Family Decline vs Family Change

Topics: Family, Nuclear family, Marriage Pages: 9 (3681 words) Published: January 1, 2014

The world has been undergoing great changes in different spheres of life just in the past several decades. One of the most amazing and quick changes seems to be happening within the institution of the family. I have a special interest in this topic, as soon as I witness the radical change going on literally before my eyes: my home country, which was a country with traditional society, after the collapse of the Soviet Union went and is still going through the process of transformation, which introduces completely new phenomena to the Albanian society and changes the traditional relationships sometimes to the opposite. Hence my interest in this topic. And therefore I aim this essay to delineate the “family decline” versus “family change” debate and then to provide reasons, which will support my conclusion that the perspective of change is a better way to think about the family today.

In order to present a clear distinction of both terms “decline” and “change” of the family, I will first investigate the concept of the family. There has been very little consensus on the definition offered to the concept of family by different scholars. Koerner and Fitzpatrick (2004) gathered all the definitions into three perspectives, which thus include the structural definition, psychosocial functional perspective and transactional definition. The first one defines the family as “presence of people related through blood and marriage”. To supplement this, Murdock (1949) introduced the term “nuclear family” and defined it as: A social group characterized by common residence, economic cooperation, and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, own or adopted, or the sexually cohabiting adults (Weigel, Daniel. J, 2008). The second perspective defines the family in relation to the functions is may perform, like possessing a household, influencing the integration and socializing of children, supporting the emotional feelings, material needs and demands, and completing the roles. Basing on this view, Parsons (1955) introduced his version of family definition by presenting two crucial ideas: he considered the family a stabilizing force for the personality of the adults, and also for the socialization of children. As we see, functionalists consider the family as a unity to provide a kind of “give and take”, mutual emotional and material reinforcement. Whereas the third perspective defines the family as “intimate groups who through their behavior generate a sense of family identity with emotional ties and an experience of the history and future” (p.177). However, the opinions whether it is structure or functions that determines the essence of the family in a better way still vary. At the same time, we need not forget that the family is a concept that has been socially constructed. The public discourse refers to the family in the framework of the language and the experiences it has in relation to the family. Gergen (1994) maintained that individuals shape their own way of living regarding their accomplished relations, integration and communication. Being socially constructed, the concept of the family went through many changes through history. The emergence of the industrial era, the evolution of society, the demographic, cultural and political changes deeply affected people’s views on the family (Lammana, Riedmann, 2008). It is now common to think of the family out of the patriarchal context, which prescribes for the husband to strive to be the breadwinner of the family and for the wife to be a housewife looking after the household, her husband and the children. The perception of the family now has become much broader and more open-minded, as the society has offered many new choices. There are now families run by a single parent, gay partners living together, gay parents, couple cohabiting, families where the children care about the elder...

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