Family Through Different Sociological Perspectives
Instructor Marian Spaid-Ross
Jan 15th, 2012
All families are unique. A few decades ago, the most common type of family was the mother and father living with their unmarried children. Today, families are vastly different including more single-parent households than ever before, stepfamilies, and adopted families, and grandparents raising their grandchildren, as well as young married couples having to move back in with their parents because they do not have the money to afford their own living arrangements yet. Whatever type of family you have there are different perspectives in which to view it, including the Funcionalist Perspective, Conflict Perspective, and Symbolic Interaction Perspective. While these three perspectives differ greatly from one another, the family still remains one of the most important social institutions along with health-care, religion, education, mass media, politics, and economy. Family is defined as, 'a basic social unit consisting of parent(s)and their children, considered as a group, whether living together or not.' While every family is unique, there are similarities and differences within each family, no matter what perspective you are using. Functionalism, Conflict, and Interaction Theories are the three main sociological theories. Each theory shows a different type of assumptions and defines a certain way of understanding a social institution, or action. In this paper, I would like to look at the family as a social institution from all three unique perspectives. It is my belief that the social institution of the family is the result of social action(s) and at the same time it also causes social action(s).
The Functionalist perspective's view on family is rather simple and revolves around the six main functions, first outlined over 65 years ago by William F. Ogburn. The first main function a family performs is Reproduction. For society to remain and evolve, it must replace it's dying members with new ones. Through reproduction, families contribute to the survival of the human race. The second function families perform is Protection. Human babies need constant care and attention as well as economic security. Every day we see parents caution their children not to cross the street without looking both ways, not to talk to strangers, to check in when they get somewhere...these are just a few of the hundreds of examples that parents do to keep their children safe. Children are the most important thing in most people's lives and understanding that means they will do whatever it takes to keep their children safe, even if that means that children feel overprotected and like their parents don't have faith in them or don't trust them, parents protecting their children is the most sincere form of love. In every culture in the world, the family takes full responsibility for keeping children safe and take responsibility for their upbringing. The third important function a family performs is Socialization. Parents as well as other family members watch a child's behavior closely and teach them the norms, beliefs, and values, as well as language of their specific culture to their children. One of the reasons that parents often send their children to day care is because they want them to learn to interact with other children in a respectful way and they want their little ones to have friends and learn important qualities like sharing and being patient. Sending their children to school socializes their children and they learn a lot of values that will benefit them for the rest of their lives. The fourth important function a family performs is Regulation of Sexual Behavior. What was once the norm for sexual behavior-being heterosexual- is now subject to change, with more gay couples than in previous time periods. Sexual behavior also differs among cultures....