Social Structure as an Independent Influence on Behavior
"Social structure" here refers to the statuses in a community's culture and their connections, direct and indirect, by mutually involving references in their expectations and salience understandings. Since the statuses making up social structure are each composed of shared understandings and since these statuses are joined by the mutual references of one of these sorts of component understandings (i.e., expectations), it is a culturally constituted system. As
will be seen, however, despite its being composed wholly, but not quite solely, of culture, social structure has effects that are independent of culture.
A social structural perspective focuses attention on how the statuses that guide relationship affect one another and, therefore, the nature of the guidance available within the community seen as a system, sensu stricto, of relationships. A social structural point of view directs attention to the connections among understandings rather than directly to the understandings themselves.
As an example of the results of a social structural perspective, consider recent changes in the statuses of Swahili women. These changes in the expectations in the statuses daughter, sister, and wife as well as woman lessen the difficulty women have in being in statuses, especially "employee," whose expectations call for spending a good deal of time outside the home. The expectations in these "outside" statuses affect the statuses women (or, perhaps, "respectable women"), daughters, sisters, wives, mothers, and neighbors and the wide variety of roles involving these statuses. These changes in women's statuses and roles, in turn, affect the statuses connected with them and their component roles, thus altering the sets of understandings that affect a wide range of the community's relationships.