Definition of Latent Function
(noun) Unanticipated and unintended consequences of an action or social structure; unknown or unacknowledged reasons something is done.
Examples of Latent Function
Note: There is a manifest function for each of these examples.
- cell phones: Distracted driving.
- clothing: Serves as an indication of status.
- marriage ceremony: Indicates a couple is committed to each other and thus communicates to potential partners to stay away; provides household goods and gifts; creates alliances and redefines family categorizations (e.g., in-laws).
- schooling: Encourages the development of youth cultures that often conflict with parental or State values.
- war: Increases feelings of patriotism and jingoism; profiteering from manufacturing and infrastructure development.
Latent Function Pronunciation
Syllabification: la·tent func·tion
- American English – /lAYt-nt fUHngkshUHn/
- British English – /lAY-tuhnt fUHngkshUHn/
International Phonetic Alphabet
- American English – /ˈleɪtənt ˈfʌŋkʃən/
- British English – /ˈleɪtənt ˈfʌnŋkʃən/
- Plural: latent functions
- Latent functions are a key aspect of functional analysis.
- A latent function derives from a manifest function, they complement each other.
- Latent functions are often negative, and manifest functions are often positive but depending on the subject this distinction is not clear. One group’s negative outcome, is a positive outcome to another group.
- Latent functions are often hard to observe and measure.
- Functions and dysfunctions along with latent and manifest functions were theorized by Robert Merton (1910–2003) in Social Theory and Social Structure (1949, revised in 1957 and 1968).
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ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2015. “latent function.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved June 25, 2022 (https://sociologydictionary.org/latent function/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
latent function. (2015). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/latent function/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2015. “latent function.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed June 25, 2022. https://sociologydictionary.org/latent function/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“latent function.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2015. Web. 25 Jun. 2022. <https://sociologydictionary.org/latent-function/>.