An institution, for our purpose here can be broadly defined as:
"A pattern of shared, stable, behaviour".
Thus, the characteristics of social institutions are that they involve behaviour that is carried out by large numbers of people (shared) and this behaviour must be of a type that continues over a reasonable period of time (stable).
Examples of social institutions in our society, therefore, might be things like:
We can use a further example to explain this idea in a little more detail.
The family can be considered to be an institution in our society for a number of reasons:
When we talk about an institution in this way, it is important to avoid the mistake that everyone within the institution behaves in exactly the same way. Family life in Britain, for example, involves a diverse mixture of forms (dual-parent, single-parent, nuclear, extended, reconstituted and so forth).
However, what it can be assumed to mean is that there are general cultural norms in existence governing the various ways that children, for example should be socialised, how parent should relate to children and so forth