The changing composition of the family unit in the United States has been attributed to several factors including historical events, changing cultural values, economic trends, and government policies. There is a reciprocal impact between the changes that have occurred in each of these major systems. Several theories have been presented in an attempt to explain events that occur in both micro and macro social systems. With regard to the family unit, many theories could be applied to explain changes that have transpired. However, two that are particularly relevant and useful in this area are role theory and feminist theory. This paper will explore each of these theories and their application to the evolution of the family system. In addition, two interviews are presented to provide further insight and help illustrate generational changes that have occurred in the family unit. These interviews offer additional perspective into evolving attitudes and cultural beliefs about the nature of the family.
Feminist theory looks at systems from the unique snandpoint of women. There are several approaches to feminist theory discussed in recent literature. One is proposed by Nes and Iadioca (1989) who outline three models of feminism, which include liberal, radical, and socialist. Each model has a unique perspective about the factors that impact women in society. Of the three, liberal feminism seems the most consistant with issues surrounding the changing nature of the family. According to Nes and Iocioca (1989), liberal feminist theory contends that men and women have a comparable ability for achievement, but social and environmental forces have hindered women’s opportunities. In order to combat these forces, they assert that women must become more assertive, competitive, individualistic, and self-directed.
In the context of systems, role theory attempts to explain how processes are affected by the characteristics of those performing tasks within specific social environments (Alexander, 2010). The evolving nature of the family can be explained in part by changes in roles and expectations of individuals in society. According to Alexander (2010) a role can be an identity, but also can include a set of behaviors or expectations. Changing cultural values and individual attitudes can necessitate people to take on new or different roles in the family.
Personal Interview with Questions and Answers
Ofelia Perone, age 83 and Christine Perone, age 61 were interviewed concerning their personal experience with regard to changes that have occurred within the family unit. These women are the writer’s grandmother and mother, respectively. Ofelia raised her family in the 1950’s, a time of traditional values and beliefs toward marriage and family. Christine came of age in the 1960’s, the era that began to transform attitudes and ideas about the family system. Both women had distinct experiences that point to...