What Is a Social Institution?

social-institution Credit: Ivan Vdovin/age fotostock/Getty Images

A social institution refers to established or defined patterns of rule-governed behavior. It is a complex, standardized set of social norms designed with the aim of preserving a primary societal value. Examples of social institutions include the family, religion, and education, political and economic institutions.

An institution is basically any structure or mechanism of social order governing the actions of a certain group of individuals in a given community. According to sociologists, the term institutions refer to normative systems that are manifest in five primary areas of life, which may be regarded as the key institutions. These include in kinship determination (family), legitimate use of power (government), regulation of goods and services (economy), transmission of knowledge from across generation (education) and regulation of relationship with the supernatural (religion).