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Family in Sociological Perspectives

Paper type: Essay
Pages: 6 (1472 words)
Categories: Changing Family Values, Family, Importance Of Family Relationships
Downloads: 23
Views: 2

Family is the building block of society. It is the most basic social group in any society. How members in one family relate to each other affects their lives, their work, and their friends. Groups of families that interact with each other, relate to each other and work together build a larger society. By definition, a family is a social group whose members are bound by a legal, biological, and/or emotional tie. The new model of a family is the nuclear family which is defined as a heterosexual (usually married) couple, living in their own household and raising children; usually with a stay at home mom and a bread-winning father.

Family members, however, are interdependent and share a mutual responsibility for one another’s care. Furthermore, a family in sociology is an institution that gets support from other social institutions as schools for education, government for social services and welfare, and factories for work and production.

It might be fair enough to say that stable and well-raised families can build a cooperative and productive society!

Family is seen differently from the three different sociological perspectives. The structural-functionalist perspective tries to identify its function for society. Structural functionalism is based on the assumption that society is a unified whole that functions because of the contribution of its separate structures. There are two main principles of functionalism: the society that is conceived as a stable, ordered system made of interrelated parts or structures; and the structures that have functions to contribute to the continued stability or equilibrium of the unified whole. One of the advantages of functionalism is its inclusion of all social institutions, of which family is one; in an attempt to provide a universal social theory that explains society in one comprehensive model. Therefore, the family is viewed by functionalists as a social institution that contributes to social order. It is also found to be responsible for the reproduction of society as it produces and socializes children who will in turn become future workers and produce and socialize more new members of society, whereby the values and norms of the society are passed on to the next generation.

Family is also seen as a source of emotional support for its members (spouses and siblings), and is found to regulate sexual activity and reproduction. Family is also found by functionalists to provide its members with a social identity. These functions of the family structure help society patterns run smoothly and maintain stability and order. Any dysfunction of its structures will cause a change and a new equilibrium. Family problems stem from sudden or far reaching changes in the family structure or processes; these problems threaten the family’s stability and weaken society. For example, if families fail to discipline children, then schools, churches and courts will have to make changes to fix the failure and / or deal with the consequences; this in turn will have an impact on the society. A functionalist may need to ask questions when looking at a family. These questions may include asking about what the structure is { the family) and what the function of the family ( the structure) is in society, how it maintains a good stable function, what would cause a dysfunction of family, how to prevent it and how it will affect the society in terms of its stability and unity, and how it could be fixed.

Conflict theory is the second school of thought in sociology. It emphasizes on social inequality as the basic characteristic of society. It argues that there are inequalities within and between families. Conflict theory proposes that conflict and tension are basic facts of social life and suggests that people have disagreements over goals and values and are involved in struggles over both resources and power. It focuses on the processes of dominance, competition, and social change. Conflict theory stands in contrast to structural functionalism theory. It argues that the presence of social arrangements does not necessarily mean that it is beneficial, rather it represents the interests of those in power. When focusing on the tension and conflict in a society, the conflict theory may miss parts of the society that are truly orderly and stable. The family in conflict theory contributes to social inequality by reinforcing economic inequality and patriarchy.

Conflict theorists refer to family problems to economic inequality and patriarchal ideology. Conflict theorists believe that society revolves around the conflict over scarce resources and may view the conflict within the family as the competition for resources: time, energy, and leisure to pursue more interesting recreational activities. Gender, age, and ability may be the basis of inequality and conflict within families as well. In addition, conflict theorists have seen the family as a social arrangement benefiting men more than women, allowing men to maintain a position of power. The traditional family in some cultures is patriarchal, contributing to inequality between the sexes. Males tend to have more power and females tend to have less. Traditional male responsibilities are valued more than the traditional roles done by their wives (i.e. housekeeping, child rearing). Even though these women spend as much or more time at paid jobs as their husbands, they also do more of the housework and child care. Furthermore, physical violence and emotional cruelty can be a source of conflict for the family’s own members. Conflict theorists may want to ask about where the power is, what the inequalities are in a family, what the resources are, who the competitors are, who the winner is, and what the prize/benefit is. Answering these questions may help direct the conflict theorists to find the conflict they are looking for.

Symbolic interactionism is the sociology’s third grand theory. As the name suggests it focuses on the connection between symbols (i.e. shared meanings) and interactions (i.e. verbal and nonverbal actions) and communications. It is about understanding how humans create symbolic worlds and how those symbolic worlds shape human behavior. Symbolic interactionism emphasizes on families as social groups and on individuals to develop a concept of self and identity through social interaction and family activities. It helps explain the individual personalities and the way they are linked together. Also, it allows understanding the processes by which social order and change are constructed. It focuses on how self and society develop through interaction with others and helps explain and analyze many social issues as inequalities and dynamics of families. Thus, symbolic interactionists consider it more effective to look at how family relations are created and maintained in interaction than how they are structured.

For example, the legal meaning of marriage as a bond is technically the same for everyone; however, the expectations and rules for behavior in marriage differs among individuals and couples. It is expected of family members to care for each other and express that care. With the term, family come obligations, rights, and sentiments. In other words, the interactionist will need to ask about the roles of men and women in a family and what they do to express their caring to each other. They may need to ask about how the siblings interact with each other and if there are any jealousy issues for example. They might be interested in violence in a household whether between the couple or among the children. They may ask how they share responsibilities and express their need for each other’s help. They may question about means of communication and ways of resolving conflicts among family members.

Each of these theories provides useful insights into our understanding of family units. I believe we need all of these perspectives when we look at the family, to be able to have a better understanding of the family. We will need to know about it from a functionalist perspective as a structure and what its function is in the society, and how any dysfunction can ultimately affect the society’s order and unity. Then we need the conflict theorists’ perspective to know about the inequalities, competition and struggles the family faces on daily basis among its members and in a given society.

Any violence in the family or emotional struggles, as well as unequal work burdens and responsibilities, may help us find causes for dysfunction in society and thus help fix any in equilibrium in that matter. Last, we need the interactionist perspective to see the family on the level of the individual interactions and see how the relationship between individuals in a family can affect the family as a structure and thus affects its function and how that is influenced by the competition over power and resources. The three perspectives are like looking at the same picture from different angles. We can’t really see the big picture unless we can see all the details from different angles. To me, those different angles are the three sociological perspectives of family.

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Family in Sociological Perspectives. (2020, Sep 12). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/family-in-sociological-perspectives-essay

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