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The interaction of human beings in the society has always attracted scholars and researchers to examine how different social structures or rather social institutions are formed in the society and how they promote the existence of the society. In line with this, these scholars have formulated theories that are geared towards examining these institutions from different perspectives or lines of thought. The approach of these theories in defining and examining these structures of these institutions vary one from the other despite the fact that some of them have similarities. Following this point, this essay will study the impact of functionalism, conflict and interactionism theories on the family. Some of the issues that will be looked at include how these theories apply to the family, how they affect individual views in the family, how these theories perceive the issue of social change in the family and how they affect the view of the society.
To begin with, the theory of functionalism perceives the family as one of the most important to the point that is universal and inevitable, i.e. every society must have a family as a social institution if at all it wants to survive and flourish. In particular, the nuclear family remains as one of the most important component of the society. This was grounded in the fact that the nuclear family provided an opportunity for primary socialization under which children are able to learn how to appreciate the values and norms of the society (Brown, 2006, p.34).
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In addition to this, the family was found to provide a platform for stabilization of adult personalities as it provided adult with an opportunity to develop their emotional support that would in essence help them to deal with the stresses that arises in their daily lives. In reference to Brown (2006), the theory of functionalism focuses on the contribution of the family towards satisfying the functional prerequisites or rather the basic needs that enable the survival of the society (p.34). With this in mind, the family is able to meet these needs through reproduction, provision of sexual needs, socialization both for children and adults and provision of economic structures such as food and shelter.
The theory of conflict on the other hand perceives the society as miniature class society. With this respect, the perceptions of this theory draw heavily its perceptions from the general society and narrow them down on the family. As a result, whereas the society portrays different conflicts among different classes, this is also seen in the family. With this in mind, the family too comprises of conflicting classes. There are different conflict theorists that argue that the family comprise of classes that derives their satisfaction from the misery of others. For instance, there have always been conflicts between men and women in the family, especially between the husband and wife. Similarly, the motivation for sexual needs in the family contributed to exploitation of women’s labor. In addition to this, there has been war between genders in the family with regard to roles and chores that need to be played by these sexes.
The theory of interactionism has its own application to the family too. According to Boss, Doherty & LaRossa (2008), the family is a unit of interacting personalities (p.140). This perception led the theorists of interactionism to focus on symbolic interactionism to study extensively the family unit. In consistent with this, entities in the family interact mainly through symbols that comprises of gestures, signs and more significantly, they interact through spoken and written words. This theory basically elaborates on different ways through which the members of a particular family cannot be able to work together towards creating an environment that promotes coexistence. Mooney, Knox & Schacht (2008) asserts that this theory is concerned with how labels affect meaning and behavior in the family. Similarly, through such focus, defining of role and chores in a family has also been made easier. For instance, the roles of a husband and a wife are clearly defined when these members interact in the family.
There are similarities and differences in regard to the application of these theories towards family. First, it is important to note that these theories work on finding out how social institutions and in this case the family is kept in place without disintegrating. More so, these theories focus on important elements of the family that have been found to bring entities in the family together and those that separates the family. For instance, the theories of functionalism focus on important needs that are met by the family while the conflict theory focus on areas of conflict in the family. Finally, the theory of internationalism is concerned with how individual entities in the society interact with one another. The greatest difference the application of these theories on the family is their area of focus. As a result of focusing on different areas of the family, these theories have developed totally different approaches in critically looking at family issues.
There are different ways through which these theories affect the views of individuals in the family unit. First, the theory of functionalism focuses on the negative consequences of the fact that the family is a social unit that perform important functions in the society. With this in mind, there are a lot of negative consequences on individuals that have been observed in the society as a result of this perception. Needless to say, there are a lot of women who have persevered in violent marriages across the globe as a result of the fact that the family played a key role in the development of their children (Mooney, Knox & Schacht, 2008, p.171). This emanates from the fact that single parenthood and divorce are not appreciated under such mentality.
