(Re)framing and Problem Solving

by Ryo Tanaka

How can we solve social problems? Various ways are possible. But the most basic one is to share how the problem is understood. In other words, it is necessary to frame or reframe the problem by “highlighting certain events or facts as important and rendering others visible” (Ryan & Gamson, 2006, p. 13). In is then important to note that people often frame an issue not actually seeing the fact in their eyes. For example, the former US president George Bush insisted “a connection between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda when no facts support[ed] it” (Ryan & Gamson, 2006, p. 14). Frames often take implicit forms. Thus, it is risky to rely on only one person’s frame in making a decision or solving a problem.

Different people have different frames in their head. In solving a problem, it is essential to combine or integrate each other’s frame effectively to reflect the process of problem solving. “Successful reframing involves ability to enter worldview of our adversaries” (Ryan & Gamson, 2006, p. 14). Problem solving therefore requires combining or integrating opposing sides.

For example, domestic violence has two opposing ways of framing. One is to understand it as a private problem that results from the inside of the family. This includes the relationship between the husband and wife. The other is to regard it as a public issue. This view suggests that socioeconomic forces push people to commit violence to others including family members. Or at least, some social factors are related to their action of violence. To combine or integrate these two opposing sides, it is necessary to consider the two things: how much those who are abused are responsible for their fate; and how much society is responsible for domestic violence. Typically, those who are abused are not responsible for much of their fate because they cannot control their situation by themselves. This difficulty of the abused sometimes comes from the traditional value system. When the traditional patriarchic idea that the husband has more power than the wife is applied, the husband side can justify violence against the wife. In this sense, domestic violence is the society’s fault. Society has maintained the value system that has justified and concealed domestic violence. Also, extreme stresses can lead people to commit violence against others to release the stresses. People typically stressed out in their workplace. Various environmental factors such as the relationship with colleagues or bosses, the amount of work, and working hours influence their level of stress. People have no choice but to get such physically and mentally demanding jobs simply because most of today’s jobs have a certain degree of such demands. It is almost impossible for them to choose a job that is not stressful.

In conclusion, domestic violence can be seen as a social problem to a large degree. Motivation of violence essentially comes from cultural norms or stresses got outside the family. Still, this does not prove that abused people have no responsibility for their fate. They should at least make an effort not to be abused. It is hard to examine how much abused people are responsible. But discussion above shows that it seems easier to consider how much society is responsible. Thus, before examining responsibility of the abused, social systems should be improved to reduce domestic violence. In doing so, the process by which systems push people to commit violence should be revealed.


Ryan, C. and Gamson, W. A. (2006). the art of reframing political debates. Contexts (5)1, pp. 13-18.


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