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Research Guide: are who we are because of our experiences in the social world. Think back on your own life experiences. Write about one or more aspects of your life and interpret from a sociological perspective. You don’t have to tell your whole life story; most effective papers focus only on one or more specific aspects of your life. Try to distance yourself and approach your life as a detached observer might. Your job is to examine the role of external social forces in shaping your life. You may also discuss your own individual agency, but this should be in reference to social forces and how agency and social forces work together. Be specific, using concrete examples and social events/occurrences. You should discuss personal events, but focus on how these events illustrate sociological concepts and tie into bigger social issues. Use concepts from class to explain how your life is shaped by society. In other words, narrate your life story using sociological language. Your goal is to make connections between private experiences and public issues. You should conduct additional research to see if you are an outlier or if your experiences are similar to other patterns noted by social scientists. Cite all your sources. Additional Resources to help you with your brainstorming: (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site. (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site.The files will be the sample and Rubric


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Sociological Autobiography Rubric
The rubric below should provide direction for your sociological autobiography. This rubric will be used
to grade your paper. Note, in order to get an A on this paper, you will need to receive almost all
Excellent ratings. I encourage you to consider this rubric as you write and edit your paper.
Specifically explains how life experiences
are shaped by social forces giving clear,
specific and relevant examples.
Demonstrates deep understanding of at
least 3 specific theories or concepts
introduced in class (e.g., functionalism,
conflict theory, symbolic interaction,
norms, values, stigma, looking glass self,
status, power, conformity, social control,
Demonstrates deep understanding of at
least 3 specific social institutions (e.g.,
family, marriage, race, gender, religion,
education, government, economy, work,
sexuality, class, crime, etc.).
Makes explicit connections between
private experiences and social issues.
Explains why it is important that our
individual lives are shaped by social
forces. Why does this matter? What are
the implications?
Exhibits creativity and makes a unique
Displays excellent professional writing
style, grammar, and organization
My Sociological Autobiography
Soc 10
Chaffey College
Fall 2017
How influential are the relationships and environments that we are exposed to throughout
our lives, in relation to the development of our emotional, physical, mental, and social wellbeing? As creatures that thrive on human interaction, love, and acceptance, it is no surprise that
everything and everyone we meet will mold us into the people that we will become. For me, I
can’t bottle up my entire life into one paper, but there are three pivotal moments in my life that
have helped mold me into the person that I am today.
¡Viva México!
I was born here, in Hollywood, CA, the land of success and forgotten dreams. That
couldn’t be any more American. However, good ol’ red, white, and blue was still a foreign
country to me. When I was a just few months old, my parents took me back to their native
country of Mexico. It was in Mexico that I grew into a scraped knee little boy. I played with
Japanese beetles on strings and drank Coca-Cola out of plastic sandwich baggies. Life was good.
When I was only 6, my parents decided that Mexico had quite enough of me, and we migrated
back to the U.S. My social norms were about to be turned upside down. I spoke only Spanish,
knew only the Mexican culture, and to make my transition even harder, I was a frail, shaky little
thing with Tourette’s Syndrome (TS). My parents wanted a better life for me and my brother
and sister, and felt that America was the only way that a child with disabilities, such as mine,
was going to make it.
I clearly remember the first time I was made fun of for my Hispanic culture. This world
of white people was the scariest place I had ever seen. Yet, to my parent’s surprise, I absorbed
the English language quickly; and by the time I was 13, the land I once called home became a
distant memory as I acclimated to my new American environment. How we see, taste, hear and
small can all help shape our environment (Schaefer, 2012). Understanding a foreign language
can be both positive and negative. My family and I were visiting a mall in an upscale city when I
heard a boy say, “look at that kid’s wetback belt!”. When I got home I tore off that belt like a
Mexican scab, and promised myself I was never going to be like the white kids. I stayed firmly
planted in my roots. I hung out with Hispanic kids, listened to Hispanic music, and learned to
love my little underprivileged city for all its inglorious splendor.
Gang influences, and criminal deviance consumed my older brother. By the time he was
16 he had two children, and was in juvenile hall for a property crime of breaking and entering.
