January 16, 2012
Sociological Theories and Family
Family-it’s who we live and interact with every day, the very foundation of our lives. Whether it takes the traditional form of a mother, father, and children or the non-traditional such as cohabiting which became popular in the 1970s, we could not get by without them (Glick, 1989). When the family life is a happy, healthy one, we too, are happy and healthy. And in turn, when the family dynamic has problems, we will also experience problems as individuals. The Functionalist, Conflict, and Symbolic Interaction theories have a direct impact on family life, as well as family having an impact on the theories themselves. To begin, it is the functionalist’s belief that everyone must play a specific role in a family unit (Vissing, 2011). You must have a breadwinner, or someone who goes out of the house and earns the income to provide the family with the necessities to live off of-such as food, clothing, and personal items. There must also be someone to keep the house running. This person keeps the house clean, cooks the meals, makes sure the bills are paid, and takes care of the children, if there are any. A child’s role is not a necessary one, to the point where a family is able to function perfectly without any. If there are children, however, they are responsible for learning from their parents what is right and wrong, and when they hit school age they are responsible for keeping up with their work so they can graduate and become an adult able to function in the real world. Sometimes parents live with the family, and usually take some of the responsibilities off of the couple’s shoulders, such as helping with the children, cooking, or cleaning.
Family members who live by the functionalist theory base success and failure on if everything is completed or not. For example, if a stay at home mother doesn’t have the house clean when her husband comes home from work then she might feel like she did not complete her responsibilities. A husband who does not make enough money for his children to have a big Christmas might feel like he is not living up to his end. But if all the bills are paid, the house is clean, the children are behaving and there is a nest egg in the bank account, then everyone would probably feel like they have a successful, functioning, family household. When one member begins to slack off, so to speak, it is necessary for another member of the family to pick up that slack to continue to keep the household running smoothly. And if that becomes a pattern where one person may pull more than his or her own weight, it can lead to resentment and even the end of that family’s life together (i.e. divorce).
The norm within the family lifestyle used to be the husband went out of the house to earn the paycheck, which put food on the table and provided everything the family needed to survive from the financial end. The wife/mother stayed at home to raise the children, keep the house clean, and cook the meals the family consumed. The husband was the figure head of the family, and the wife would stand behind whatever decisions her husband made. It was considered that “family roles such as spouse, parent, and caregiver are considered more demanding and important for women (Donnelly & Voydanoff, 1999).” Since the feminist social movement occurred, women have started to take a more active role in the function of the family life. Women began to work outside of the home, which meant that someone else had to pick up the slack of the household chores and raising of the children. In some cases, the roles were simply reversed, with the wife working outside of the home and the husband taking over the household responsibilities. More often, however, certain responsibilities began to be outsourced, especially child care. That way, both adults could earn an income to support the family, with a fraction...