Caffarella and Merriam Thesis

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¶ … adulthood be socially constructed? What does it mean to say that something is "socially constructed"?

In the biological sense, adulthood is strictly an objective concept related to and determined by chronological age: it is simply that period in between full physical and cognitive development and either death or the onset of substantial cognitive or physical decline that is commonly referred to as "old age." However, practically everything else about what it means to be an adult is dictated in some way, shape, or form, and to at least some degree, by social context and construct.

In general, something is accurately described as "socially constructed" when the meaning(s), interpretation(s), and characterization(s) associated with it are functions of social values, norms, mores, roles, interrelationships, and practices. Marriage, for just one of myriad possible examples, represents an entirely different social construct in one society where that concept generally consists of arranged marriages between the families of infants and another society where that concept generally consists of single individuals in their 20s or 30s establishing periodic exclusive intimate relationships with other individuals until they happen to find a candidate for a long-term formalization of their relationship in marriage.

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Just about any aspect of adulthood besides marriage is equally susceptible to socially constructed contextualization. In the United States, consuming hallucinogenic, so-called "mind-altering" substances such as psychedelic mushrooms or peyote, is defined as illicit self-destructive conduct that is not condoned by mainstream society. In various other cultures, particularly in South America, the exact same behavior is considered perfectly acceptable and a necessary component of recognized religious practices. In both cases, the actual activity is the same; it is strictly the different social construct between the two societies that accounts for one perception in one and a diametrically opposite point-of-view of the identical behavior in the other.

Thesis on Caffarella and Merriam Assignment

As a formal definition, "social construct" simply means the subjective characterization of any aspect of human life that is capable of substantial variation among different societies. For example, consuming food and liquid is not something determined by social construct: it is a biological necessity and all human beings share the same need to perform this function to sustain life. Cuisine, on the other hand, is dictated first by availability, because geographic location determines what types of nutrients are available and what methods must be exploited to cultivate them. Second, cuisine is largely, if not exclusively, dictated by social culture, norms, and practices that have evolved separately among all the different human populations worldwide. Eating is a basic human need; the view that… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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