Sociology and Perspective
A family is “a set of people related by blood, marriage or some other agreed-upon relationship, or adoption, who share the primary responsibility for reproduction and caring for members of society. ” (Schaefer, 2009) A family is considered a social institution. This social institution is one that can be applied to all three sociological theories which are functionalism, conflict, and interactionism. The first sociological theory is functionalism. A functionalism perspective is a “sociological approach that emphasizes the way in which the parts of a society are structured to maintain its stability. Schaefer, 2009) This simply means for in the instance of a family that the family in a whole is stable because each family member has a role that they must fulfill.
They are dependent on each other to help fulfill their role. If one family member was to leave then there would be dysfunction until the family finds someone to fill that empty role or learns how to deal without that role being fulfilled. Dysfunction is “the element or process of a society that may actually disrupt the social system or reduce its stability. Schaefer, 2009) Another dysfunction for a family could be a new member being introduced into the family. The new member would then have a new role to play for the family and the family would have to figure out how to deal with this new role. Until the new role is figured out dysfunction will leave the family unstable. The second sociological theory is Conflict.
Conflict perspective is “a sociological approach that assumes that social behavior is best understood in terms of tension between groups over power or the allocation of resources, including housing, money, access to services, and political representation. Schaefer, 2009) This perspective relates to a family in two ways. Family The first is inner structure of a family. Within a family you have members that sometimes fight for roles. Example is who will be the breadwinner and the one who makes all the decisions for the family. These types competition in families to see who will be the more successful and who will have what role can cause a lot conflict and resentment within the family. The second is the outer elements. The family as a whole is always having tension from being in conflict with other families for status.
The phrase “keeping up with the Jones’s” is a prime example of how two families compete with each other to see who makes more and who can climb the social ladder first. The third sociological theory is interactionism. The interactionism perspective is “a sociological approach that generalizes about everyday forms of social interaction in order to explain society as a whole. ” (Schaefer, 2009) This is a view that looks at what we do and how we do it. This approach takes a in depth look at our daily routines.
For example like the way we interact at work, school, in other public places like a bus stop or even our behavior in small groups. This is also known as mircosociology. When taking this approach a person sees meaning in objects that includes materialistic things, one’s actions, other people’s impacts on us, relationships in our life’s, and even can include symbols. Symbols can be especially important because they have shared social meanings that can be understood by all members of society. Symbols are nonverbal communication.
For a family institution the similarities that these three sociological theories share is based on one common characteristic. That one similarity is that none of them would be effective without some sort of structure. All three of these theories view a family as a group of. Family individuals that are always interacting with each. Their roles are almost always dependent on the other members in their family. That each member has a role to play in order for the family to function effectively and keeps the family as a whole stable. Their roles are based on their actions and how those actions effect the other members of the group.
Though all three of these perspectives have this one major characteristic in common they also have some differences. For instance the functionalist perspective sees an unconscious smoothness to how the family interacts with each other. It is like a well oiled machine that each piece is important and without that one piece the machine will not work properly or at all. Functionalist view these interactions as something that is positive and rarely have many conflicts to overcome. While the conflict perspective seems to view consent struggles with many aspects of the family.
There is first the conflicts that fill the inside of the family. Those are the struggles a member has with other members of the family for roles within the family. The other is the conflicts the family has as a whole with other families. These are usually over status’s such as power, money, housing, political representation and etc. Families competing against other families to have more than the other families. Basically they want to outdo and be more important than others. Interactionism perspective is a mixture of both the other two perspectives.
It is mircosociology and looks at every action to see meaning in them. They tend to look really close at how one thing effects other things. The best way to describe it is a cause and effect. Interactionism also looks at the dramaturgical approach. The dramaturgical approach is “when people are seen as theatrical performers. ” (Schaefer, 2009) They look at how people. Family can change roles from one environment to another. For example a person might act a specific way at work or school a more serious role and then at a party they may play a different role, a role of a cool and laid back.
It is to say that interactionism looks at the mechanics of the workings of a institution. The affect that the theories perspective has on the individual’s view that is part of the family is different for each perspective. Each perspective has a different view of what makes the institution come together and work as a whole. A individual’s view on the functionalist perspective would see how the dynamics of the institution comes together and support each other to be make the family as a whole stable.
The individual would see how important it is for each person to fulfill their role for everything to work. For example the individual would see how even a person who would normally be considered dysfunctional can sometimes play important role in a families structure. A person for example who is always ill may actually be a strong way for the family to form a closer bond and to connect with each other and keep them even closer than they were. The individual will also be able to see how dysfunction can cause the family to slip from stable to unstable.
