Abstract The social institution of the family is one of our oldest institutions. Through the years it has gone through some changes and many challenges. In this paper I will describe what the social institution of the family is, its functions, how it is failing in the United States, and how other countries are dealing with these issues. The Family as a Social Institution Introduction A social institution is an organization that puts in place a set of norms to connect an individual with the rest of society.
There are predominantly five social institutions found among human groups, these are family, religion, government, education, and economics. The primary functions of a social institution are to satisfy the basic needs of a society, to define the social values within a society, establish certain norms for social behavior, support other institutions, and to give social roles for individuals within society.
Social institutions are the foundations of societies to provide the necessary structure to maintain development, order, and provide for basic needs within a society (Cravens, 2011). A family is defined as two or more people who are related by marriage, blood, or adoption. In Western society the family as a social institution primarily consists of parents and their children. In other parts of the world families can consist of a husband having more than one wife which is classified as polygyny, and a wife who has more than one husband which is classified as polyandry.
The primary functions of the family as a social institution are to provide socialization to the members of that unit, to provide new members to society, to teach the social norms of sexual behavior, and to provide the economic and emotional stability within the family unit (Henslin, 2008). Of the various types of social institutions, the institution of family is a vital component of life and has a significant amount of impact on the course of the lives of individuals.
The development cycle of an individual, the experiences that they go through, the type of behavior that they show and their degree of adjustment to the social changes in their lives are affected by the social institution of family. The institution of American family has changed in many aspects in the times after World War II. Discussion After the times of World War II, the general American ideas about the family changed and the role of the family as a support system was expanded to include the functions associated with a broader sense of completion and fulfillment.
The new definitions of family were now associated with a sense of comfort which arose from the family’s interpretation as a base which could help share the problem, worries and emotional circumstances of a human being. In the post-World War II ages, when the aftermath of the war faded and people started developing a sense of rebuilding their lives, the ideas associated with the social institution of American family were altered and developed in the form of nuclear families and the people of America started investing the emotional and financial aspects to their lives in the idea of nuclear families.
Different fields of life promoted a domestic sort of thought which redefined the traditional family values found in the earlier era and laid the foundation for nuclear families. The idea of nuclear families was based on clearly defined and divided gender roles. This idea classified the man or husband of the family as the earner and the woman or wife of the family as the one to lay the groundwork for the domestic life. The political viewpoint also focused on this idea of the family to achieve stability during unstable times.
The role of family as a social institution in those times was to meet the requirements and needs of people with the help of complete satisfaction. This was the ideal which underlined the American societies of those times but all the families did not act in accordance with these standards (Rotskoff, 2002, p. 7). Since those times, the social institution of American family has gone through many changes, developed to acquire new faces and adapt to new times.
The late twentieth century witnessed the social institution of family going through many changes, and even though nuclear families which follow the typical gender roles still exist, this age changed the definitions of gender roles to give a new meaning to the social institution of the family. Many financial, cultural, political, social and psychological aspects contributed to this change in the social institution of the family. The other modifying aspects to the institution which were seen in the times up to the late twentieth century were in the conditions of living and the occurrence of childcare.
Many new dimensions were established within the social institution of the family. The sense of class and ethnic diversities contributed to the change within this social institution (Mintz, 2009, p. 207). With the increasing occurrences of divorce and a rise in the statistics showing blended families, the institution of family has experienced a period of major transformation in recent times and the overall structure has changed. The basic idea of the social institution of the family is dependent on how the government and the society view it.
The workings of the institution of the family are greatly impacted by social and cultural standards. The general beliefs and the social and cultural definitions found in the American identity affect the definitions of the family (Fineman, 1993, p. 387). The general workings of an American family include the support associated with the family system. Family works as the foundation for an individual’s thought processes, growth and development and provides a norm for them to base their basic ideas and beliefs on.
The present functions of the American family vary from one family to another and there are very broad definitions of the roles. In today’s times, the gender roles have new dimensions and there are no restrictions to as far as the earning aspect to the American family is concerned. The nuclear and other sorts of families of today’s times still work as the system of support for an individual. Family is also a protective barrier from the pressures associated with the process of life and the rest of society.
With the constant change in the world, many families have grown apart to rely less on the family structure. With the changing times, the general population has grown apart from the basic settings of the institution of the family. Since many parents are more concerned about monetary gains and many adolescents have grown to be distant from the family structure, therefore the institution as a whole has changed. The positive effects of the social institution of the family can be analyzed with the help of the fundamental definitions and expectations which are found in the American society.
