family by applying theories, concepts and knowledge. Through the study of the theories and concepts, the study will look at how families communicate, behave, operate and will also highlight common problems facing the family and especially tackling the health issue and how social systems affect provision of health care, and will illuminate this through an in-depth study of how it applies or affect the family unit. The study will discuss diversity issues in relation to the social system.
Family life is being scrutinized, and a new definition of a family is emerging every day, but in simple terms a family is a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household, caring and supporting each other. According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary; a family is a fundamental social group in society typically consisting of one or two parents and their children.
The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by the society and the state (United Nations, 1948) 'Society's definition of family is rapidly changing and has come to include single parents, biracial couples, blended families, unrelated individuals living cooperatively, and homosexual couples among others. Unfortunately, family policy has been slow to catch up to changing trends in modern lifestyles,' (Crawford, 1999)
How do different theories and concepts apply to the family unit? For this study, I will examine 3 theories and 5 concepts for us to understand the family unit in greater lenghths. The three theories are symbolism theory, structural functionalism and family systems theory. Symbolic interaction theory sees the family as a unit of interacting personalities. It focuses on how people interact and communicate either through gestures or verbally. 'The symbolic interaction perspective is based on how humans develop a complex set of symbols o give meaning to the world, Understanding these symbols is important in understanding human behavior' (LaRossa & Reitzes 1993)
In the case of a family, the members interact with one another and have a role to play in the family. The goals of our interactions with one another are to create shared meaning within one another. Language itself serves as a symbolic form that unites us together as a family and as a community. 'We act towards others based on the meanings that those other people have towards us. We are influenced by culture and social process, such as social norms.' (White, & Klein, 2008) Each one of us has a role to play in a family and our interactions and relationship patterns define who we are as a family and as unique individual self. The theory as well assumes that we ascribe to social roles dictated we do not loose our unique identity and our sense of self.
Structural functionalism theory; examines the structure and function of family both in itself as a small basic unit of the society and also as a part of the larger society. This theory basically examines how a family organizes itself in order to survive in the society. As according to the saying that 'men are from mars and women from Venus,' this theory examines the same differential attributes in both sexes viewing men as task-oriented and women as emotion- oriented beings with expressive qualities with both sexes aiming at survival in the society. 'Families are doing all that they can to survive even in the larger society.' (Boss, Doherty, LaRossa, 2008) Education is one way that the family members are fighting for survival. This task is shared with the family, and it is for this reason that young people are leaving their families and spending more time pursuing education in order to survive in a competitive worldThe theory also asserts that the way the society is organized is the most natural and efficient way for it to be organized. For instance, in a family setting, women have to be subordinate of men so as to allow society to operate smoothly, as every one knows that it is her respective position in the hierarchy. If things do not take their natural course, then they will be a disorder in the family.
The third theory is the family systems theory which was introduced by Dr. Murray Bowen. In this theory Bowen argues that individuals cannot be understood in isolation from one another, but rather as a part of the family, as family is an emotional unit. The reason behind the thinking is that families are systems of interconnected and interdependent individuals, none of whom can be understood in isolation from the system.
According to Bowen, a family is a system in which each member has a role to play while respecting the rules. Members of the system are expected to respond to each other in a certain way according to their role, which is determined by relationship agreements. If the family maintain the same pattern of behaviors within a system the results is a balance in the family system. The change in roles may maintain stability in the relationship, but it also may push the family towards a different equilibrium. For instance in a case where the mother is forced to take up the roles of the father, it may bring stability in the family because she is filling the gap but if the feelings are negative she will be pushed in a different equilibrium.
There are various concepts that apply to the family unit and thus help us to understand this social unit. The first concept is the triangles concept which explain the smallest stable relationship system, and which help the larger system. The name triangle is used simply because at the top the triangle may seem weal but it stability is ensured due to its support from the other angles. This means that a family is to be formed under a stable system so as to produce a stable society. For example if families are unstable may due to financial strain, then this will affect the society at large.
'The differentiation of self-concept shows the variance in individuals in their susceptibility to depend on others for acceptance and approval. This is what is expected in a family, one expects to be accepted, belonging to something and have an approval from the others in the family hence the dependence'. (Smith, Miller & Archer, 2001). For example every child expect to be accepted by their parents and so do the parents
There is also the family projection concept where there is the transmission of emotional problems from parent to a child. Multigenerational transmission process and for this one it involves the transmission of small differences in the levels of differentiation between parents and children. For example a parent is likely to pass to their children the different values they have learnt over time and the children to pass to their children.(Smith, et al., 2001)
Emotional cut off on the other hand is the act of reducing or cutting off emotional contact with family as a way of managing unresolved emotional issues. This is the concept where a family member discontinues with the values and beliefs of the parent especially if she feels they are not beneficial. Sibling position calls for the impact of sibling position on development and behavior while societal emotional process governs behavior on a societal level, promoting both progressive and regressive periods in a society.
Smith, et al. (2001), describes diversity issues as human differences that play an important role in the operations of any social system. Diversity issues define and guide members of a family or any other social unit. Cultural heritages, values and beliefs are likely to affect the family perception of and participation in the assessment process as well as family cooperation (Haney & Knox, 1995). It is ideal for a family to work together and develop a level of sensitivity to diversity. Family views are influenced by one or more aspects of diversity.
'Diversity issues affect an individual life. The context on which an individual grows has an important impact on her life. The beliefs, theories, principles and diversity issues have an important impact on the opportunities of that individual and his life.' (McGoldrick, Gerson & Shellenberger 1985), Families is the source of diversity with individuals coming from different races, social class, ethnicity, religion etc. depending from which family one originates. For instance, one individual comes from a family from a certain ethnicity from another individual, another from a family with a different religion from the other and so on hence creating the diversity issue among individuals due to their different family back grounds, perspectives, culture and beliefs.
The world increasing globalization requires more interaction among people from diverse cultures, beliefs, and backgrounds than ever before. The families interact with one another and have to cope with one another for the survival in the society despite the differences in religion, race, ethnicity, social class, physical and mental ability, and even sexual orientation. By educating all people from different families, to recognize and support, and celebrate the full range of diversity, we…