Sociological Theories and Family Institution
SOC 101 Introduction to Sociology
Dr. Peter Conis
July 30, 2012
Sociological Theories and Family Institution
We don’t get to pick the family we are born into. Family is the basic unit of our society. It is one the main social institutions. Traditionally families consist of a father, mother, and children which represent the nuclear family. You can branch out also look at the extended family such as uncles, aunts, and grandparents. Sociologists use theories to help understand the inner workings of the family institution and how they fit into society. These theories are used to help solve problems that arise and find solutions. There are three main sociological theories, functionalism, conflict and interactionism that can be used to describe how they impact the social institution of the family and how the family may impact the theories themselves. The functionalist theory believes that everyone has a role to play. With the traditional family you will have a father, mother, and children. In the family structure the roles usually are your bread winner, who pays the bills, provides money for needed items and is also has been viewed as the protector. This role has normally been filled by the father or the man of the house. You then have the caretaker, who takes care of the house and cares for the children. They make sure that the household runs efficiently by ensuring that the house is clean, food is cooked, among many other tasks. The mother is traditionally fulfilled this role although in today’s society we have seen this role taken over by others. Lastly you have the children, who really have no defined role in the family structure accept to learn from their parents values and morals and once they reach school age to do well and work hard to become a functional adult in society. Families who live according to the functionalist theory determine success by how much they accomplish. A wife not having dinner on the table on when her husband comes home from work could be a failure in her eyes. Children not making a sports team or having bad grades in school and a father not getting a promotion or losing his job are failures in the family institution. When one family member does not fulfill their roles it is left to the rest to pick up the slack. Inequality is expected and accepted within the functionalist theory. You have to have this imbalance of power in order for the family to run smoothly. Someone has take charge and maintain order and that role has typically been filled by the father or the man of the house. He has been viewed as superior and when that power is challenged the dynamic of the family can be altered. Women can feel oppressed by this theory seeing as they are expected to follow and obey their husbands. Take a look at marriage vows, in them they state to love, honor, and obey. This can cause a feeling worthlessness and that if they attempt to show some type of resistance it could result in dysfunction. Children while living in the household are expected to follow the rules set for them. Parents sometimes feel children should not have a voice especially sense they are ones paying the bills.
In relation to society and the family roles functionalist point of view feels that the family must adapt as society changes. As food, housing, and other cost soar more money must be generated by the family in order for them to keep up. This can cause parents to spend more time at work and having to outsource some of the daily responsibilities or having the children to pick some more of the chores in order to keep the household functioning. If the children are young and unable to take care of themselves now you have to rely on daycare or possibly another family member to watch them.
Conflict theory focuses on the on how the family members compete with another. Conflict...
References: Coleman, M., & Ganong, L. (1984). Effect of Family Structure on Family Attitudes and Expectations. Family Relations, 33, 425-432.
Glick, P. C. (1989). The Family Life Cycle and Social Change. Family Relations, 38, 123-129
LeCroy, C. and Rank, M. (1983). Toward a Multiple Perspective in Family Theory and Practice: The Case of Social Exchange Theory, Symbolic Interactionism, and Conflict Theory. Family Relations pp.441-448. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/
Vissing, Y. (2011). An Introduction to Sociology. San Diego: Bridgepoint Education INC.
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