27 Nov 2022


Social Theory: An Introduction

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Social theory is a paradigm used in examining social phenomena (Seidman, 2016). This term explains ideas on how changes in society are developed. These ideas explain social behavior, social structures, civilization, and modernity. There are certain themes that take centre stage in contemporary social theory. These themes include the nature of social life, social institutions structure, themes of gender race and class, and social transformation. 

According to Seidman (2016), the social theory seeks to define a given phenomena in society. Social theory explores the relationships and processes of socialization between society and individuals. Social theory helps in addressing and understanding embodied intentions, meanings, values, and ideas created by man's social behavior, events, institutions, texts and images. These embodiments are products of historical situations, cultures, and agencies. They can therefore not be summed up or generalized into principles of cause and effect. Social theory reflects on knowing and understanding the social talk. The social theory arises from a variety of context in everyday life these could be in conversations, interactions and interactions between people (Seidman, 2016). 

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Social theory is an expression of the agendas and disputes that dominate general communication on political and social issues. It ought to be an extension of social debates where every member of society has a say and ability to contribute. In dealing with defiant behavior, social theory systematically clarifies this social life problem through using well-defined techniques and concepts of analysis. Seidman (2016), states that social theory draws a distinction between various ways of responding to social life. It differentiates real observations from speculations and stereotype and untangles detachment attitudes from partisanship attitudes and vested interest (Glucksmann, 2014) . The researcher further states that social theory includes an attitude of both involvement and detachment form social life. 

Reasons for Using Social Theory 

Why Social Theory 

According to Glucksmann (2014), social theory tends to rely on the consistency of a given behavior in making a conclusion as such it does not contradict itself. This gives consistent and clear predictions on a given phenomena in society. Secondly, social theory is constructed on a systematic collection of data and an analysis of data for identification of patterns it does not ignore facts. As such, hypothesis developed on social theory are informed hypothesis ( Glucksmann, 2014) . Social theory collects, summarizes and organize information. It connects different facts and assigns meaning to them. 

Theories explain facts and connect them to research. Findings from social theories are relevant to the explanation of events findings from other researches. According to Taylor, Walton, and Young (2013), social theory can be applied in a wide range of situation and can be used to explain a variety of phenomena in society using a few principles. Social theory is a testable theory, and its objectivity can be measured through making specified predictions. The social theory relies more on predictions than creating explanations after facts. 

Social theory has the ability to predict and explain events before they happen or are observed. This theory is able to predict when to expect certain events or behaviors through analyzing the existence or non-existence of triggers (Taylor, Walton & Young, 2013). This theory Specifies on predictions as opposed to giving vague predictions. Almost all predictions made by the social theory are testable. The facts stated in social theory problem solving are reliable and specific. Its predictions can be verified through observations. The predictions made by social theory can be verified through making observations on public events and phenomena. However, social theory predicts a single outcome as opposed to predicting many contradicting outcomes. This is one of the drawbacks of using social theory in addressing the defiant behavior (Taylor, Walton, & Young, 2013). According to the researchers, defiant behavior has no specific trigger, and as such, it is difficult to rely on one prediction as a trigger or an outcome of a given behavior or occurrence. 

Defiant Behavior 

Defiant behavior is also known as opposition defiant disorder (ODD) is a disorder depicted by disobedience, hostility, and defiant behaviors by children directed to authority or adults (Aebi, Barra, Bessler, Steinhausen, Walitza & Plattner, 2015). This disorder is also characterized by irritability, anger vindictive and argumentative behaviors. While some of these behaviors may be common in children's development, in opposition defiant disorder victims, these characteristics are more persistent and conspicuous. These children often do these purposely to cause conflict and annoyance then blame it on others. According to statistics, 10.2% of children develop this disorder. According to Aebi et al. (2015) opposition defiant disorder is more common in boys than in girls in puberty. This number levels as the children grow and becomes equal in both boys and girls. (Burnette, 2013). However, 2/3 of children diagnosed with opposition defiant disorder manage to surpass it as they continue to grow. 

