Sociology and Family Members

Last Updated: 17 Mar 2021
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“The family is the first group of people with whom the child has contact, and they are the most important, especially in the early years. They provide food, shelter, care, education, and support. They describe and define the world to the developing child. They teach values, morals, and beliefs. ” (Vissing, 2011) A person is defined by the family and they are taught how to live a certain way, but as they grow up society start to influence their decisions.

In this paper I will evaluate the impact Sociological theories: Functionalism, Conflict, and Interactionism, will have on a family. How does each theory apply to the selected sociological institution? “The family is regarded as the most basic institution for all individuals because it is directly responsible for the care and protection of its members. The family consists of people who are biologically related but may also contain people with whom we live and people with whom we have close emotional bonds. (Vissing, 2011) The way Functionalism applies to a family is functionalist sociologists developed an analysis which showed that the family had evolved into a superior form. Studies by Murdock, Goode, and others were able to show that the family, in changing its form, had been left free to concentrate on the most important functions. Parsons (1956) saw the two most important functions to be the socialization of the young and the stabilization of the adult personality. “The functionalist view of the family is the notion of ‘fit’.

The isolated nuclear family was seen to be a good ‘fit’ for post-war American society. The family had been left free to make a good job of rearing the children, with more ‘professional’ parents working alongside teachers and childcare experts. The family was also able to concentrate on the demanding relationship between husband and wife. The family provided both the child and the adult with the physical and emotional support needed for their roles in society. It also provided the motivation to be successful in an industrial world which laid stress on achievement by individual effort.

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The functionalist account of the positive role of the family in society coincided with a period of strong public support for the American family. Berger and Berger (1983) argue that this was a period when the American family was seen as a success, particularly in the way it placed the needs of the individual at the heart of family life. ” (Wilson, A, (1985) pg. 21) The way Conflict applies to a family is the conflict role can be intense and uncomfortable, as people feel forced to make choices between work and family.

Relatives may be upset when major conflicts occurs such as “financial pressures and money management; trying to balance home, work, community, and personal responsibilities; infidelity; decision making and conflict resolution; dealing with health problems; addressing personal, educational, and occupational needs of family members; maintaining a home and household; dealing with substance abuse, crime, or domestic violence problems; co-parenting; divorce and stepfamilies; and dealing with aging parents. A family shoulders a tremendous responsibility and usually requires assistance from others as a result. For some people work may come first and may be seen as a violation of the role of being a dedicated family member. Individuals may feel a sense of being "damned if I do, damned if I don't," no matter what they end up doing. Often work comes first because responsible adults feel that they cannot care for their family if they lose their job.

When people feel important at work and home, they have a greater sense of generatively; when they do not feel valued or do work that isn't inherently meaningful, the feelings of stagnation and alienation occur. When people feel competent and happy, the systems perspective holds that they may transfer those feelings to other areas of life, whereas when people feel stagnant and hopeless, those feelings likewise impact other aspects of their personal world. The way Interactionism applies to a family, Symbolic interaction theory analyzes society by addressing the subjective meanings that people impose on behaviors.

A close emotional bond exists with them, what they think of us really matters, especially in the early years when children are being socialized to understand both themselves and their place in the world. ” (Vissing, 2011) What are the similarities? What are the differences? The similarities between the theories are how they affect a family as a whole. Functionalism impact the functionality of family when everyone doing their part and there are no problems and, Conflict affects the family relationship as a whole, and Interactionism affects how the family interact with one another and other people.

The differences between the theories are, functionalism is about the morals and values that are taught to a family to help them thrive in society, Conflict is based on outside influence that impact the family, and interactionism focuses on the behaviors family members pick up from socializing with different groups of people. How does each theory affect the views of the individual who is part of a family? Functionalism affects the views of the as a whole family, each individual person plays a role in how the family functions in society.

Conflict affects the views of the individual because that person will struggle for to be heard, they will disagree and their actions will cause stress in the family. Interactionism affects the views of individual because they are learning new things as they socialize with others. They may start to act and dress differently and do things they never done before. How does each theory affect the approach to social change within the selected institution? Functionalism, see social changes as undesirable because of the various parts of society will compensate naturally for any problems that may arise.

The way they approach social change is by not taking an active role in changes in their social environment, if things are going good they like for it to stay that way. Even if the family can benefit from the changes, they don’t won’t to run the risk of causing problems for themselves or their family. The family prefers to let the changes happen naturally without interfering. Conflict, approach to social change is by putting the changes into perspective. The social conflict can have a positive impact, when properly understood, in promoting groups to find common ground, form alliances, define core values, and identify the differences.

Interactionism, approach to social change in family is people can chose to embrace the morals and values they were taught or reject them. Every individual has their own set of beliefs in a family and these beliefs are exercised depending on the individual. Family unit does not operate as a collective, even though it is believed to do so. Each individual in the family has different values that are attributed to age, associations, values, etc. A child could have complete different view on a particular subject than their parents.

Within the Sociological institution selected, how does each theory affect the views of society? Functionalism, view society as functioning best when there is agreement about the social values and norms. “Conflict can have a positive impact on society views, when properly understood, in promoting groups to find common ground, form alliances, define core values, and identify the differences. ” (Harper, N) Interactionism, society imposes a different set of values that can influence family member to do things different from the norm. To conclude, each theory has a different impact on a family.

They each give insight into how society impacts a family and individual members. As person venture in the world they start to see things in different way. Functionalism is believed to focus on the family being close and being in agreement on thing. They appear to have no problem cause of the agreement to not interact with any changes and just to let them happen and go with the flow. “From a functionalist point of view, the family may change form and be quite diverse in its composition, but families have always existed and will continue to exist because what they do is so important.

Children are born to people who will love and care for them, and are socialized about how to care for themselves and be a productive member of society. Families are the link to most of the other institutions. ” Conflict, causes a family to weight the pros and cons of different situations because the child is now older and they are influenced by what they see from other social institutions. “From a conflict approach, families may not receive the support or assistance they need to adequately do all the things that are required of them.

Some families function well, many need help, and other families are fragile or dysfunctional. The ability of the family to function depends on how the rest of the institutions interface with them. Conflict theorists acknowledge that the family cannot adequately do its job without contributions from the other social institutions. ” Interactionism, is about the habits family members pick up from socializing and being apart and around different groups of people. “Symbolic interactionists focus on the messages that family members receive and impart to each other.

Since the family is in the position of having the most intense interactions when children's identities and bodies are being formed, what they say and do will have a significant impact on them (Cherlin, 2009; Benokratis, 2010; Lamanna & Riedmann, 2011). ” (Vissing, 2011)


  1. Harper, N. Journeys into Justice Retrieved from: http://www. journeysintojustice. com/author. htm
  2. Vissing, Y. (2011) Introduction to Sociology. Salem State University. Bridgepoint Education, Inc.
  3. Wilson, Adrian. Family. Routledge, 1985. p 21. Retrieved from: http://site. ebrary. com/lib/ashford/Doc? id=5003764&ppg=31

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