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SOC 102 Topic 7 Discussion 1
answer
A family is viewed in many different ways. The structuralist believes the family is determined by social structure and class. The functionalist believes that the family is an institution that promotes stability, links generations, and controls sexuality. Interpretive feminists view men and women as social actors striving to fulfill culturally defined roles. Symbolic interactionists focus on the everyday communication within families using observations and interviews. Each perspective studies the same family but uses an approach that provides a full understanding of what a family is in society without focusing on just one aspect of it.[/details]
According to the structural-functionalist approach, the family is a highly important primary institution that serves many functions in society. This perspective is useful to reinforce the idea that families are strong and necessary as they require support and a sense of belonging. While this perspective has merit in its assessment of the traditional family, it fails to recognize its inability to take into account various alternative families that have taken shape due to societal transformational trends. The feminist perspective reveals the contributions of feminism and in doing so provides a more balanced analysis of both the positive and negative influences on families. As such, the symbolic interactionist approach offers a social view of the family because it allows for interpretation and evaluation by individual members, recognizes cultural diversity, and stresses the importance of reciprocal roles between family members.
The family structure is a dynamic entity. The structural-functionalists, feminists, and symbolic interactionists all agree that the nuclear family is the most desired family structure in society. These similarities are a result of the historical evolution of families. A nuclear family is a mother, father, and children (Tashakkori and Teddlie 78). For example, the traditional male and female paradigm views men as being providers for their wives and children. Also, the father protects his family from dangers, such as strangers or animals. On the other hand, there are a couple of differences among these theorists…
The family is a mechanism that provides children with access to necessary resources (such as food, shelter and clothing), as well as social contacts with adults other than the child’s kin. However, how these resources are obtained differs according to the unique characteristics of each society. In this unit you will study two perspectives on how families are organized in society. A structural-functionalist perspective looks at the functions that the family serves for society. A symbolic interaction perspective is based on the idea of looking at everyday actions and objects, called symbols, and then make generalizations about how members of the culture think. Both perspectives have the same aim — to describe how families function within a society structurally and functionally, but they differ in their use of theory related to human behavior.
Structural-functionalism, a macro sociological perspective, has traditionally studied how families shape and influence society. Family is seen in a positive light as the building block of community and a focal point for socialization and sharing roles to promote stability. Despite some limitations, investigating family from this perspective has been very profitable.
Perspectives on family life can be studied from several different vantage points. The lives of people within a family, as well as the qualities of the family unit itself, have been defined in unique and sometimes opposing ways. Functionalists view the family unit as positive and functional because of its support and stability. It is not necessary to question the most basic assumptions about families: Mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers make up a family. Whatever their differences, they share the same fundamental characteristics with all other families: a home life that is separate from work, and a stable genealogy. A social institution, much like government or organized religion, the family provides both stability and security.
 
question
How do structural-functionalist, feminists, and symbolic interactionists differ in their analysis of the family? Provide your conclusion as to the perspective that provides the fullest understanding of the family.