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Impact of Sociological Theories, Functionalism, Conflict, and Interactions on Family

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Functionalism, Conflict, and Interactionism on Family

Introduction

A sociological theory is a combination of interconnected ideas that allow for the systematization of the social world.  The familiarity with the social world as a system helps in understanding the institutions in the society (Ritzer, 2007).  A family is a universal institution within the society that sets the basic platform for influencing how individual members function in other social institutions. For example, if a new family member is born, the member’s choice of religion will be influenced by the close family member. Therefore, the family institution plays a vital role in adjusting how people interact in the society. In this paper, I will evaluate the impact, application, and approach of the three principal sociological theories (functionalism, conflict, and interactionism) as pertains to the family institution. The directing thesis for the evaluation is: the family institution is the elementary platform for social theories to scrutinize, forecast, and understand the behavior of the society.

How sociological theories apply to the family

The functionalist argues that, since the family is a universal institution, it must in all aspects have the reason and functions for universal existence. The dynamics of any family setting has certain elementary purposes for the proper running of the society.  Any system has different parts functioning in correspondence with each other to enable the system to work properly. Failure or malfunction of a single element in the system calls for replacement or assistance (from the other elements of the system) or breakdown of the system. So does the family exist as a system?  Each member of the family has a certain role to play, and therefore the family exists as a system. The purpose of the family as a system is economic wellbeing, socialization of children (education), and care for the elderly, among others. The family’s main function in the society is ensuring the permanence of society by replicating and socializing new members. The family is an important aspect of the social system. First, it is through the family that the society gets new members. Second, the family has the responsibility of nurturing the new members by providing them with basic human needs. Third, the family, despite the civilizational challenges, is the foundation of education.

Every system must have a power structure in order to dictate competition and sharing of resources. Conflict theory, as pertains to the family, tackles issues emerging from the struggle for power, making agreements, and deciding on how to share resources. The natural expectation is that the family bonds should be strong enough to overcome conflict and remain a harmonious entity. However, that is not often the case in that the family often undergoes inconsistency and disharmony. Conflict theory, as applied to the family institution, defies the expectations that families are harmonious, and hence assists in creating a platform for discovering possible sources of dealing with diversity, change, and disagreement. It is only through conflict theory that families can understand the sources of disagreement and command. Through conflict theory, members of the family can foster better communication, develop empathy and understanding, and feel motivated to change.

Interactionism refers to the ability of a unit, the family in this case, to adjust and comprehend the patterns of communication, understanding, and the response variation between individuals. Interactionism theory is applied to the family setting to explain and reason out how responses within the family are delivered and what feedback they receive. The theory relates to how members of the family respond and expect others to behave. Interaction is a platform for easier communication. Without it, the society is doomed to collapse like the legendary tower of Babylon. Through interaction, members of the family can understand what to expect from others. Interactions take place between two or more persons, with perspective for the use of language and working with others.  The social world, the family being the basis, is created through communication under the platform of interaction.

Similarities and differences of functionalism, conflict and interactionism theories

Similarities in the three theories (functionalism, conflict, and interactionism) are widely found between conflict and interactionism theories. This is because the two theories are approached at a micro level perspective. Conflict theory states that social interaction should be achieved through transparent ways. Conflict theory calls for interaction in the family to be approached in a questioning way. Functionalism is quite different from conflict and interactionism. Functionalism is approached at a macro level perspective. The focus of functionalism is how people come together to create a society and play different roles to make the society a better place. In the family setting, it dictates whether the actions taken are appropriate for the balance of family, and these activities and actions are called functions. There is a significant difference between conflict and functionalism theory. Conflict theory does not call for the family coming together for a purpose. Take, for example, a family where there are four kids from different age groups. The young kids feel that they have their own class based on social change. Likewise, the older kids will feel that they have a class also, and, for example, should be exempted from minor house errands. In functionalism theory, the kids can come to an agreement that, since the older kids are too busy with homework, they should be exempted from minor house errands. Through conflict theory, there will be no platform to discuss the accommodation, but the completion approach will be used.  On a large scale in the society, functionalism allows different families to work together for a common good, whereas conflict approaches the question of one class oppressing the other.

The key similarities and differences in those sociological theories towards the family can only be outlined by their approaches to social behavior focus.  Functionalist spotlight is on regulation and stability in the family; functionalists observe that a happy family is the one that accepts that every member has a role to play and some members are superior to others. Conflict theorists, on the other hand, view that inequality is undesirable and can only benefit some people in the family, especially those in the position of power. Conflict theorists argue that the family can only be aligned if the conflict over resources is allowed to exist, as it is a fundamental reality in the family. Interactionism allows a family member to judge if something being done is fair, and this acts as a platform for conflict theory.

