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Functions of the Family

For functionalists, the family creates well-integrated members of society and instills culture into the new members of society. It provides important ascribed statuses such as social class and ethnicity to new members. It is responsible for social replacement by reproducing new members, to replace its dying members. Further, the family gives individuals property rights and also affords the assignment and maintenance of kinship order. Lastly, families offer material and emotional security and provide care and support for the individuals who need care.

The Conflict Perspective. The conflict perspective views the family as a vehicle to maintain patriarchy (gender inequality) and social inequality in society.

According to conflict theorists, the family works toward the continuance of social inequality within a society by maintaining and reinforcing the status quo.

Key Points

· The conflict perspective describes the inequalities that exist in all societies globally, and considers aspects of society as ways for those with power and status to maintain control over scare resources.

· According to conflict theorists, the family works toward the continuance of social inequality within a society by maintaining and reinforcing the status quo.

· Through inheritance, the wealthy families are able to keep their privileged social position for their members.

· Conflict theorists have seen the family as a social arrangement benefiting men more than women.

The Conflict perspective refers to the inequalities that exist in all societies globally. Conflict theory is particularly interested in the various aspects of master status in social position—the primary identifying characteristic of an individual seen in terms of race or ethnicity, sex or gender, age, religion, ability or disability, and socio-economic status. According to the Conflict paradigm, every society is plagued by inequality based on social differences among the dominant group and all of the other groups in society. When we are analyzing any element of society from this perspective, we need to look at the structures of wealth, power and status, and the ways in which those structures maintain social, economic, political and coercive power of one group at the expense of others.

The Family

According to conflict theorists, the family works toward the continuance of social inequality within a society by maintaining and reinforcing the status quo. Because inheritance, education and social capital are transmitted through the family structure, wealthy families are able to keep their privileged social position for their members, while individuals from poor families are denied similar status.

Conflict theorists have also seen the family as a social arrangement benefiting men more than women, allowing men to maintain a position of power. The traditional family form in most cultures is patriarchal, contributing to inequality between the sexes. Males tend to have more power and females tend to have less. Traditional male roles and responsibilities are valued more than the traditional roles done by their wives (i.e., housekeeping, child rearing). The traditional family is also an inequitable structure for women and children. For example, more than 60 percent of all mothers with children under six are in the paid workforce. Even though these women spend as much (or more) time at paid jobs as their husbands, they also do more of the housework and child care.



The Symbolic Interactionalist Perpsective. Symbolic interactionists view the family as a site of social reproduction where meanings are negotiated and maintained by family members.

The Family

Symbolic interactionists explore the changing meanings attached to family. They argue that shared activities help to build emotional bonds and that marriage and family relationships are based on negotiated meanings.

Key Points

· Symbolic interactionism is a theory that analyzes patterns of communication, interpretation, and adjustment between individuals in society. The theory is a framework for understanding how individuals interact with each other and within society through the meanings of symbols.

· Role-taking is a key mechanism that permits an individual to appreciate another person's perspective and to understand what an action might mean to that person. Role-taking emerges at an early age through activities such as playing house.

· Symbolic interactionists explore the changing meanings attached to family. Symbolic interactionists argue that shared activities help to build emotional bonds, and that marriage and family relationships are based on negotiated meanings.

The interactionist perspective emphasizes that families reinforce and rejuvenate bonds through symbolic rituals such as family meals and holidays.

Symbolic interactionism is a social theory that focuses on the analysis of patterns of communication, interpretation, and adjustment between individuals in relation to the meanings of symbols. According to the theory, an individual's verbal and nonverbal responses are constructed in expectation of how the initial speaker will react.

This emphasis on symbols, negotiated meaning, and the construction of society as an aspect of symbolic interactionism focuses attention on the roles that people play in society. Role-taking is a key mechanism through which an individual can appreciate another person's perspective and better understand the significance of a particular action to that person. Role-taking begins at an early age, through such activities as playing house and pretending to be different people. These activities have an improvisational quality that contrasts with, say, an actor's scripted role-playing. In social contexts, the uncertainty of roles places the burden of role-making on the people in a given situation.

Ethnomethodology, an offshoot of symbolic interactionism, examines how people's interactions can create the illusion of a shared social order despite a lack of mutual understanding and the presence of differing perspectives. Harold Garfinkel demonstrated this situation through so-called experiments in trust, or breaching experiments, wherein students would interrupt ordinary conversations because they refused to take for granted that they knew what the other person was saying.

The Family

Symbolic interactionists also explore the changing meanings attached to family. They argue that shared activities help to build emotional bonds among family members, and that marriage and family relationships are based on negotiated meanings. The interactionist perspective emphasizes that families reinforce and rejuvenate bonds through symbolic mechanism rituals such as family meals and holidays.


Date: 2016-03-03; view: 326


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