Human behavior can only be adequately understood by looking into the relationship of man with other members of the society. Man is not just a mere biological and rational being. He is also a social being from the cradle to the grave. He is always in the company of others and never in isolation from birth to death. He associates and interacts with other social beings in different social settings in order to satisfy his varied needs. Thus, how and why he behaves in a certain way is greatly influenced by the norms, values, ethos, expectations, prescriptions and proscriptions of the social group to which he belongs.

The science that deals with the study of society and the social interactions taking place therein is termed SOCIOLOGY. It is concerned with the study of human societies and of human behavior in social settings. As a discipline, sociology undertakes a scientific study of man's behavior as a consequence of his being a member of a social group.

Etymologically, sociology is derived from the Latin word socious meaning companion or associate, and the word logos, a Greek word for study. Thus, sociology is the study of association, group, society, and social interaction. Sociology, then, begins with the idea that "humans are to be understood in the context of their social life, that we are social animals influenced by interaction, social patterns, and socialization." It focuses on society, social organizations, social institutions, social interactions, and social problems.

Essential Characteristics Of Sociology

The essential characteristics of sociology, derived from the definitions given above, should help you understand the discipline better. They are as follows;

1. Sociology is neutral.

It seeks knowledge for the sake of knowledge. It describes society "as it is," not what "it ought to be". A sociologist is a social scientist who reports his findings as they were. He is not a partisan, nor biased, nor prejudiced, nor yet one-sided. He is ethically neutral and maintains a value-free position. His conclusions are not influenced by this personal values, beliefs and prejudices nor are they affected by his political, family or social affiliations. He is primarily interested in studying society for a better understanding of it not in preserving or reforming it.

2. Sociology is concerned with the study of human social life.

This includes the study of human interactions and social relationships, social processes, group life, factors that affect group living, social problems, social phenomena, social stratification and the development of social institutions.

3. Sociology is a science.

It utilizes scientific methods and techniques to develop a body of organized, systematized and verifiable knowledge about human societies. Like other sciences, it tries to be objective in how it studies social reality, it requires empirical evidence, and it attempts to generalize and arrive at conclusions and generalizations based on data and empirical findings...

Importance Of Sociology

Sociology is important to the individual and the society for a number of reasons, to wit:

1. The factual information obtained through rigorous research enables us to better understand our society and other societies. As we gain knowledge about our society and other societies as well, we become more understanding, broad-minded, and tolerant.

2. It enables us to learn the application of scientific methods and techniques to our daily life problems. The steps of procedures in sociological inquiry can be useful guides in the resolution of the problems we encounter in our life.

3. It enables us to see the connection between our own personal experiences and the social forces in the bigger social world daily which influence life. It helps us lessen our feelings of trapness, frustrations and helplessness against the social forces which influence our life.

4. It furnishes interested people and specialized sciences with principles and scientific data which they can use in their work. The principles which govern society and social behavior as well as the scientific information gathered by sociologist are utilized by psychologists, historians, businessmen, politicians, church people, and educators in their work.

5. It undertakes scientific sociological researches and inquiry on immediate and contemporary social problems. Sociologists and social scientists undertake scientific investigations on many social issues and concerns like puberty, drug addiction, prostitutions, criminality, and others.

6. It has made great strides in the study of criminology, ethnic relations, social processes, the family, population and collective behavior. Much information and data have been gathered to provide a more valid understanding of the many aspects of human social life.

7. It provides insights into the interrelationship of human beings within the group so that we may live in harmony with others. Sociology provides us with the ideas of cultural relativism, cultural diversity, human interdependence, mutuality and reciprocity, social consciousness and social responsibility which could bring about harmony and peaceful coexistence between and among peoples.

8. The results of sociological investigations provide a better background for meeting and solving social problems. Lawmakers employ sociologists to undertake sociological studies on particular social problems before they propose a bill that would address the problem.

9. The results of sociological inquiry can help dispel popular myths, superstitions, and stereotypes with accurate knowledge about human behavior and human societies. For instance, studies have helped disprove the notion that most poor people have been poor and will always be poor.

10. It broadens our experience as we learn to discard our prejudices and biases as we become more understanding and tolerant of the customs of other people.

11. Results of sociological investigations are useful to government officials, community leaders, entrepreneurs, businessmen, industrialists, educators, church leaders, and law enforcers in the maintenance of peace and order and planning programs and projects for progress and welfare of the people.

Areas Of Sociology

According to Hauster, sociology may be divided into seven areas. For purposes of research and teaching, these are:

1. Social Organization. This field includes the study of social groups, social institutions, social stratification and mobility, ethnic relations and bureaucracy.

2. Social Psychology. This includes the study of human nature as the outcome of group life, personality formation, and collective behavior.

3. Social Change. Social organization and social disorganization. This area involves the study of change in culture and ongoing social problems.

4. Human Ecology. This area studies the behavior of a given population and its relationship to the group's social institutions and natural resources.

5. Population Studies. This field is concerned with the population size, composition, change, and quality as they influence the economic, political, and social systems and vice versa.

6. Sociological Theory and Research. This area is concerned with the discovery, development, and replication of research tools that will test the applicability of the principles of group life as basis for the regulation of the social environment.

7. Applied Sociology. This area is concerned with the application of the findings of pure sociological research to such various fields as marriage and family., criminology,mpenology, social work, education, industrial relations.