Sociological Perspectives – Family SOC 101 Allen Lipscomb February 28, 2010 Abstract Family can be defined in many ways through many different theories. Family can also be a main area of where socialization skills for individuals and society develop. The following will help in the explanation on how you can apply Functionalism, Conflict and Interactionism theories to family and society. Sociological Perspectives – Family Families, what is the term family? What does it mean? Who decides what makes up a family?
The definition of family means “A fundamental social group in society typically consisting of one or two parents and their children” (www.
thefreedictionary. com). This might include anyone related to by blood or by adoption such as: step parents, grandparents acting as parents, and even brothers and sisters sometimes sharing the same household. The term family has been believed to coincide with the word “marriage”. If you were to have a family, you were also thought to have a husband or wife. This was thought to be the norm for many centuries.
This was named the “institutional family”.
But the word family has been reinvented. A family can consist of single parent family, step family, or a first marriage family. It seems that in all societies the first major agent of socialization for most individuals is the family. The role of the American family is much the same as in any other country. Each family member has to fulfill his or her own part. The mass media will have an influence on the family’s role. For instance, the media has portrayed men to be thought of as the “bread-winner”. To more or less support the family. This family type was atypical of the American family. Functionalism
Functionalism believes that the family is the foundation of social order. According to the sociologist Talcot Parsons, “any other type of family other than the nuclear family is dysfunctional in society because they are not suited for society’s economic needs and therefore may be a potential threat to society” (1966). They believed in the theory that the family is a positive institution. The structural functionalist perspective views society as having a structure of several components. Family, religion, schools, state, and the economy. The family fulfills vital functions for instance culture, support, and status.
The institute of marriage is important because functionalism ignores conflict and diversity. So functionalism encourages marriage. Functionalism believes that trends do not exist. Structural functionalist ignore family violence. “Functionalism is a structuralist theory; meaning that it sees social structure as more important than individuals” (2009). The functionalist view of society makes the assumption that every society has a range of basic needs. Functionalists would say that if these needs are being met then the society is functioning and it is more likely to survive over a longer period of time. Conflict
In the Conflict Perspective, marriage and family do not coincide with one another. Conflict theorists do not disagree with functionalists regarding the family; they just argue that the functionalist perspective fails to tell the whole story. The Marxist view is those who have the means to produce wealth and those who don’t. By way of the conflict perspective, conflict theorists view the family as an institution to which we will get all of our knowledge by determination of class. Conflict will acknowledge that all families have an important role in the development in a child’s life, depending on the social class of that family. This perspective focuses on the negative, conflicted, and ever-changing nature of society” (Cliffnotes. com). The main focus of the conflict perspective is on society as a whole. They see society as in a continuous state of conflict between groups and classes. Conflict theorists challenge the status quo, encourage social change and believe that powerful people force social order on the weak. Their gain of wealth, prestige or power for one individual and group are often associated with losses for others. Interactionism Symbolic Interactionism symbolic interactionism relies on individuality.
The institution of a family in this perspective is important because it can provide the background for culture, humanism, power, and character. Interactionists are interested in how people attempt to make sense of the social world, how we try to interpret other people’s behavior in order to discover what that behavior means. They are less concerned with how the family fits into the structure of society or how the structure of society affects the family. They are much more likely to look at what actually goes on inside families, their day-to-day actions and how people negotiate their roles within the family.
For social interactionists, people negotiate their social world by adapting to different situations. These situations are usually to be the result of actions taken by others. People take purposive action toward goals and desires with the situations in which they find themselves. Your family socializes you and teaches what symbols mean and how to use them. Through their interactions, people become active participants in creating their social world. Similarities & Differences Some may believe that family is the toughest institution that we have.
The family can emphasize so many different things; Culture, parental guidance, education, and family history. The family is so curtail and no other institution can provide like the family can. Power in the family is very important. It stands for who is in charge and who isn’t, who has the authority and who doesn’t. Power in the family is what may make or break the family. Functionalists believe that power is the background of the whole theory. Power demonstrates authority but no one group (government, religious, or business) can dominate the entire system.
In the family, a dominate, powerful person, (mainly the male), can make the family into a learning, and cultural institution. Functionalism leaves no room to challenge this paternal power, because that would give rise to conflict. Conflict can then rise to spousal abuse or violence. The Conflict theory presents a different image. A conflict theorist focuses on inequality and diversity. In parenting, power reflects values and conflict, which is based on social class. Single parenting might be difficult to gain power because of the low prestige a parent might have.
But this can section off where each social class stands and can give rise to other classes. On the other hand, Symbolic Interactionism provides more like a carefree environment. This perspective focuses on “negotiated meanings”. Power can be negotiated throughout the family. Power is almost ignored throughout symbolic interactionism. Instead, symbolic interactionism can focus on the individual and our interactions with one another. Culture in the family is important because it provides rules, proper behavior, and incentive.
Family culture gives us a representation of whom we are and what kind of goals we are here to achieve. In America, culture has changed, but the norms, values, and mores have remained the same. Functionalism relies on ideal culture, which is what people should do, according to group norms and values. Conflict theorists believe that conflict within culture is part of the family. The challenge of culture and diversity can promote multi-cultural benefits and kinship structures. In symbolic interactionism, the interactionist approach focuses on how individuals and groups use symbols to define and interpret reality.
This characteristic is still remarkably important in America, as it was 50 years ago. From the symbolic interactionist perspective, there are no fixed meanings. Marriage and family do not coincide together like, functionalism. In the conflict perspective, the patriarchal family exists. This means the men have the control over the women. Within the conflict viewpoint, feminism has a strong argument in the social action category. Conclusion The future of the American family looks bright. I believe that the institution of family plays a large role on how children will behave when they are older.
Without the family, we would have no recognition of our culture, norms, behavioral attitudes, and basically life in general. But in Functionalism, I did not like the idea of how the patriarchal family should exist and how if there is violence in the family, we should ignore it? That it is only a micro problem of society? Then what would be considered a macro problem of society in functionalism? In my learned opinion, I have learned more than I never would have expected in this paper. I have learned about each sociological view more than what just reading the book could give me.
In the information that I have collected, I would agree with the sociological view of symbolic interactionism, because I believe it to be the most thought out of all of them. It makes its points clear and does not contradict itself. “Several theoretical perspectives brought to bear on a specific family topic, may yield differing complementary insights into that area; By utilizing more than one theory in framing a hypotheses and interpreting results, a fuller understanding of family behavior may be achieved” (Rank and LeCroy, 1983).
References CliffsNotes. com. Three Major Perspectives in Sociology. Retrieved February 25, 2010 from www. cliffsnotes. com. The Funcionalist’s View of the Family in Society. (April 1, 2009). Retrieved February 25, 2010 from www. socyberty. com/sociology. Rank, M. R. & LeCroy, C. W. (1983). Toward a Multiple Perspective in Family Theory and Practice. Family Relations, Vol 32, No 3, pp 441-448. Retrieved from www. jstor. org on February 25, 2010. Schaefer, Richard T. (2009). Sociology: A Brief Introduction. (8th ed). New York: McGraw-Hill.
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