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What is the term family? What does it mean? Who decides what makes up a family? The definition of family means "a set of relations especially parents and children"
(American Century Dictionary 205). This might include anyone related to by blood or by adoption such as: step parents, grandparents acting as parents, and even brothers and sisters sometimes sharing the same household.
The term family has been believed to coincide with the word "marriage". If you were to have a family, you were also thought to have a husband or wife. This was thought to be the norm for many centuries. This was named the "institutional family." But we have reinvented the word family. A family can consist of single parent family, step family, or a first marriage family. The role of the family is also a key concept in defining the family (Doherty 11).
"In all societies the first major agent of socialization for most individuals is the family"
(Thompson and Hickey 105). It is the nucleus of American life. The role of the American family is much the same as in any other country. Each family member has to fulfill his or her own part. Being a father, a mother, or a daughter. The mass media will have an influence on the family's role. For instance, the media has portrayed men to be thought of as the "bread-winner". To more or less support the family. This family type was atypical of the American family. This was called the "Traditional Nuclear Family." This kind of ideology has existed for centuries (Thompson and Hickey 386).
But of all family types, single parent families have made the most gains during the past few decades. According to a sociological book called Society in Focus, the definition of a single parent family is "families in which one parent resides with and cares for one or more children" (387). "Researches estimate that a century ago one in three children spent part of their childhood in a single parent home" (384). This estimate is taken during the colonial period of America. More families in the twenty-first century will be single parent. This is because of the factor of people getting married later in life, the high rate of divorce, and the opportunity to gain a career.
By view of the social structure, single parenting has changed the views of the way parents treat and raise their children. By definition, social structure is "the ordered relationships and patterned expectations that guide social interaction" (Thompson and Hickey 142). Even though there has been a decline in marriage, functionalism believes that the family is the foundation of social order. According to the sociologists Talcot Parsons, "any other type of family other than the nuclear family is dysfunctional in society because they are not suited for society's economic needs and therefore may be a potential threat to society" (2).
The structural functionalist perspective views society as having a structure of several components. Family, religion, schools, state, and the economy. Each of these institutions are interrelated and interdependent (Thompson and Hickey 24). For instance marriage. The foundation of functionalism is the family. The family fulfills vital functions for instance culture, support, and status. The institute of marriage is important because functionalism ignores conflict and diversity. So functionalism, encourages marriage. Functionalism does not take into account the reasons why there are single parent families (Mills 2).
In the Conflict Perspective, marriage and family do not coincide with one another. Rather conflict theorists agree that the environment and other forces shape the marriage and family. These powers "are rooted in structures of social inequality" (Eitzen and Baca-Zinn 1987:13). The Marxist view is those who have the means to produce wealth and those who don't. Capitalism is the capitalist class vs. the working class. With the divorce rate so high, single parents don't really affect capitalism. In fact, they might help benefit that economy. "Single mothers can produce cheap labor, social services not amenable to profit making, and new laborers for temporary dead-end jobs" (Thompson and Hickey 378).
From the symbolic interactionist perspective, there are no fixed meanings. Marriage and family do not coincide together like, functionalism. Symbolic interactionism does not force the word marriage with the word family. "Most single parent families are headed either by ex-spouses who have custody of the children and depend on inadequate child-care payments or by unmarried women" (Thompson and Hickey 387). Women feel more independent than they did 100 years ago.
Who chooses these decisions to be a single mother or to be a single father? What laws govern these choices? The choices that were made by these kinds of families fall under a category called social act
Quotes talked about in this paper
- Blumer calls these cultural grounds "root images".
- Dorothy Smith comments on how the nuclear family is seen as an ideological code that is "deeply embedded within the discourse of sociology and operates so subtly, that it prevails despite the conscious intentions of the authors" ...
- Wilson, a Marxist sociologist, says, "the there has always been abuse but the difference between the present and the past is that there is more help for women today." ...
Terminology referenced in this research paper
Names talked about in this essay
Thompson, Doherty, Blumer, Johnson, Adams, Ed, Kramer, Kathleen R Gilbert, Dorothy Smith, Talcot Parsons, Eitzen, Smith, Margaret, Michael, Thompson William, Hickey Joseph, Mills, Houghton Mifflin, Erikson, Huber Joan, Bacon, Wilson, Rosenthal Kristin, Addison Wesley Longman, Rowman, Duncan, Rosenthal, Dorothy, Peter, Dan, Stanley D., Keshet, Keshet Harry, Maxine Baca-Zinn, Williams J. Ph.D, Steve,
Organizations included in this research material
Sociological Review, government,
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New York, America, Connecticut, Guilford, New Jersey,
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Keywords referenced in this paper
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