My parents were always working multiple jobs, so I was left to watch over my little sister. My
school life was also a daily torment. I was constantly bullied for my TS, and even put into
remedial classes, even though I knew the material like the back of my hand. The teachers formed
a single-story perspective of me, based solely on my disability, and never gave me a chance.
Not only did my race, ethnicity and culture define my outlook on the rest of the world,
my family’s lower socioeconomic status was demoralized every day. Karl Marx explains that
class conflict was created from the rise of capitalism, thus creating a higher class and a lower
class. The higher class thrived off the exploitation of the lower class (Schaefer, 2012). This
imbalance of power was seen through my mother and father, who had to work under the table for
very low pay, extremely long hours and hardly made enough to feed us. They would come home
too exhausted to spend time with us, and I would always hear them complain about their white
bosses. They felt mistreated and exploited; but they weren’t American citizens, so their
employment options were slim. This class struggle only deepened my mistrust for the rich white
people and I was slowly becoming a vessel for racism, which caused me to develop an
ethnocentric view of my culture.
The American Dad
An ecological theorist would say that my dysfunctional microsystems and mesosystems
made my individual risk factors for antisocial behavior, high behavioral activation and low
behavioral inhibition, poor cognitive development, low intelligence, and hyperactivity,
incredibly high (Wasserman et al., 2003). Aside from those risk factors listed, others did come
into play. I was definitely a lonely child. However, I was also able to develop positive protective
factors, such as perseverance. By the time this little Mexican boy grew up, I had learned to
embrace my Mexican culture and ethnicity, and had also learned to manage my TS to the point
where it was nearly unrecognizable. I was moving freely through the world, playing flamenco
and classical guitar, dating Hispanic girls, and then I met her. The beautiful thing about the
Ecological Systems Theory is that although permanent developmental factors are imprinted at an
early age, human development is in a perpetual state of influence from outside sources; which
results in a fluidity of development throughout one’s lifetime (Wasserman et al., 2003). This
radiant redhead that walked into the coffee shop wearing a white beanie and flip flops that day,
was my fluidity.
I was playing my guitar as I watched her buy a coffee and a bagel for the homeless man
outside. Then, she did something even more captivating, she sat down next to him, put her arm
around him, and then she gave him a hug. This gesture made me put down my guitar and watch
her, like a person seeing a rainbow for the first time. Those tiny, everlasting minutes of my life,
exploded every preconceived notion I ever had about “white people”. I had to talk to her. She
was warm, and sweet, and caring, and compassionate, and open-minded, and she had these
cinnamon freckles that seemed to tell their own story. She also had two little girls, two little
“white girls” to be exact. My socioeconomic upbringing had raised me to be weary of white
people, but these three told me to be weary of my own biases. She had her own layers, and so
many of them. Including one major one: that homeless man, he wasn’t homeless, and he was her
father. Yet, that’s a story for another time.
The day that we married, we joined families and I became a dad. I was now in charge of
two little lives. Becoming a dad is one thing, becoming a dad in another country, with a mixedrace family is another. I learned to adapt to their traditions: Christmas wasn’t about passing
around a baby Jesus doll and eating tamales, it was about drinking hot chocolate and singing
American Christmas songs. I was mentally prepared for these cultural changes before we got
married. What surprised me was the latent function the institution of marriage would have on
my children, as they inadvertently adapted to all of my family’s norms. We shared our cultures
with each other, and before I knew it, my little girls were understanding Spanish and making
tamales with my mom.
Being an American dad meant something new to me now. It meant embracing the
collision of colorful transcultural experiences in our lives, and allowing them to let us evolve as
human beings. I had transcended beyond my prescribed status, and realized that all the branches
that created me also contained leaves that were able to change with the seasons and grow new
That’s Me in The Corner
I grew up in a catholic family, then converted to Christianity in my later years. After I got
married, I was more removed from one major social institution: religion. Social institutions play
a huge role in how we are accepted in groups and society (Schaefer, 2012), and I needed solid
evidence to stay away from a part of my life that was so intertwined with my culture—not so
much the religion of Christianity, but God in general. I was a youth pastor at the time, and knew
my bible well, so that wasn’t the issue. My faith was deeply seeded into who I was as an
individual, but I needed something more. I started reading books by skeptics. Then, I read books
to refute those books, and books to refute those books, and so on. I did massive internet searches,
read the Quran, the Torah, talked to numerous people, and even went to religious debates at USC
and other universities. Before I knew it, like that R.E.M song, I found myself in a corner, losing
my religion.