Causes of opposition defiant disorder cannot be narrowed down to specific known caused. However, it is believed that a combination of genetic, biological and environmental factors contributes to the development of opposition defiant disorder in children (Aebi et al. 2015). Some of the following factors are the main triggers to the development of opposition defiant disorder. Genetic factors; most children who are diagnosed with opposition defiant disorder usually have a history of family members who suffer from similar disorders. These disorders include anxiety, personality and mood disorder. According to Aebi et al. (2015), these genetic components render a person more susceptible to defiant behavior compared to those who have not been exposed to such genes. 

Biological composition; the existence of certain brain chemicals in some individuals has been linked to the depiction of defiant behavior. These chemicals; -neurotransmitters help in balancing brain chemicals. When an imbalance in these chemicals occurs, brain messages are not effectively communicated and as such, symptoms of opposition defiant disorder begin showing (Cavanagh, Quinn, Duncan, Graham & Balbuena, 2017). 

Environmental factors; - the upbringing of children may be a great contributor towards the development of opposition defiant disorder. If a child grows up in a chaotic life background where violence prevails at home, it is likely that a child may begin acting out as a result of this (Cavanagh et al. 2017). If children are surrounded by friends who are violent and destructive, they may begin displaying opposition defiant disorder behaviors. These children will often be unwilling or unable to follow the rules or show corporation (Cavanagh et al. 2017). They may reject any form of disciplinary structure. They may often challenge their parents and any efforts to rectify their behavior. This behavior may be triggered by trivial reasons of no reason at all. 

At times, children affected by defiant behavior may show regret and be remorseful about their conduct. This may be through making promises, trying to behave better, ask for forgiveness. Some of these behaviors may be sincere while some may be manipulative. According to Cavanagh.Quinn, Duncan, Graham and Balbuena (2017), many a times, opposition defiant disorder children show no remorse of care about the consequences of their behavior or their effect on others. Children who have been subjected to abuse may also exhibit defiant behavior (Aebi et al. 2015). Extremely harsh forms of punishment, inconsistent child rearing, are significant factors of opposition defiant disorder. According to research, children of drug addicts are more prone to developing opposition defiant disorder. Opposition defiant disorder children are more likely to develop depression, anxiety and conduct disorder. 

Defiant behavior can really be frustrating at home and school (Cavanagh et al. 2017). According to these researchers, defiant behavior may lead to expulsion or suspension from school and worse still, affect a child's ability to learn and relate with others socially. If left untreated, opposition defiant disorder can escalate with age in some cases. Theses may lead to lasting consequences legally, socially and psychologically. Many teenagers and children with opposition defiant disorder also suffer from learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, anxiety disorders and mood disorders such as depression (Cavanagh et al. 2017). Research has identified a correlation between opposition defiant disorder and the development of conduct disorder in adults which is a more serious behavior disorder (Burnette, 2013). Early treatment of opposition defiant disorder can help in the management of this behavioral condition and prevention of its severity. 

Mental therapy often helps in treating opposition defiant disorder and may prevent a child's rebellious behavior from worsening (Cavanagh et al. 2017). In this therapy, all possible causes leading to the disorder are addressed. It should be noted that most children suffering from opposition defiant disorder have difficulties in expressing their emotions. As such it is important to teach them on emotional expression. According to Cavanagh et al. (2017), through learning emotional expressivity, it is easier to train them on how to express their feelings verbally as opposed to resorting to physical tantrums and outbursts. 

Children with poor emotional expressivity also suffer from poor anger management, in this case, anger management therapy may be administered to help. Some therapies that can be used in anger management are relaxation, trigger identification, problem-solving, and recognition of consequences (Cavanagh et al. 2017). For children who cannot control their behavior, individual therapy is recommended. A therapist may use behavior change techniques such as reward techniques and consequences, family therapy, play therapy, or any therapy that suits the needs of an individual child or his/her level of opposition defiant disorder (Aebi et al. 2015). 

According to the researchers, through the help of caregivers and therapist, a child may be able to learn communication skills and explore deep issues that trigger opposition defiant disorder in them which will help in improving interactions with family, peers and authorities. Opposition defiant disorder in a child can lead to the whole family getting affected and as such, family therapy is recommended (Aebi et al. 2015). Opposition defiant disorder in one child in the family can lead to stress and strained relationships between parents, partners and siblings. Through family therapy, family members can learn on how to best cope with this child and as such support him/her in the recovery journey. 

