Extraordinary Behavior: A Case Study Approach to Understanding Social Problems

Extraordinary Behavior: A Case Study Approach to Understanding Social Problems

Extraordinary Behavior: A Case Study Approach to Understanding Social Problems

Extraordinary Behavior: A Case Study Approach to Understanding Social Problems


This unique collection of case studies introduces readers to many of the common yet extraordinary social problems in contemporary American society. Employing a symbolic interaction approach to the case studies, the authors identify the origins of the problems, define the issues, and explore the outcomes and potential remedies. The case studies themselves introduce readers to the very personal side of the problems as the emotions, actions, and perceptions of the subjects are revealed and analyzed. The problems studied here are organized into three categories- health-related issues, family issues, and behavior beyond the boundaries- and include many problems that often receive too little attention in the existing literature, making this book an original and timely contribution.

Each of the three sections is preceded by a general review of the chapters to follow and offers readers a prelude to the exploration of human thought, language, and behavior captured and illustrated in the case studies. In the first section of the book, problems covered include suicide, anorexia nervosa, alcohol and drug abuse, and AIDS/STDs. The second section covers teenage mothers, domestic violence, divorce and poverty, child support and deadbeat dads, and homelessness. The last section focuses on sexual harassment, equal protection and racial exclusion, prostitution, career criminals, mass murder, and serial killers. This book represents a fresh new approach and a welcome addition to the study of social problems in America today.


The idea that led to the creation of a case study approach to the study of social problems first began to develop when the co-editors met to deliberate a set of evaluations for another project. This discussion involved an assessment of the various attributes of the case study approach for evaluating social problems. The content of this book is the result of this discussion.

Except for the coverage of the general concepts that serve as the foundation for the discipline of sociology, currently it is difficult to differentiate between the topics included in most social problem and introductory level textbooks. In covering a wide-ranging number of topics the authors of most social problem books focus on three or even four theoretical perspectives, even though one or more of these perspectives offer little by way of discussion and explanation of the process through which social problems evolve or why they persist without solution. Our purpose in seeking contributions from a distinguished group of researchers and practitioners was to draw upon their considerable expertise to create book-length chapters in which each author would be able to assess the extent of a specific social problem and then bring to life some of the numerous factors and issues involved in the evolution of the social problem.

The topics selected for this book differ not only by virtue of the case study approach employed, but also from the standard topics included in general social problems books. When examples of the topics included here are found in social problems books, they are often used in passing reference to other issues. Our purpose is to explore selected social problems and related issues of importance to the body politic and to provide concrete case study examples of individuals who, to a lesser or greater extent, have been defined as engaging in extraordinary . . .

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