly”. And men who have money may feel as though having money makes them a “man”.

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