Social Theory and Defiant Behavior 

Sociological theories state that the society creates an atmosphere and condition under which an individual’s behavior develops especially when it comes to defiant and criminal behavior (Taylor, Walton & Young, 2013). Apart from family influence, children are greatly affected by the different environments they get to interact with on a daily basis. There is an interconnection in various elements of environments of children such as proximal influences, such as parents and friends who affect a child directly, distal influences, community and media which affects a child indirectly but impact more than proximal influences (Taylor, Walton & Young, 2013). According to the researchers, the social theory represents the complex relationship between children and the society over time. Social theory models focus on an individual child and the many influences that surround him. Social theory can be of great use in developing preventive and interventional measures as well as help in identifying resources in the community that can help in combating opposition defiant disorder. 

Social theory suggests that defiant behavior occurs when a child's attachment to a group is weakened (Aebi et al. 2015). According to this theory, children care a lot about what other people think or say about them. As such society develops control over them and in response to this, they conform to societies expectations in order to meet what others expect from them. To produce conformity, socialization is important and in line of conformity and socialization, a lot of conflicts are bond to arise and each individual responds differently to these conflicts. 

According to Taylor, Walton and Young, (2013), defiance occurs when this conformity is broken. Social theory assess how opposition defiant disorder victims are attached or not attached to common societal values and systems and what pushes them to break commitment or connections to these values. This theory also suggests that at some point in life, most of us have felt impulsive towards opposition defiant disorder but depending on a person attachment to social values and norms, we may have or have not responded positively to these impulses (Taylor, Walton & Young, 2013). 

Solving Defiant Behavior Using Social Theory 

Social theory can be used in solving defiant behavior (Glucksmann, 2014) . According to the researcher, this theory explains some of the causes of defiant behavior. Through identification of these causes, preventive measures and ways of solving this issue can be identified. This theory can be used in understanding opposition defiant disorder and ways of dealing with it. 


Defiant behavior is a social problem that affects children. This condition is more prominent in the adolescent stage of a child’s development. Male children tend to develop this condition more as opposed to female children (Burnette, 2013). This condition however gets suppressed and disappears as a child’s grows through adolescence. There are a variety of reasons that causes this condition most of them are societal factors such as a child’s upbringing, and the environment in which a child grows up in, the experiences he or she undergoes or witnesses as a child. Social theory aims at understanding the relationship between society and an individual’s, behavior, relationship with others, and personality (Taylor, Walton, & Young, 2013). 

According to the researchers, through understanding this relationship, social theory can be used in addressing this societal problem in children. Social theory helps in solving this problem through identifying the triggers of this behavior and knowing how to counter them. Social psychologists can apply this theory in treating children suffering from defiant behavior. By combining this theory with other behavior therapies such as cognitive behavior therapy, psychologists can help children identify triggers of defiant behavior and learn how to avoid these triggers or deal with them (Taylor, Walton & Young 2013). Some of the triggers of defiant behavior are disrupted parenting, depression, environmental factors, genetics, and some biological composition (Taylor, Walton, & Young, 2013). Social theory is a reliable in addressing this problem in that it is a valid and reliable theory whose facts can be tested through public observations. 


Aebi, M., Barra, S., Bessler, C., Steinhausen, H. C., Walitza, S., & Plattner, B. (2015). Oppositional defiant disorder dimensions and subtypes among detained male adolescent offenders. Journal of child psychology and psychiatry. 

Burnette, M. L. (2013). Gender and the development of oppositional defiant disorder: contributions of physical abuse and early family environment. Child maltreatment, 18(3), 195-204. 

Cavanagh, M., Quinn, D., Duncan, D., Graham, T., & Balbuena, L. (2017). Oppositional defiant disorder is better conceptualized as a disorder of emotional regulation. Journal of attention disorders, 21(5), 381-389. 

Glucksmann, M. (2014). Structuralist Analysis in Contemporary Social Thought (RLE Social Theory): A Comparison of the Theories of Claude Lévi-Strauss and Louis Althusser . Routledge. 

Seidman, S. (2016). Contested knowledge: Social theory today. John Wiley & Sons. 

Taylor, I., Walton, P., & Young, J. (2013). The new criminology: For a social theory of deviance. Routledge. 

Tung, I., & Lee, S. S. (2014). Negative parenting behavior and childhood oppositional defiant disorder: Differential moderation by positive and negative peer regard. Aggressive behavior, 40(1), 79-90. 

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