Sociological theories have helped widen people's scope on social behaviors and societies. In fact, the study of sociological theories makes one develop a comprehensive understanding of sociology's past, present and future. There are a number of sociological theories namely: symbolic interaction theory, conflict theory, functionalist theory, feminist theory, critical theory, labeling theory, social learning theory, and structural strain theory among others (Giddens, 1997).
Government, religion, education, economics and family are some of the five major social institutions that have been there for quite some time. This term paper seeks to evaluate the impacts of functionalism, conflict, and interaction theories on the family institution. The paper will address how each of the theories apply to the family as a social institution; the similarities and differences that exist; how each theory affects the views of an individual who is a member of the family unit; how each of the theories affect approach to the social change within the family; and how each of the theories affect the views of the society.
Sociological theories enable one to understand how a given society operates. They also help in demystifying how members of a society relate with one another. Problems that arise in a society can be mitigated because the theories help in comprehending social issues like crime in a society (Giddens, 1997).
Social conflict theory
Social conflict theory posits that people and groups in a society have varied amount of material and non-material resources. This has led to the emergence of the poor and the rich. These two social classes have social, political, and material inequality hence the class conflict. Resentment and hostility in the society epitomize into conflict. Power differences between the different social classes also lead to conflict bearing in mind that different people in the society have different powers. Those who do not have any powers are oppressed by those who have powers hence the social conflict in the society (Tischler, 2010). This is sanctioned by the virtue of the fact that members of different social classes have different interests. In fact, difference in interest occasions society's social interest groups to fight over scarce resources in the society. The interest groups normally fight to take advantage of other members of their society.
The powerful members of the society either use brute force or economics to exploit the less powerful in the society. It is money that causes social disorder. The proponents of social conflict theory affirm that a society is developed through continuous conflict between members of different social classes (Tischler, 2010). Members of the society compete for limited resources hence the large social structures. Some members of the society use their massive resource base to maintain their position in the society probably due to the influence they have. They therefore exploit those who do not have resources.
Social conflict theory impacts relationships in a family institution. The family is never stable because of some inherent conflicts that exist. This can be due to limited resources, power, and difference in interests (Tischler, 2010). Conflict theory is a pointer to the fact that families are never harmonious since they struggle to deal with differences among family members, change, and conflict. Family dynamics can therefore be best understood by identifying the sources of conflicts and power in the family. This is integral in developing solutions to societal problems. Conflicts in the family can be reduced if families develop better communication and improving relationship. Conflicts can also be mitigated by developing empathy (Tischler, 2010). Family members have to understand each other irrespective of their differences and power. They should promote peace by shunning exploitation and competition.
Challenges occasioned by change can be best overcome by being able to accept change. This helps in reducing conflicts within the family. Sharing of resources can also help reduce family conflict. Conflict when managed well, can help bring change in the family. Conflicts when not properly managed can result into separation. The conflict theory helps in identifying conflicts that bedevil families and how they can be resolved (Tischler, 2010). This helps in stabilizing and strengthening the family institution. In conflict theory, the members of the family are subordinated to the society.
Interactionism theory was developed by James Parker and George Herbert. Interactionism is the study of individuals and how they interact in the society. This theory helps people to understand the relationship that exists between human beings and the society. This can be realized through meaningful communication. Social interaction is a face-to-face interaction that consists of actions, reactions, and mutual adaptation between people who take part in the interaction (Stephens & Leach, 1998). It also encompasses body language and mannerism. Aspects of body language or communication can result into breakage of a relationship. By conforming to the expectation of other people, an individual is capable of preventing the social interaction from ending. The theory does impact the family institution as it is used to study the interaction between different members of the society. The theory posits that a family is a unit made up of interacting personalities (Stephens & Leach, 1998).
Personalities, roles, and communication play an integral role in the family institution. Communication facilitates interaction between members of the family. Members of the family will always act according to meaning attached to each word used in communicating and the body language of the person communicating. Interaction among family members is normally influenced by how information is communicated. Parents transfer personality and self-concepts to their children when they interact (Stephens & Leach, 1998) .
Interaction theory is similar to conflict theory because it shows change in the society other than focusing on interaction that takes place between different members of the society. When family members adapt to various situations they, in the process, embrace change. They may change their behaviors to avoid influencing their social interaction negatively (Stephens & Leach, 1998).
According to Interactionism theory, the members of the society are interdependent.
Interactionism theory is different from functionalism theory because it focuses on social interaction in the society as opposed to functionalism theory that basically focuses on how different components result to order and stability. Conflict theory does not focus on aspects of conflicts and social class.
Functionalism theory explains a family as a social institution in terms of the function it performs. Behaviors in a society are structured and the relationships between individuals are patterned and recurrent because of the rules that exist. This theory was developed by Durkheim who argued that different parts of the society have to adjust to attain stability after disorganization. The proponent of this theory further advanced that social problems always arise when a component of the society is not working (McLennan, Allanah & Spoonley, 2000). A negative change is counterproductive to societal stability since it leads to loss of values hence failure to meet the needs of the people. Positive change does lead to societal stability. Functionalism theory adversely influences the family institution since it emphasizes stability and order in the family. This does away with family dysfunction. The theory helps in identifying parts that function and those that do not function in the family institution. This in the process helps in elimination of problems in the society and ensures family stability (Teevan & Edward, 2005).
The family plays different roles in the society namely: helping in reproduction and socialization and teaching young children how to behave consistent with the cultural beliefs and social norms. The family also helps in controlling social behaviors in the society as well as providing social status. The family has to function well to guarantee stability and order in the society. Without stability and order in the society, there would be no cohesion.
The functionalism theory is different from Interactionism and conflict theories on many aspects. Functionalism theory does not emphasize on…