Sociological Theories And The Family Essay

1784 words - 7 pages

This paper will examine sociological theories and how they relate to the social institution of the family. We typically view society as a group of people, but in sociology, society is not a group of people but a social organization. People are molded by society to fit within the accepted societal bounds. Society must be understood using “the meanings that people put on their values and beliefs” (Bartle, 2010). Within sociology there are three major perspectives. These are the Functionalist, Conflict and Interactionist Perspectives. Each perspective views society in different manners, with each being correct and relevant since social institutions are too complex to be defined by any one theory. Each perspective will be used to explain the perspectives’ relevance to the family.
The sociological definition of the family is “a set of people related by blood, marriage or some other agreed-upon relationship, or adoption, who share the primary responsibility for reproduction and caring for members of society” (Schaeffer, 2009, p. 288). While the nuclear family (a man, a woman, and their children) was once the primary definition of family, now it refers to many familial configurations. Single-parent families, blended families, same-sex couples, traditional nuclear families and single-parents who have adopted are just a few of the configurations that society in general now views as a family. A healthy family will provide a place of unconditional love, acceptance and support.
The functionalist perspective views society as a living organism or a mechanical entity. Primitive societies where everyone performs similar tasks, demonstrates mechanical cohesion. In modern societies, many different tasks are performed by the members, similar to the interdependence of organs in a living organism. It emphasizes the way in which parts of society are structured to maintain society’s stability (Schaeffer, 2009, p. 14). By using this depiction to define the family, each person fills specific roles formed by factors such as economic positions, cultural and social structures, and political roles to keep the overall ‘organism’ running. The father is viewed as the head of the family in a patriarchal society and usually provides the major economic support for the family while also enforcing family and society’s structure. The mother provides emotional support to her husband and reinforces his dominant role within the family. She has more power as a mother than she does as a wife because of limited income opportunities, as opposed to the non-monetary role she provides to the family. Her role in the family along with the father is to keep the family healthy (physically and psychologically) and whole. The role of children is to learn and fulfill the attitudes, values and actions appropriate to individuals in their level of society. They interact with their parents and siblings, forming their own unique familial roles. Therefore “a major function of the...

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