Being an Atheist in a country that is predominantly religious, has isolated me from some
of my friends and family. As Emile Durkheim points, “a religion is a unified system of beliefs
and practices related to sacred things. It unites into a single moral community all who adhere to
those beliefs and practices” (Elwell, 2014). I was no longer a part of this religious community.
On one end, I felt as if I broke free from conformity and a hierarchal power that the church had
over my psyche. On the other end, in this newfound, liberated conciseness, I was still a prisoner
of social isolation. Luckily for me, my wife was already a non-believer—which had nothing to
do with me becoming one. So, I always had her companionship and acceptance. However, my
parents took a long time to come around, and I still do not talk to many of my old friends from
church. For my own sanity, I had to restore my social balance. I needed to develop new ways to
connect with people that felt disconnected with me for being non-religious. With my parents, I
redirected their focus towards the other major important institutions that we shared, family.
Showing them unconditional love despite our differences, broke that stubborn religious seal they
had wrapped themselves in. They saw the importance of being in not just my life, but my
family’s life as well. For my friends, some were never recoverable, and that’s ok. We are
allowed to grow out of relationships to make room for new ones that better suit our needs. The
new people that have entered my life since, contribute positive energy to my family and me.
This was a major turning point in my life, because this was the moment that I discovered
just how necessary it is to take charge of who I am, and whom I allow into my immediate social
bubble. I could have easily lied to everyone, and myself. I could have kept my ideologies in a
place that would never be exposed to my friends and family. However, that would have been a
great tragedy. My life would have been surrounded by people that I am simply trying to make
happy, by sacrificing my own happiness. I will never again allow the negative judgments of
others compromise my own happiness.
Like many, I was dealt harsh realities during influential times in my life. Yet, despite my
adversities, I was able to persevere and become a well-rounded, empathetic adult. It is easy to
judge someone on a superficial level, but everyone has a story to tell. To guilt a tree for
producing bad fruit is effortless, but it takes a lot of compassion and understanding to examine
the soil that this tree was planted in. My story is being written daily, I may not always have the
power to decide what goes in those pages, but I do have the power to have it collectively create a
Elwell, F. W. (2013). Durkheim on Religion. Retrieved September 23, 2017, from
Schaefer, R. T. (2012). Sociology (13th ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
Wasserman, G. A., & Keenan, K., & Tremblay, R.E., & Coie, J.D., & Herrenkohl, T.I., &
Loeber, R., & Petechuk, D. (April 2003). Risk and Protective Factors of Child
Delinquency. Child Delinquency, Bulletin Series. Retrieved from
My Sociological Autobiography
Introduction to Sociology
Fall 2017
I am who I am because of my experiences in the social world. My adult life is
a study in sociology because of all of the dramatic changes and experiences I have
had. By the time I was 18, I had already had a life of white privilege. I grew up in a
white, middle class neighborhood in Claremont and had the benefit of good schools
in a safe neighborhood. I had never had to go without anything, including medical
and dental care. I had the benefit of a strong socioeconomic status and my parents
practiced conspicuous consumption all the way through. I was given a car when I
was 16 and I didn’t need to work after school. I had one friend who lived below the
tracks, but most of my friends came from homes just like mine: with two parents in
a nice neighborhood with good schools. My parents, along with the others I knew,
practiced the dominant ideology in America: the Protestant Work Ethic. They held
the values of the middle class. They worked hard to earn what they had, but they
also had only one job and that afforded us a very nice lifestyle on that. My mother
was one of the few mothers who worked in my neighborhood. She just never was
cut out for being a stay at home mom. I remember wishing my mom stayed home
like the other moms. We were a status group and we definitely felt social control in
that no one in the family was deviant in any way. We were a high status family and
felt that we had power much greater than that of lower class families.
