Social Norms: Definition, Level, Kinds / Types, Characteristics and Functions

Definition of Social Norms

According to Soerjono Soekanto (1989) , social norms are rules that apply in society that are accompanied by sanctions for individuals or groups if they violate these rules. Sanctions can take the form of reprimands, fines, exclusion, or corporal punishment. Individuals are required to comply with the norms that have been formulated.


Norms are rules  – rules that are equipped with sanctions  – sanctions for those who break them.


Sociologically, social norms grow from social processes and the results of social life. Individuals born in a society and socialized to accept the rules  – the rules of a community that already exists.


  1. Levels of Social Norms in Society

Norms  – norms contained in the life of the community have different binding strength  – different. There is a weak norm of binding strength, some are strong. In this regard, there are four definitions of norms, namely as follows.

  1. Cara (Usage)


The process of continuous interaction will give birth to a certain pattern called method (usage). Contact (usage) is a form of certain acts by individuals in a society, but not directly  – constantly. The sanctions given are only in the form of criticism.


This norm has weak power compared to other norms. For example, burping loudly in class, dressing in a sexy uniform to school, people eating out loud, or eating without a spoon and fork.


  1. Manners (Mores)


According to Mac Iver and Page was quoted as saying Soerjono Soekanto (1989), a habit which is accepted as the norm  – the norm regulating means has increased to behavior patterns (mores).


Mores is a group of works that reflect the nature  – the nature of the life of a group of people who do it consciously in order to carry out the monitoring by the group of members  – members.


Thus, codes of conduct are rules based on religious teachings (morals), philosophy, or culture. Regions from one region to another have different norms of behavior. Code of conduct is coercive, it can also be prohibiting.


Violation of folkways (customary norms) would be considered strange but violations of mores would be ostracized or condemned by the majority of society. for example: hiring of minors, like doing the appropriation / bullying, like acts of violence, and the other  – the other.


The functions of mores are:


1) Provide limits on individual behavior in certain societies.

2) Encourage a person to be able to adapt his actions  – actions to the behavior that applies in his group.

3) Establish solidarity between member  – members of the community and provide protection to the unity and cooperation among members who hung out in the community.


  1. Customs (Folkways)


Habit is a form of action that is repeated  – again the same way. This also shows that the person likes the action. Sanctions for violating this norm are in the form of reprimands, insinuations, and gossip.


According to RM Mac Iver and Charles H. Page, as quoted by Soerjono Soekanto (1989), habits are behaviors that are recognized and accepted by society. Habits have a greater binding strength than means.


For example: saying goodbye to parents when leaving the house, giving greetings when meeting people you know, putting elderly people first when queuing up, and so on .


  1. Customs

That idea  – ideas or the ideas of many who live together in a community / tribe, giving life and guidance to behave on the local community is genuine and there is no element of intervention rules and regulations or modern norms.


Example: funerals, weddings, and other  – other.



According to Koentjaraningrat, custom is called an abstract culture or value system. Individuals or people who violate their customs can receive serious sanctions, either directly or indirectly, for example being excluded from society or being gossiped about by the community.


  1. Kinds  – Kinds of Social Norms

Social norms in society are divided into several aspects that are interrelated with one another. As for the kind of  – kind of social norms in the society are:


  1. According to the official norm or not


According to the official or not, norms can be divided into two kinds, as follows.


1) Official norm (formal)


Official norms are standards or rules that are formulated and obliged strictly by the competent authority to all members of society. This official norm is coercive for all societies. For example, all laws that are written and applicable in Indonesia.


2) The norm is not official (non-formal)

Also Read:

  • The Role of Social Values, Norms and Codes in Society Complete with Examples
  • Social Norms: Definition, Level, Kinds / Types, Characteristics and Functions
  • Classification of Norms, Violation of Values ​​and Social Norms and Solutions to Overcome Them


Is a standard or rule that is not clearly formulated and its implementation is not obligatory for community members. These norms grow from the habits that apply to society. Unofficial norms are not coercive for society. For example, the rules for eating, drinking and dressing.


  1. According to the strength of the sanctions


According to the strength of the sanctions, norms are distinguished as follows.


1) Religious norms

Religious norms are social rules that are absolute and non-negotiable  – fresh or changed because it comes from God’s revelation. Religious norms derived from religious teachings and beliefs  – other belief (religion). Examples implement prayer, worship  – Him, and do not lie.


