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The institution of family is comprised of household members who are having biological or legal relationship and live in a single housing unit. The relationship of family members is dependent on blood, adoption or marriage relation. The senior person of the family is normally the head of family depends on the family type. In an extended or joint family, grand father or grand mother is usually the head of family; where as in nuclear family, father or mother is usually play the role of family head.
Present research paper is focused on the impact of three main sociological theories on the institution of family in society. The three selected theories are functionalism, conflict and interactionism. Also, this research will evaluate the family members' views as result of these theories applications in different scenarios. More over, this study will determine the impact of these sociological theories on families' internal social change approaches. Finally, the impact of these theories on the society views inside the family will be examined. The thesis statement derived to examine the above research objectives can be proposed as; The institution of family is affected by different sociological theories in various perspectives.
Sociological Theories and Family
The theories of Sociology have various impacts and applications on the institution of family in society. Normally, these theories exhibit a complex conceptual framework to define and explain their different impacts on processes, society structures, and individual actions prevalent in civilized societies (Schaefer, 2009). Family is one of the strongest institutions of the society and implications of these theories on working and behaviour of this institution is always focused by sociologists. Presently, in this study, only three theories are selected to examine the behavior of family as individuals and part of society. Functionalism, Conflict and interactionism theories are discussed in following pages. Also, their comparison and criticism is also presented in contexts of family.
Family and Functionalism theory
Schaefer (2009) proposed that the theory of functionalism treats society based on system of interrelated parts which work simultaneously and in harmony with each other. As a result of this joint working, society needs and requirements are satisfied as a whole. This theory proposed society as body composed of interdependent frameworks that include religion, families, religion etc. Also, this theory accepts the problem of social inequality and injustice, but portrays the positive role of this inequality that encourages people to fight for their rights and to achieve a better social status.
When functionalism is applied on the institution of family, it implies the positive role of this institution that has a stable structure of a head and dependents. Normally the bread earner of the family is father or mother or both with children as dependents. The family members live in one place with their independent behaviors and social roles. Notably, according to functionalism framework, the deep networks of social support and success is generated through the string physical, emotional, and psychological attachments of family members. Further, the sense and practice of the perspectives of social responsibility generates the holistic concepts of social consistency in the broader perspectives.
Principally, the functions of father and mother and/or husband and wife in a family are based on financial, psychological, physical and social. Their goals and objectives are combine decided and depend on the role of both partners. This social cohesion determines the level of marriage life standards and morals in this relationship (Charon 2006). Also, mother and father give the same level of interdependent support to the family members include children and siblings. In this manner, this theory supports the different interdependent functions of mother, father, and kids to support the institution of family.
As far as the impact of functionalism theory on the individual behaviour of family members is considered, the theory defines that each family member should perform to support each other in order to generate systems of better family. For instance, father /husband is the traditional head and bread earner of the family whose functions to support other family members to achieve basic necessities or even luxuries of life. In contrast, mother/wife has the function to support her partner and other family members in emotional and even in financial matters. Modern day families have the equal roles of mother as the joint or sometime sole money earner for the family; this fact disturbs the role of father as a sole head in functionalism theory. Finally, children have the function of financially dependent but morally and emotionally support the family as a whole
In contrast, the social change approached to the family according to this theory in ways of technology, education, and health contexts. A healthy and educated family better understands and performs their respective roles with assistance of latest available technology. Their mutual understanding advance and change along with the change prevailing in society. In this case, children through education can become the prime breadwinners in a family. In other words, traditionally father remains the head and sole earner of the family but the social inequality changes his role in the society or in family. Finally, with the increase in family subsystems and independency in family members with advancement in social changes, the subsystems of the family also change. (Ross and Mirowsky 2002).
Lastly, the views of general society through its members also change in context of functionalism theory. As the social inequality present in family institution also and status of all families are not equal. Therefore, each family member has to perform own role as a family member and also the function of society needs fulfillment. Further, according to Ross and Mirowsky (2002), in this theory, family acts as a social unit which performs in accordance with the structure of whole society. Therefore, functionalism theory presents the synch nous role of families in society rather than the conflicting perspectives as an institution in society.
Family and Conflict theory
The conceptual network of Conflict theory defines that society and its subsystems act independently in such ways to maximize individual benefits and to secure better positions. The social change is regularly contributed through this struggle and difference of opinions and goals. According to this theory, the members are not supporting each other functionally like parts of a system but rather conflicting roles and actions of each other to support their own objectives. The level of high competition and greater social inequality is part of this theory.
Also, he family dynamics and structure in view of this theory can be recognized with the help of the clear identification of division of power in social inequality prevailing in various members of the family. The family members compete for the available scarce resources of family and available opportunities in society. The attainment of power and get hold of maximum resources normally generates conflicts and violence in the family (Schaefer, 2009).