How sociological theories affect the views of individual family members

Different sociological theories affect how members of the society behave towards each other; their behavior is dictated by circumstances such as family needs and well-being. The functionalist theory may explain a member of the family willingly building the family with no questions at hand; hence, functionalism calls for a member of the family to voluntarily contribute towards building the family. Through functionalism, a member of the family voluntarily plays his role. For example, the father, who assumes all power, voluntarily provides food for the family without being asked to do so. On the other hand, children and the mother voluntarily keep the house clean and do minor household chores. At times, sharing responsibilities and resources breeds conflict, which is inevitable. A member of the family may disagree, sometimes to the point of no return. Conflict theory helps to eliminate the illusion that the family is a perfect institution. When conflict arises, conflict theory may help the family member view the situation as normal. Conflict theory is based on power and resource sharing. Disagreement over power and resource sharing may help family members bond to each other deeper during the early stage of conflict. Revolution in the family can only happen via conciliation and compromise when solving conflicts (Turner, 2010). Social interactionism theory’s focus on explaining concepts such as the family has an emblematic meaning to the society. Each family has unique representation – something that makes it stand out. The dynamics are only better understood within the family. The techniques that the members of the family use to grasp the intention of the speaker are in line with the family concepts of resemblance, interaction, or convention. Some certain family values and attitudes are passed from one generation to the other and can only be found within the family. Through interactionism theory, members of the family are able to accept the two other theories. Through their interactions, the family members may learn how to function as a unit of the family and how to disagree when oppressed.

How sociological theories affect social change within the family

The sources for social change in functionalism theory are the concept of adjustment to achieve equilibrium and gradual change. The gradual social change in functionalism with regard to the family is orchestrated by technological advancement and education that aid in endorsing knowledge of the functions of each member of the family. Social change may return to the change of duties for every member of the family in relation to the family status. For example, a family with a single parent due to social change may require the family members to adjust to different functions within the family. Different societies have different family settings, ranging from monopoly to single families. Such subsystems of the family are increasingly distinguishable within the family, i.e., the different functional patterns and interdependence of the members of the family (Ritzer, 2007). Conflict theory advances social change within the scope of struggle and competition in order to achieve understanding, knowledge, and resolution of disagreements. The bonds between family members tend to strengthen if they have a better understanding of each other’s wants and needs. Education about social change equips the family members with the knowledge to deal with different conflicts. Conflict management techniques are based on accommodation and comprehension. When members of the family understand conflict as inevitable, they are bound to enjoy extensive diversity and quantity of ideas (Ritzer, 2007). Interactionism theory is based on symbols and face-to-face interaction. However, social change through the advancement in technology has made it possible for the interactions apart face-to-face. The internet connectivity has broadened the limit of understanding among the people of different family origins and in face-to-face interactions (Coleman, 1990).

How sociological theories affect the views of the society within the family

Functionalist theory in the family, where every member has a function to play, communicates to the society a picture of the stable, objective, and cohesive union. The society views the status of such a family as the one that can play fixed roles within the society. Such members can bring consensus on common values in the society. The consensus allows the society machine with interrelated parts to work collaboratively in order to accomplish societal needs. The parts that are aimed to work together in the society are institutions, such as families and religion. However, functionalism maintains that in the society everyone has a different role to play and different wellbeing classes: social disparity in any given society is inevitable and functional (Coleman, 1990). Conflict theory in a family affects the views of the society concerning being objective and hierarchically hungry. A typical family, as based on conflict theory, pictures the society as fragmented, with multiple groups demanding power and struggling for resources. Individuals assume the relationship of subordination in the society. The societal view on theory of interactionism is that the family setting is subjective because it is perceived by the members’ minds. Interactionism in the family setting would allow the socialization of people at the society level. It is through socialization that people learn of other people’s needs and desires. Socialization allows people to exchange ideas on how to build the nation. However, some people tend to copy other people’s way of life and destroy the whole purpose of socialization. Such “copying” behavior in the family is reflected where some children may abuse drugs early due to their parents being alcohol or drug addicts.

Conclusion

Sociological theories are hypothetical structures that are used to explain and scrutinize ways in which actions, social institutions, and processes function within the society. The three main theories (conflict theory, functionalism, and social interactions theory) show how the family relationship and coexistence are affected. Each of the three theories partly explains the impacts of the family as a social institution on a broader society.

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