The Family As An Adaptive Institution

842 words - 3 pages

With the Industrial Revolution, the nuclear family unit began to separate itself from the larger group of extended kin, and outside institutions--hospitals, nursing homes, schools, and so forth--took over many functions formerly performed by the family. The family, more than any other institution, facilitates social change by adapting its structure and activities to fit the changing needs of the society and other social institutions (Vincent 1966, p. 29).This allows the family to better serve the needs of a rapidly changing society (Goode 1964).Thus, family forms are seen to evolve in such a way as to adapt to the needs and demands of other institutions of a given society, most notably the economic institution. More specifically, the nuclear family structure better fits the needs and demands of an industrial society than does the extended family system (Goode 1963; Parsons and Bales 1955).Futurist Alvin Toffler (1980) has even suggested that the traditional nuclear family form is no longer compatible with the new postindustrial society and therefore is being replaced by a diversity of family forms that can more adequately meet the needs of a postindustrial society. Recent research supports that view (Lewis 1985).A careful examination of 416 articles published in 104 journals and magazines reveals how the otherwise conservative business community actually promotes the emergence of nontraditional family forms. All articles indexed under the headings Family and Households are analyzed in terms of the frequency of appearance, the specific topics addressed, the intended readers, and the general perspective. The material includes such items as professional papers, book reviews, news items, proceedings of meetings and conferences, tables and graphs, research reports, and other items published in business periodicals from 1958 through 1983.More than half the study articles are directed toward marketing personnel and consist of useful information for marketing/planning. While the earlier articles focus primarily on consumer decision making, articles published in the 1960s and 1970s are characterized by increasing emphasis on the growing young adult market, particularly affluent dual-income households. Articles of the early 1980s continue to emphasize the importance to marketers of changes in family structure. Marketing strategy is aimed at small nontraditional units, for example, dual-income families, one-parent families, unmarried couples, singles, and couples without children. Marketers of family-oriented products are frequently advised to direct their selling appeals to the nontraditional family, especially dual-earner families. Not only do these families have larger incomes than single-earner families, they also tend to purchase more convenience items and to spend more freely. Throughout the study period,...

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