One thing is clear in this theory that resources surplus normally not generated a conflict in family members, but the interpersonal relations and differences in personalities are the major sources of conflicts in this case. These psychological differences create interpersonal conflicts even in highly resources families. The conflicts of interests and ideas prevailing in society also generate conflicting situations among family members. Positively, social changes with in the family structure are resultant of the conflicts which can reshape and evolve the family values and structures. This theory indicates the balance of disorder in family institution by inducting positive changes through difference of opinions and personalities.
The role of each family member is affected by this theory in the manner that each member should act competitively to attain individual and cumulative goals. Father, mother, and kids are working to maximize their share in scarce resources of the family rather that functionally support each other. The individual components of family see it as an institution with certain order and arrangement. They work according to this theory to balance the state of family order and disorder (Charon 2006). The interactions and overlapping roles generate conflicts which affect the view of the family in broader contexts. Rather than following the functional roles of harmonious living in the family, family members live in state of competition and struggle to achieve better in life and make better use of available scarce resources.
Also, the social change from the inside of family is viewed in this theory is that every family member struggles to attain the resources they don't have. As a result, power is scared among the family members and the sole power of family head cannot stays any more. Due to these power and role conflicts, individual roles with in the family also changed. For instance, father and mother compete in the society and with each other to achieve the status of better money earner for the family within the society. Therefore, conflicts bring a social change with in the boundaries of institution of family and support more diverse and contradicting roles in he families.
In contrast, the society views about the family are also changed in this theory. Generally, society views the family institution as a harmonious and strongly bonded which support the individual components in all situations. Where as, conflict theory implies that the regular struggles of family members to achieve power and resources change this view greatly with in the society. Also, society favors the regulation and governance of human relationship s with in the family under specific orders and laws, but on the other hand, conflict theory that effective power negotiations to support these relations are the actual source of regulations and law in family institution (Seccombe et al., 2004).
Interactionism theory and family
Interactionism theory relates the day to day and routine interactions of family members to simple phenomena that help in understanding of social norms and individual experiences. This theory also relates the various points of views of various individuals to a same happening as every body sees the events according to own perspective. In this way, a common fact is shared by many individuals at the same time with different understandings.
The institution of family is affected by this theory in the manner that family is composed of different individuals who combine to form this institution. The behaviour of whole society is created, maintained, and changed by the interactions of individual members. As the communication of human beings is based on symbols, ideas, and figures, therefore this theory some times regarded as symbolic Interactionism also. Also, the interpersonal interactions are largely based on the understanding of these verbal and non verbal symbols. The ability of individuals to interpret the contexts and applications of these symbols differ and creates different roles of these individuals in the society. This theory contrasts functionalism in this way that individual determines their social actions independently, rather than depending on their social roles.
This theory views the institution of family at micro status in contrast with other two theories. It emphasizes that creation of families is not along term process but it is created on daily basis. Instead on forming the family on prdes8gned structures and prior defined roles, this theory views the creation of roles on evolving basis which define them the bases of intra family and intersociety interactions. Therefore, the family structures are not building without any problem, but they evolve and change continuously based on the family members interactions.
The affect of this theory on individual members of the family defines that daily interactions create identity and concept of self with in the particular society. The major concepts of age, power, gender, social status, and ethnic attachments become powerful drivers in this theory (Charon 2006). The interactions of these elements with in the family members generate variety of roles and family structures. With in the contexts of family, the development of behaviour, moral values, lifestyle choices, and religious attachments are based on intra family interactions.
The change with in the society can generate through this theory as the interaction of people with in families change the course of their actions in society also. Their interrelated actions vary their individual and family roles in broader contexts. The norms, values, and culture of the family institution can change the society norms also when affects spread in broader perspectives of the whole society.
The views of society about the family are also included in the implications of this theory. As the actual reality of communication lies in the minds of individuals, therefore society views are multiple about the family. The reality of groups lies in their beliefs of individuals, so the construction of society is the cumulative impact of these human interactions. The organization of society is dependent on the understanding of symbols and past interactions. Therefore, social change does not exist as extrinsic phenomena but generates from the intrinsic understandings and behaviours of family members in the broad contexts of society.
In conclusion, all above three theories of Functionalism, Interactionism, and Conflict are different in their own contexts but show some similarities also in discussing the family institution. The main difference in functionalism and conflict theories is the tackling of prevailing family conflicts in society. Also, as functionalism fails to address conflicts, conflicts theory fails to define human interactions, which are best defined by symbolic Interactionism. Therefore, it has been proved from above discussion that each theory has some short comings, but when they are used simultaneously they can give a more realistic picture of family institution.