The Social Institution of Family

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The Social Institution of Family
SOC 101 Introduction to Sociology

Merriam-Webster defines family as “the basic unit in society traditionally consisting of two parents rearing their children.” (Merriam-Webster n.d.) However, these traditional views of defining family have begun to change as society commonly respects the uniqueness of the modern family unit, and their makeup. This paper serves to explain the Sociological perspective as it applies to the numerous family settings. According to our text, “Conflict theorists have argued that the family contributes to social injustice, denies woman opportunities that are extended to men, and limits freedom in sexual expression and mate selection. In contrast, the functionalist perspective focuses on the ways in which the family gratifies the needs of its members and contributes to social stability. The interactionist view considers the intimate, face-to-face relationships that occur in the family.” (Schaefer R. 2009) Our text uses three sociological theories; functionalism, conflict and interactionism. These theories can be seen within the family institution in our country as well as other cultures around the world. The functionalist theory believes that the family gratifies the needs of each member and helps to form social stability. This can be attributed to the old saying that blood is thicker than water. The senior family members tend to teach junior members of the family their morals, attitudes and their unique traditions as passed down from generation to the next. Customs are often combined as each parent contributes to the overall upbringing of their off spring. “Friedrich Engels, A colleague of Carl Marx described the family as the ultimate source of social inequality because of its role in the transfer of power, property, and privilege.” (Schaefer R. 2009) However, this is more of a socialist view of family. Most Christian families’ feel that a strong family is one that unifies our society and what contributes to cultural norms and values. The functionalist view performs six paramount functions; reproduction, protection, socialization, regulation of sexual behavior, affection and companionship, and provision of social status.

The conflict theorists “view the family not as a contributor to social stability, but as a reflection of the inequality in wealth and power that are found within the larger society.” (Schaefer R. 2009) This view is primarily held by feminists who feel that males oppress woman and restrict their advancements in modern society. Feminists believe the traditional family consisting of both mother and father is neither needed nor necessary as the woman can contribute and provide in the same manor to that of two-parent household. These types of multi role status some believe have subsequently broken down the family unit thereby tarnishing larger societies as a whole. Conflict theories suggest that there are “have” and “have- nots” and those with the power “the haves” are intent on keeping what they have, while the “have-nots” are intent on attempting to obtain it, creating conflict.” (e-Learn Portal n.d.) The traditional family unit consists of the father, the mother, followed by their children. Through the years the father has played the dominate role given the title of head of household. Many, if not all, the decisions pertaining to the household rest in his hands, while the responsibility of raising the children rests within the mothers. Conflict can arise when the wife may disagree with decisions made, feeling as if she has no voice. Children are equally given a pecking order, with the oldest receiving more privileges than their younger siblings.

There have been conflicts within families since the beginning of time as described in the Book of Genesis in relating the story of Cain and Abel, the two sons of Adam and Eve, where Cain was jealous of the praise that was bestowed upon Abel by his father Adam. The story ends with Cain...
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