The positive effects of this institution on individuals include the constant and unconditional form of love and support that the family offers, a sense of belonging so that individuals develop in a positive and stable environment, and a sense of reliability and psychological peace which are generated from the sort of ideas and beliefs that there is a definitive structure to hold on to when needed and to depend on (Farrell, 1999, p. 3). A family’s support leaves a positive impact on the development cycle of an individual and their mental and psychological development takes a natural path.
The social institution of family can also help proceed toward a sense of emotional fulfillment, and individuals can focus on the other aspects to their lives which need taking care of. The support of the institution of family during difficult times also helps individuals deal with hardships and emerge from obstacles as victorious. With a stable family, individuals can grow with the qualities of loyalty and commitment and incorporate those in their own lives.
The situations in which the social institution of the family can negatively affect individuals happen from the conditions in which individuals are part of families exhibiting the event of neglect, abuse and violence (Farrell, 1999, p. 3). Circumstances associated with these types of conditions inside the boundaries of the social institution of the family damage the psychological process of individuals and end up negatively impacting the path of their life. The pressures and expectations associated with the social institution of family can also negatively affect an individual.
The high performance objectives and expectations linked with unnaturally high levels of achievements imposed by the family are also some of the facets which can negatively affect an individual. Individuals might try to change the social institution of the family by contributing more to the family structure. This can be achieved by trying to remove the mistakes as individuals and trying to find and correct the faults that they are doing on an individual basis. For the removal of societies cruelty on a general basis, it is required that the problems with today’s conditions of the social institution of the family be addressed.
In the homes in which children or adolescents get neglected or abused, the parents or guardians can work toward changing this and providing a basis so that these children or adolescents can find emotional attachment (Farrell, 1999, p. 3). With the information age, the world has evolved and traveled a long distance from the traditional definitions of the family. The Information Age has brought many new dimensions to the workings of the world and the family institution.
With evolving technology, the amount of information has increased and this age has resulted into an increase in the number of broken families, divorce rates and issues. The pressures used by the various environments have increased in this age and with the growing number of split or blended families, more problems and issues have become part of the society. The roles in the American social institution of family have expanded to add many new dimensions and the man in the family is no longer supposed to be or considered as the sole provider within the family structure.
The form of the social institution of family in China has also evolved with time, but the Chinese institution sticks to the traditional definitions of the family and even though the conditions of times have altered and the presence of many exceptions to the fundamental rule can be noted, the man in the Chinese social institution is still supposed to be the earner or provider of the family. Chinese terms for familial settings also vary from their American counterparts. In the region of Germany, families are still the most important aspect in the general population’s lives.
In contrast to the status in which American families find themselves to be, German families still act as the central factor in people’s lives and the lives of people revolve around the social institution. Many parts of Germany still stick to the traditional gender roles but the boundaries have become flexible with the evolution of times (“Families,” n. d. ). Globalization has brought the world closer and given birth to a need for an acceptance of the many diversities. Families are adapting to the cultural questions caused by globalization by expanding their acceptance towards more diverse backgrounds.
The changes in other institutions also put pressure on the social institution of the family, and families adapt to these changes in their own special ways. The institution of family reacts to the modifications in the religious institution by adopting policies which combine their religious requirements with the change of definitions. The pressures put by the changing educational institution create many challenges for families because the competition has become stronger.
The changes in the government institution affect the institution of the family by revising the financial and operational conditions, and the family adapts to these changes by changing its methods. Conclusion In conclusion, the social institution of the family is associated with all the aspects to an individual’s life and impacts the direction the individual takes. As far as the present status of this institution is concerned, there is a view that American family is in a broken state and in urgent need of repair (Farrell, 1999, p. ). The future role of family is associated with the developmental, psychological, social, academic and business oriented progress of individuals in the environment of the social institution (Belardinelli, 2002, p. 169). The future role of the American institution of family will depend on how the people who form the family approach the institution. The future characteristics of the institution will also depend on whether the constituting factors of the family approach the social institution with selfish or selfless reasons.
In a world which has been brought closer by the assistance of globalization, and in a world where a rising number of people are growing to be career oriented and more children and adolescents are growing to be emotionally distant from their families, whether the involved parties have a sense of long-term commitment and strive to achieve a condition of balance will also affect the future shape of the institution. References Belardinelli, S. (2002). The evolution of family institution and its impact on society and business. Family Business Review, 15(3), 169+.
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