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The Impact of Society on a Family

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The traditional Western-cultured image of a family consists of a father, mother, and child. With the father being the breadwinner, the mother as the caregiver of the home and the children as learning beings; a social construct is then cast. However, as time progresses environments, traditional family structures begin to adjust and adapt within the behaviors and influences of the society around them. Now, this does not always mean that these changes will be of benefit to the family. In fact, many cases show that any social pattern whether intended or unintended, recognized or unrecognized can lead to consequences that result in a family’s overall well-being economically or socially. This illustration is called manifest or latent functions and is often used by sociologists to describe the actions of society in cohesion with groups that follow that society.

The operation of a family will always be a reflection of the ideals and structures they carry in this already made up world, whether these functions be socially conflicting, gender or race encompassing, or through social interactions they encounter. Like an onion, a family has layers. These layers consist of emotional and physical needs that every member of the family desires. For a family to operate in the most mundane way, things like warmth, food, safety, belonging, esteem, and self need to be possible to reach. Like Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, humans are set to achieve things in a set order that cannot be advanced until one layer is met to achieve the abundances on the next layer.

Much like a family, obstacles must be overcome together to reach the most comfortable state of living. This then separates the traditional family into individual but cooperating parts; as the father provides economic stability, the mother and children can provide a sense of emotional security for him and vice versa. This is significant because it highlights one of the most important theories in sociology, the theory that sees society as a complex system whose parts work together to promote stability. Without the cooperation of each individual in the family, say the father dies in a car accident, the children and mother are then set into economic and emotional turmoil. As this event could perhaps provide an abundance of stresses on the mother as she is now the leading source of monetary needs, this could result in less financial support to feed her children or involve them in extracurricular activities. Without the contribution of all heads in a household, an enjoyable life may be harder to achieve. The structural approach on a family and its ability to successfully function can also be mirrored to systems in government, businesses, and sports teams; without all parts cooperating a business can fail, a government can go tyrannical, and a sports team may lose. Though inactivity of work in a family can call for disharmonious relations, other components such as gender and race conflicts from society can calculate a family’s social, economic, or political gains as well.

Many traditional families will consist of a male and female marriage and children, however for smaller families such as two married women of color, there can be uneven distributions of resources and benefits in comparison to a heterosexually-married family. For example, in some states gay marriage is not yet legal, and because many crucial financial responsibilities – like social security and federal income tax – rely heavily on marital status, this federal protection cannot be granted to this small family of two. This can call for a feeling of financial inequality that disturbs the flow of this marriage and the partners’ sense of safety or belonging as illustrated earlier in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Because of the gender conflict this brings, this small family would undergo high stresses that would either: lunge them to move to a state that has either legalized same sex marriage, or they would have to make due in a space where they cannot receive the same benefits as other couples around them. The significance that this issue brings is that positions of high power like state or federal governments have the ability to deny a family of benefits while simultaneously causing them an amount of anguish; both affecting them in a economic and emotional way. Like lemmings, humans are known to follow each other in their sense of styles, behaviors, and through influences from the media.

The same idea is exercised in the way that families are cured and brought up. Traditions like religion, holidays, and birthdays are all celebrated and passed down from one generation to the other. It is often joked that “apples don’t fall far from the tree” in the sense that children are, in some ways, mirrors of their parents and guardians who’ve raised them. Human interaction is a foundation for character development. In families, if a father or mother is heavily into reading this may rub off onto their offspring in a positive light. In a more negative sense, a father could be a gambleholic and the child, with no other role model, could pick up this habit later on in their life. This theoretical approach is called symbolic interaction that applies behaviors and attitudes to the development of a person or society. This approach is significant in the impression that the flow of human interaction is vital in building mentorships amongst a person and surrounding ideals and morals.

In a family, symbolic interaction can be used to predict characteristics of a person’s child or grandchild. The flow of global culture can rely heavily on the ethics and principles in which that cultural society holds. With different influences on how a family integrates itself in society, there are contrasting outcomes on how that family will uphold itself in political and economical statistics. How a family operates depends on the external and internal effects of their society in their time. There are many factors that affect how a family will operate. Whether it be lack of participation in the family, uncontrollable marriage laws, or unhealthy traditions, each disadvantage will affect how this family strives for comfortable living.

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