SOC101: Introduction to Sociology
Instructor: Jeanette Maxey
August 15, 2011
Sociological Perspectives on the Family
In the field of sociology, there are numerous approaches sociologists reflect on when studying humankind’s behavior. Sociologists argue that no single theory is correct by itself; but to a certain extent, they draw on all of them for various purposes. Sociologists vision the social world in diverse ways, meaning seeing the world as stable and a continuing entity. Those who have this view contend they are impressed with the endurance of social institutions such as family. Family is “one of the most important aspects of what happens to us over the life course.” (Vissing, 2011) However, historically, the three major theoretical perspectives, functionalism, conflict, and interactionism, are most commonly considered and used by sociologists (Vissing, 2011). Some details about family are the three major groups: theoretical, perspective, impact, and the institution. By evaluating the family unit from various sociological viewpoints gives insight into the development of socialization within the familial framework and society at large. The Institute of Family
The family unit is often seen as a societal institution which initiates the positive and negative process of social interactions between people. Over the last decade what constitutes the family unit has changed throughout the world. Family units in today’s environment are diverse in nature and may go beyond the scope of just parents and their children. Families can consist of variations in relationships such as close relatives, stepparents, half siblings and/or extended non-biological members. Typically, immediate family members live in the same household, nearby, or close in heart until a state of maturation or appropriate age has been attained. Most often members of the families have intimate and personal relationships with each other. According to B. Weston, “Americans are strongly committed to marriage, like southern Europeans, and also strongly committed to individualism, like northern Europeans.” (Weston, 2010) Within the family unit there is a continuation of social interactions between members that can influence and shape peoples responses and reactions to their larger societies. Functionalism Theory
The functionalism perspective studies society on a macro-sociological level. Functionalists contend that all societal institutions are an enormous network of connected parts working together preserving the social system as a whole to create and maintain stability. Functionalists have a positive view of society. Their premise is that society is a living organism much like the human body in which each organ plays a vital role in its survival (Vissing, 2011). Similar to the operation of the human anatomy, functionalists perceive that society goes through an analysis and diagnosis of the workings of the system resulting in solutions to restore optimal balance.
Functionalism further contends that each member of the family is interdependent of each other and contributes to the functioning of the family as a whole. When family members are doing their part, there is balance, peace and unity. When a single member rebels against their role or responsibilities, the family suffers as a whole causing imbalance, stress, discord and dysfunctional tendencies. Functionalism suggests that the family works best when each member has input to agree or disagree on decisions. Having input is a sense of empowerment which allows each member to feel validated, and the family can grow based on the idea of consensus of the group versus authoritarianism. With consensus and cooperation the functional family is better able to contribute to the larger society. Individuals
Functionalists believe individuals are socially shaped to perform societal functions (Vissing, 2011). According to information obtained from the...