The theory of conflict on the other hand has been found to exercise or rather promote deviance behavior among individual members of the society. In line with this, since individuals believe that they are oppressed by their family members, they have developed mechanisms of dealing with these problems. For instance, by the mere factor that men oppress women in marriage, there are more women who have opted for single-hood as a way of escaping from these oppressions. The perception that family ties have a lot of conflict has also contributed to the formulation of different strategies of dealing with challenges in the family (Mooney, Knox & Schacht, 2008, p.174).
On the other hand the theory of interactionism has been found to assist members within a family to be able to define their role while at the same time being able to learn the social norms and values of their families. In this regard, the family unit provides a platform on which individuals develop their knowledge and skills on how to interact in the family and the society as a whole. Therefore, most individuals perceive the family as an important unit in their lives under they have been able to develop their interactive skills. For example, the family unit remains as the most important social unit in a person’s life since it acts a foundation of learning signs, symbols and written and spoken words that are critical for the survival of any individual in the society (Browne, 2006).
The understanding that the family unit as an important element in the society has created room in the way the family is perceived and how it is protected in the society. With respect to this, the functionalist approach to changes in the society is not long terms since many changes that occur have always left the family intact. The major approach to changes in the society is the fact that social changes occurs as a way of seeking for social equilibrium in the family (Andersen & Taylor, 2006, p.19). In this regard, such issues as divorce that have increased in the recent past due to social changes in the family that are geared towards seeking for social equilibrium between husbands and wives.
Conflict theory has been found to emphasize the role of coercion and power, a person’s or group’s ability to exercise influence and control over others in producing social order and change (Andersen & Taylor, 2006, p.17). Therefore, this theory believes that social order can only be attained when there is domination with power of those that have the greatest political, economic and social resources. In line with this, it is difficult to propagate change under this theory since those that have power in the family have strived to maintain their status. For instance, conflict resolution between husbands and wives cannot in any case bring them to the same level. Therefore, achieving of equity as a social change in the family under this theory is difficult since the theory proposes social order cannot be maintained if there is no domination of one over the other (p.18). On the other hand, change can only come in the family when both and women in the family who are struggling for resources are mobilized.
The issue of social changes in the family as is perceived by interactionism theory focuses on an ever-evolving set of social relationships and the creation of new meaning system (Andersen & Taylor, 2006, p.19). With this in mind, the perception of this theory asserts that the evolving of the society and the interaction between members of the family is able to bring the necessary changes that are either desired or forbidden in the society. For instance, the closeness or distance among members of the family can only be enhanced when the entities in this family adapt new ways of interactions and an introduction of new meaning systems.
The functionalist’s theory has a particular perception that has been found to affect the family and the views of the family. In this regard, under this theory, inequality is inevitable and functional for the society and that individuals in the family occupy fixed social roles (Andersen & Taylor, 2006, p.19). Such perceptions have created a perspective in the society that focuses on fixed gender roles in the family. For instance, many families across the globe depend on the husband as the bread winner. On the other hand, the conflict theory has created a perception that limited resources are the major causes of conflicts in the family. Therefore, the society has created a channel to create resources to reduce these conflicts. However, this is yet to completely eliminate conflicts in the family.
The theory of internationalism on the other hand has a societal perception that individuals in the family are interdependent. In this regard, there is no single entity in the family that can survive as an individual. Rather, there is need for interdependence interaction that enables individuals to interact with each other. The society therefore views the family as an important unit that is critical for its development. Similarly, the society believes that the family plays a critical role in formulation of beliefs that are important in creating the whole society (Andersen & Taylor, 2006).
In summation, the family is one of the most important units among human beings. With this in mind, there are different sociological theories across the globe that have been developed to deal with or rather examines the social structures that have been used to keep together the family. In addition to these, these theories provide important perspective in examining critical issues in the society. Importantly, these theories are used to exemplify the importance of the family unit in the society.
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