It is a norm that functions as a guide and guidance for mankind that comes from God which contains commands and prohibitions. Violation of this norm is punished by sin and put in hell when the hereafter is.


2) Norms of Courtesy


Norma is a set of rules of social decorum that leads to it  – when it comes to how one should behave fairly in society.


Examples of politeness norms are saying greetings when entering someone else’s house, greeting an acquaintance we meet on the street, or eating with your right hand. If this norm is violated, the punishment comes from the community itself, the perpetrator can be excluded from socializing, ridiculed or scolded.


3) Legal Norms (laws)

Legal norms are social rules made by the institution  – certain institutions, for example the government or the state. Because it was created by a state, this norm can clearly prohibit and force people to behave in accordance with the wishes of the regulators themselves.


Legal norms are enforced so that in society order, security, peace and justice are created. There are two legal norms, namely written law (criminal and civil) and unwritten law (customary law).


Violation of this norm has severe sanctions in the form of fines to physical punishment (eg imprisonment, fines, death penalty). For example: taxpayers, motorbike / car drivers must have a SIM, prohibited from taking other people’s belongings, prohibited from killing.


4) Customary Norms


Is a set of rules that are made together consciously or not into a habit. For example: visiting a sick friend, mourning, attending wedding invitations, and so on. Sanctions for violators of customary norms are in the form of reproach or exclusion.


5) Morality Norms


It is a social rule that comes from the conscience that produces morals so that one can distinguish what is considered good and what is considered bad. Basically, this norm is a norm for implementing moral values, namely in order to respect the dignity of others.


For example: a scantily clad in public, holding hands, hugging in public places among men  – men and women. Violation of this norm results in physical sanctions (being expelled) or mental (shunned).


6) Norma mode (fashion)


Norma mode (fashion) is a way and style of doing and making something that is change  – change and will be followed by many people. Fashion (fashion) usually begins with imitating something that is considered new.


The main feature of fashion is that the people who follow it are masses of people and the wider circle loves it. In social behavior or action, there is a tendency that humans are influenced by the modes they follow.



Actions that tend to follow fashions are called fashionable. For example: clothing fashions, hair fashions, imitating glasses and motorbikes.


People sometimes  – sometimes liked to imitate the manner and lifestyle that other people use. In terms of mental, sometimes  – sometimes we are not ready to accept it. Finally, there is a cultural lag (cultural gap).


For example: In cities, there are many recreational places or resting places that provide entertainment with a natural atmosphere. In fact, people do not understand that cleanliness is part of the natural beauty of the recreation areas so they throw garbage anywhere, no graffiti  – graffiti.


Fashion differs from style (style) even though the two are related. Fashion is much influenced by style. The style is the embodiment of the ideals  – ideals and a new concept of beauty and technology. Cita  – ideals and a new conception it has a deeper base and reflect societal change.


  1. Characteristics  – Characteristics of Social Norms

There are several traits shared by social norms. What are some traits  – these traits? Let’s identify together.


  1. Generally, social norms are not written or oral. For example, customs, social rules, habits, methods, and so on. Except for the legal norm as a written order. The rules  – these rules agreed upon by the community and the sanctions binding on all members of a group or community.


  1. The result of agreement from all community members in a particular area. This result refers to the culture of the local area regarding behavior and rules in association.


  1. It is binding, so that all members of the community as supporters really obey it wholeheartedly.


  1. There are strict sanctions against violators in accordance with mutual agreement.


  1. Social norms are adapting to social change. This means that social norms are flexible and flexible to social change. Every time there is a desire from society to change, norms will adapt to these changes. Although not completely changed, this rule will definitely undergo changes.


  1. Social Norms Function


In public life, norms have several functions or uses. What are the functions of norms in people’s lives? We recognize several functions of norms, namely as follows.


  1. Living guidelines that apply to all members of the community in a particular area.


  1. Providing stability and order in social life.


  1. Binding citizens, because norms are accompanied by sanctions and strict rules for violators.


  1. Creating orderly conditions and atmosphere in society.


  1. The existence of strict sanctions will provide a deterrent effect to the violators, so they do not want to repeat their actions violating the norm.


by Abdullah Sam
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