Sociology is the scientific study of human social activity. In the effort to study human social activity sociologists brake it down into objects of analysis. The three objects of analysis are population, social structure, and the individual. Each can be differentiated but each is also integrally related to the other two. As an object of analysis sociologists defines population as an aggregate of people in a geographical area that has size and longevity. The size has a lower limit of two and no upper maximum. Longevity varies and has a lower limit of zero with no known upper limit. Populations are by definition made up of individuals. The study of human population is termed demography. Demography studies the size and composition of a population, as well as migration and location of the population. Demographers track birth rates and death rates and monitor the population growth and try to explain them in terms of the social system's development. A good example is the Malthusian theory in which population increases geometrically and the resources increase arithmetically resulting in a lack of resources resulting in famine and war. Fortunately the theory is flawed in that it does not consider social factors such as artificial contraception and the burden of large families in a post industrial society. The way a population interacts with the environment creates a social system. The social system draws on the population and affects the population. An example of this is in India where the ratio of men to women is 108 (108 males to every 100 female) while the sex ratio of most other nations is below 100. The cause for this disparity is that parents value sons more than daughters and sometimes abort a female fetus, or after birth give the daughter less care which can result in premature death. A social system is defined as two or more roles tied together by relationships of interdependence. A role is a patterned repetitive set of behaviors. An example of a role is an occupation. There are various categories of social systems like formal organizations that have goals in mind and attempt to achieve them (ex: nations) or like informal organizations that are less goal oriented as in a community or a family. Human communities provide social systems that serve the function of providing the daily requirements of life to a population. Social systems have four basic types of roles; production of goods and services, distribution of the goods and services, recruitment and training of new members, and control functions. Population affects the roles of the social system. An example of this would be if the birth rate increased then there would be a greater need to train these new people and the recruitment and training role would be affected. The training of an individual to become one of the group is termed socialization and is carried out by church, family, and school, among other sources.
Individuals then are Homo Sapiens that vary in sex, age, and lifecycle. Humans have the ability to lay out avenues to achieve a goal and then through thought processes make a choice on which avenue to follow. Humans are differentiated from animals in that all animals can sign (reacting to something) but only humans can symbol (the ability to place meaning into something). To be human you must be able to symbol and to symbol you must have at least two people, which leads to a social system. The result is that in order to be human you must be in a social system. Helen Keller was an example of someone who was not a human until she was able to symbol. Social systems affect individuals by the process of socialization. Socialization instills the norms of the system into the individual. The norms are all the proscribed and prescribed forms of behavior in the social system. Norms vary in importance from the folkway of wearing a tie to a formal dinner party to the mores of adults not engaging in sexual acts with children. Socialization internalizes these norms in the individual shaping the resulting personality of the individual. Lack of exposure to a social system result in someone who is not human as in the cases of Anna or Isabelle, two girls isolated at birth for 5 and 6 years respectively. Both these girls lacked any ability to speak, smile or even laugh. They lacked all aspects of personality. In effect they were not human as a result of their isolation. However exposure to the social system changed them rapidly toward being human. In summary: population is an aggregation of people in a geographic area, a social system is two or more roles tied together by relationships of interdependence, and individuals are humans with the ability to symbol and the personality that they have developed. Each object of analysis greatly affects the other two.