I learned to behave through my interactions with my peers who were just
like me. My looking glass self reflected the social control and values that I saw all
around me. We were a functionalist’s ideal family, having a great deal of stability.
Except of course that mom worked. My grandmother even took care of us after
school. Conflict theorists would find little conflict in our world, I did know a few
families whose parents were divorced. However, they quickly moved out of the
neighborhood when this happened so I never got to see what happened to them.
Looking back I do remember one girl whose mom moved into an apartment after
the divorce with her three kids and her mother. I wondered why anyone would
want to live in an apartment, I was so naïve and ignorant. Conflict theorists would
say that my mother worked two to three jobs, while my father only had one. My
mom was in charge of everything to do with the house and kids (except for sports)
and laundry and cleaning and cooking. She was not a liberated woman and still isn’t
liberated, except for the fact that she became an elementary principal when it was a
man’s job. She fought hard for that.
When I got married at age 18, it was much the same. I married the boy next
door, so to speak, and he too had had a life of white privilege. Our parents could
afford to help us while my husband finished college, by paying tuition and helping us
to buy a condo. We really had it made, in retrospect. My husband had an Army
scholarship and he worked a union job before school for UPS. At the time I felt kind
of poor, but we never lacked for anything. We just didn’t have much disposable
income. Now, I think, who can live so easily any more? I learned how to behave
according to the normsof other young couples my age in Houston, Texas- that was
where we lived for college.
When we graduated from college, my husband went into the Army and we
moved around and then were stationed in Germany. We learned how to behave
through our social interactions with others in a similar position. There was a lot to
learn about Army culture and I did experience a bit of culture shock by both the
Army and by living in Germany. I was depressed the first year we lived there. I felt
so out of my element. I saw a therapist and took antidepressants and this helped. I
felt so little control over my life. Where we lived had everything to do with my
husband and this was a pattern that was repeated over and over again as he was the
major bread winner. There was an enormous amount of social stratification in the
Army. I tended to think those of higher rank, including their wives, were better than
we were and those enlisted people below us were worse than us in many ways. My
husband started out as an officer, so we really already had it made. The Army gave
us a big house with four bedrooms and two bathrooms and we had our first baby.
We were an Army family.
While my husband was in the Army, I got my first teaching job as a preschool
teacher. I later became the assistant manager at the day care center where I
worked. It was then that I took on all of the responsibilities for our daughter, the
house, the cooking and everything that needed to be done around the house
including shopping, holiday planning and on and on. A conflict theorist would have
told me that I was being held down and held back and I feel that I was. This just got
worse and worse. On top of that, my husband had total control of the finances. I
could bring money home, but couldn’t decide how to spend it. It was not a good
balance of power. I didn’t question things as this was how my parents lived their
lives as well. I didn’t know anything else.
When my then-husband got out of the Army, he went to work in business.
Here his white privilege and military background served him well. He got
successively good jobs with various large firms in the US. He was part of the good
ole boys network. We had to move so many times that I gave up counting and all this
moving was at the expense of my career. I finally gave up trying to find a job as I
didn’t need to have one and I had so many jobs: I had been in school, teaching, and
taking care of the kids, the house, the yard, etc. It was the only thing that made
sense to me at the time- staying home. We were the quintessential functionalist
family. We were part of what gave society stability. We also did much conspicuous
consumption. My husband was also abusive and I hid this from everyone for a long
time. He was both physically and verbally abusive. I worked hard on impression
management, as I didn’t want anyone to know as I feared people would think less of
me and of our family. I did not want the stigma of an abused wife.
After 23 years, I left my husband and took the kids and the dog. The first four
years after I left my husband were the most challenging of my life. I quickly joined
the ranks of the lower class, because I could not easily find a job that paid well.
Kansas is not a community property state and I got very little from the divorce. I
quickly learned all about the feminization of poverty. We collected food stamps and
I cleaned houses and did sewing projects for people. The good thing was th …
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