Jay has a previous history of involvement in drugs both using and dealing however, has not been involved in any such activity for at least a year. He had managed to get himself a job but following being sacked on suspicion of theft, he assaulted his former boss and has been charged by the police. His girlfriend Lara worries he will return to drug dealing as he is now unemployed, she also worries about the deteriorating condition of their housing and the effect it may have on their children’s health. Lara noted she has less patience with her children possibly resulting from her anxieties about the family’s situation and the negative impact it could be having on her mental well-being. Throughout this essay I aim to provide an understanding of Jay’s current situation looking at it from both a sociological and a criminological perspective. I will also draw upon areas of Social Policy that may improve my understanding of their situation and from these discussions I will outline the implications for social work practice.
Functionalism seeks to provide a theoretical account of how societies work and function. Many Functionalist theorists have likened the workings of society to that of the human body; each part has a function and works alongside other parts to ensure the overall function is met. For example “ As parts of the body, the heart or liver, for instance, are understood in terms of the function they perform, so social institutions, such as family or schools, have to be understood in terms of their functions for maintaining society.” (Marsh et al, 2000 p.57) Talcott Parsons formulated his understanding by looking at the positive functions different institutions played in maintaining social order. “ People act on the basis of their values; their actions are orientated and constrained by the values and norms of people around them; and these norms and values are the basis of social order ” (Knapp, 1994 p191-192). However, this approach assumes consensus in relation to the norms and values of a society. Dominelli (1997) spoke about the role of socialisation and viewed it as a mechanism that supports the acquisition of an appropriate value system of society. Parsons also recognises the role of socialisation in relation to the formulation of individual norms and values. He discusses the notion of successful socialisation promoting the internalisation of norms and values so that an individual will serve the needs of society as they strive to meet their own needs (Parsons, 1967). However, when looking at the case study Jay speaks about his childhood experiences of having a father who was in prison, therefore this should not be overlooked in relation to his experiences of early socialisation, and may go some way to explaining Jay’s norms and values base. During adolescence Jay has socialised with many people who are heavily involved with the drug culture and perhaps have opposing norms and values to others within ‘mainstream’ society. Therefore although there may be consensus within society, it may vary between different groups within society. Functionalists such as Parsons discuss the importance of the family as an institution and the impact of stabilisation of adult personalities. Parsons (1964) spoke about gender differences in the labour market being instrumental in the success of the family. He believed there should be one principal earner and one principle home maker which in turn would reduce the amount of conflict and competition between men and women. These clearly defined roles allowed the home to become a ‘safe’ place to escape the pressures of daily life. Therefore many men and woman would lead positive lives as part of the strong relationships that are built through the family and later in life with a long term partner. This is clear in the case study as Jay has gradually moved away from his involvement with the drug culture and is clearly trying to conform to societal...
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