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An institution is any structure or mechanism of social order governing the behaviour of a set of individuals within a given community; may it be human or a specific animal one. Institutions are identified with a social purpose, transcending individuals and intentions by mediating the rules that govern living behaviour. The term "institution" is commonly applied to customs and behaviour patterns important to a society, as well as to particular formal organizations of government and public services. As structures and mechanisms of social order among certain species, institutions are one of the principal objects of study in the social sciences, such as political science, anthropology, economics, and sociology (the latter being described by Durkheim as the "science of institutions, their genesis and their functioning"). Institutions are also a central concern for law, the formal mechanism for political rule-making and enforcement.

Social Institutions:
A social institution is a complex, integrated set of social norms organized around the preservation of a basic societal value. Obviously, the sociologist does not define institutions in the same way as does the person on the street. Lay persons are likely to use the term "institution" very loosely, for churches, hospitals, jails, and many other things as institutions. Social institutions are patterns of behaviour grouped about the central needs of human beings in society. In all societies, the institution of family plays a central role. Social institutions are therefore social patterns directing the ordered behaviour of human beings in the performance of their basic activities. The continuity of institutional practices is further assured by the development of rituals. The central aspects of institutions are the functions they perform and the pattern, established to carry out the functions. The claims of institutions upon the members are also known as loyalties. The institutions of a society are connected in a close end interdependent pattern. Institutions are connected through status and role of the members.

General functions of Social Institutions:

(1) Institution Satisfy the Basic Needs of Society. (2) Institution Define Dominant Social Values. (3) Socialization (4) Institutions Establish Permanent Patterns of Social behaviour (5) Preservation of Social Order. (6) Institutions Support Other Institutions. (7) Institutions Provide Roles for Individuals. Sociologists often reserve the term "institution" to describe normative systems that operate in five basic areas of life, which may be designated as the primary institutions. (1) In determining Kinship (2) In providing for the legitimate use of power (3) In regulating the distribution of goods and services (4) In transmitting knowledge from one generation to the next (5) In regulating our relation to the supernatural. In shorthand form, or as concepts, these five basic institutions are called the family, government, economy, education and religion. Institutions are the most important agencies in the formation of personality. Social institutions are the great conservers and transmitters of cultural heritage. Cultural heritage is thus transmitted through social interaction.

Types of Social Institutions:

There are five Basic Types of Social Institutions 1. Family 2. Government 3. Economy 4. Education 5. Religion.



A fundamental social group in society typically consisting of one or two parents and their children. Two or more people who share goals and values, have long-term commitments to one another, and reside usually in the same dwelling place. The function of the family is basically to transmit culture between generations. Family also provides economic and emotional stability to individuals. It provides a sense of identity or belonging among its members.



This social institution deals with the set of norms pertaining to the distribution of power and authority, concerning the management of control of society to bring order in life. Functions of Government 1 The Institutionalization of norms (Laws). 2 The enforcement of laws. 3 The adjudication of conflict (Court). 4 Provide for the welfare of members of society. 5 Protection of Society from external threat.


Educational Institutions

It refers to the set of norms centred round the teaching and learning aiming at the adjustment of individuals to the environment. Education is synonyms with socialization. Education institutions aims at transmitting cultures among its members. It also prepares its members for occupational roles. It evaluates and selects competent individuals for their future roles in society. It also aims at minimizing the cultural lag and to increase the social mobility in a society.


Economic Institution

This institution deals with the set of norms related to production of goods and services. It provides methods of production of goods and services. It also provides method of distribution of goods and services, enabling the societys members to consume goods and services which are produced. This institution is the largest employment producing institution. This institution also deals with the distribution of wealth among its members based on their competence level.


Religious Institution

Religious Institution is the system of believes and practices influencing human events where man is helpless to explain them. Supernaturalism and sacredness are the two main elements of Religious Institution. Religious Institutions aims providing solutions for unexplained natural phenomena. Religion tends to support the normative structure of the society. Religion serves as an instrument of socialization. Religion may both promote and retard social change. It also provides guidelines as to how an individual member of the society should behave.

Social Institutions