If the person who was in charge of making the decisions for the family dies the family will be unstable because there will be problems caused by the lack of decision making. This dysfunction can through the family out of balance for a length of time that is really unknown. Sometimes the family can overcome the loss and one of the other members will resume the role of decision maker. Other times it may be that the family will find a new person to bring into the family to take this role and in some cases the family then falls apart. Family and goes their own separate ways and the institution is then destroyed.
This view is usually of one of harmony. The view the individual might have with the conflict perspective is one of consent chaos and struggle. They will see how each member of their family seems to always be competing with each other to become the decision maker or the breadwinner. This is a type of dysfunction that is continuously happening and keeping the family from becoming fully stable. The family is seen as a dysfunctional family but yet at the same time a family that works. This individual may also view that the family that is stable as a unit may still always be in a consent struggle with other families.
The individual could see how their family works together in harmony to obtain its goal. For example if the family would like to achieve more money than the family would work together to find a way to achieve this goal or if they are trying to achieve a certain political status the family would work together. This has been very obvious these recent years as we watch not only the candidates go out and give speeches and campaigning, but also their spouses, children, and other family members have even been out campaigning for them.
Another great example is African American families not as much now but several years back were always under a consent struggle to have rights and be treated as everyone else. The struggle that they endured seemed to hold their family together by a common factor. This view would show that the family comes together because of the constant struggle that they are always under. Family Interactionism perspective a individual in the family would view this as the a way to study how exactly it is that a family functions together. How their family interacts with each other and also with others in society.
The individual would view how the members of their family act differently around different members because of the different types of relationships that they have. For example a individual who is a daughter, mother, wife, and sister will act towards their parents, their child, their husband and their sibling differently. That individual will change her role to fit the need for that relationship. Interactionism calls this a dramaturgical approach because it is as if they are a theatrical performer switching characters for different circumstances.
Along with how the individual would view the workings of the how the inner family works they also view how the individuals and the family as a whole interacts with people out in society such as people at church, school, work, the store, and in small groups. They are able to view and understand many nonverbal communications that their family members make to each other as well as universal gestures with others outside of their family. This view is in depth and finer workings of how the family functions in many different ways. Social change has different effects on different types of institutions.
Depending on what social change has taken place probably would have different effects considering that some social changes might not be relevant to the family while others might have many different effects. Family The affect a family with the functionalist perspective would have on a social change such as gay’s having all the same rights as straight couples would help to stabilize many new families. This type of social change could help the stability of many families because in today’s society gays are becoming more open and wanting to have families of their own.
With the acceptance of gay people having the same rights it will allow for new families to be formed and those families to take on the structures without the struggles that they once incurred. That will allow these families to be able to find the balance that is needed and a unstable family to become stable. A family with the conflict perspective can be affected by a social change such as terrorist policies may find themselves struggling against stereotyping and prejudice because of their ethnic background.
These ethnic families could find themselves in a continuous tension between different racial groups because they are suspected of being terrorist because of their racial group. This could easily throw the family into a major struggles to argue and defend themselves to others. Interactionism perspective may not really have any affect on a family with social change. Instead interactionist would view how these social changes would affect the family and it would also view how they interact with others.
An example would be how a African American family would interact with others in their society of other racial backgrounds or vice versa. Another would be how our own family interacts with gays who can marry and have families together. This perspective is one of fine beauty no matter if the outcome is good or bad, stable or unstable it is still a amazing thing to see how everything and everyone comes together. Family Society views the institution of a family differently. Some people are more likely to prefer one perspective over others.
Many in our society view a family that portrays the functionalist as a prefect family everyone has their place they fulfill their roles and do it well. They are stable with little disruptions. The society tends to view conflict perspective in different ways. One is that if the conflict is within the family that family is considered a dysfunctional family. It is usually chaotic and strange. Another way to view if the conflict is the family as a whole against another element as a strong family that works together hard to achieve a goal. These families could be considered close and competitive.
Society under the interactionist view may watch different groups of families to see how they interact with others in society and then base stereotyping which can lead to discrimination based on the majority. The one thing about all of these perspectives is that they are all dealing with the way that families are interacting with each other and others outside of the family. They are all intertwined with each other and shows how the structures are formed and how they are dependent on each other. I personally find that there is truth in all three of the perspectives and I feel that there is true beauty in the complexity of this institution.