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Structural and functional theory applied to families

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 3744 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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One of the assumptions in the Structural and Functional theory is 揝ocial system properties applied to families In today抯 world, what is the most striking element of social system that you perceives as most applicable to families? There are two important elements in Structural Functional theory, which are 搒tructure” and 揻unction Social system is complex and it consists of several subsystems, such as family, school, and organization. In another word, social system is structured. The structures should be perfect and could not miss any subsystem. Parsons (1937, 1951) proposed that every social system need to achieve the system equilibrium. The subsystems need to contribute some positive outcomes to the social system to assist it in achieving the system equilibrium. In other words, every subsystem should have its own functions (White & Klein, 2008).

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The most striking element which is most applicable to families nowadays is 揻unction This element is suitable to apply in families because it involves the function of socialization. The element of structure is less applicable to families nowadays because there is a lot of single-mother or single-father in a family. In additional, single parent families are not necessary leads to family and social system dysfunction.

There are two basic functions in families, which are socializing with children and stabilizing adult抯 personality (White & Klein, 2008). These two functions are interrelated. Parents socialize and convey important values to their child. The values are all related to their society and culture. Child will learn those values and bring it out to the school and workplace in the future. The child will integrate to their society by adopting the suitable values. They will perform very well in the society and does not violate the society抯 norms. How the societal values are learned by the child? Socialization between parents and child can make it. All the messages can be sent when parents socialize with their child. Parents will tell their child what they should not to do, the consequences of the negative behaviors, the roles of them, and others.

The next family function 搒tabilizing adult抯 personalityis not applicable to families nowadays. It is because in the process of stabilize adult抯 personality, it involves the family role structure. Family role structure address that the structures of family will influence on child抯 well-being. Both of the father and mother should be including in a family. The family structure of single-mother or single-father will leads to child抯 maladaptive behavior.

If a family deviates from the societal norms, is it considered dysfunctional? Justify your answer.

If a family deviates from the societal norms, it is considered as dysfunctional. According

to Parsons, society only can survive while share the norms and values to every society members. Deviation from the societal norms will leads to disorganization of the whole system. Family is one of the important systems in the society. Family deviation includes divorce, non-marital sex, single-parent families, teen delinquency and etc. In Structural Function theory, all of these patterns or behaviors are not accepted because they will threaten the survival of society. Therefore, all of these behaviors are defined as dysfunctional (as cited in Structural Function Theory, n.d.).

The more details will be discussed. George Murdock (1949) described that nuclear family is the basic structure for a family. Nuclear family must consist of husband, wife, and their children as well. This is one of the norms in the society. If a family which only consists of mother and children, it will considered as dysfunctional. It is because the family have deviate the societal norms. However, what is the reason if family deviate societal norms will be considered as dysfunctional? Then the family role structure should be discussed. Parsons proposed a family role structure to let all society members to follow. Parsons proposed that male should play a role as 搃nstrumental Instrumental role means that they provide the financial support to the family. The physical needs of family members such as shelter, foods, and education will be provided by the father. Female plays a role as 揺xpressive Mothers should provide the emotional supports to the family and they are doing the 搃ndoorworks only (as cited in Structural Functional Theory, n.d.).

The societal norm had provided as above clearly indicates the roles of each members in a family. Thus, all family members should follow the roles and rules which formed by the society. If the father and mother exchange their roles, this will considered as deviate the societal norms. And this family will be considered as dysfunctional.

Compare the concept of 搑olesin both Symbolic Interactions and Structural Functional theory. If a researcher wishes to study parental roles in polygamous family, which of the two theories are serves as a better guide for the research? Why?

Both of the theories are using the concept of 搑oles The main difference between these two theories is, the concept of role in Structural Functional theory attaches to the 搒ocietal expectationsbut the role in Symbolic Interaction theory is attached to the 搃nteraction First, we have to understand the meaning of the term 搒ocietal expectationand 搃nteraction(Ross Eshleman, 2003).

Compare the 揜olesin Two Theories

In Structural Functional theory, the role is formed by the society expectations. Society expects that how an individual or social group should perform their roles. For example, they expect that male should be more aggressive than female, female should be protected, fathers should raise the family and mothers should bear the child, students should respect teachers in school, and others. From the examples as stated above, we can see that the roles are also associated with the rules. The rules are set by the society for every role. The social group should perform their roles by following to the rules (Ross Eshleman, 2003).

Compare to the Structural Functional theory, Symbolic Interaction theory is not focus on the rules. It focuses on the 搃nteraction The expectation roles are formed through the process of interaction. The cooperative behavior and communication is very important. People will communicate first and then they know what they should perform. The role taking serves as an important term in the process of forming the expectation roles (Ross Eshleman, 2003).

The obvious difference can be seen at here is, the role in Structural Functional theory is how the society expects on it and it is mainly associated with the rules, but the role in Symbolic Interaction theory is mainly focus on the interaction and communication. The role is form through the process of interaction. The other difference between these two theories is the roles in Structural Functional theory are not easily to change but for the Symbolic Interaction theory, the roles are less rigid. The roles in Structural Functional theory are not easily changed because these are related to the expectation of the whole society. However, in Symbolic Interaction theory, the roles are easier to change because these are form through the interaction mainly between two individuals or groups. The differences are made as the points at below,

Societal expectation versus interaction

Focus on rules versus less focus on rules

Rigid versus less rigid

Polygamous Family and Structural Functional Theory

Structural Functional theory is more suitable to support the study of polygamous family. Polygamous families are considered as a nuclear family in Structural Functional theory. It is because the families are consisting of father and mother (Structural Functional Theory, n.d.). According to Al-Krenawi & Graham (1999), polygamy is defined as a marriage involves one husband and multiple wives. Polygamous wives may live together or stay in different houses. They could be cooperative or live without disturbing each other. It is depends on how the husband would like it.

Al-Krenawi & Graham (1999) had conducted a study about the story of Bedouin-Arab women in a polygamous marriage. In this study, the roles in Bedouin-Arab are form according to the gender differences. This is about how the society expects on the roles of a family. In a family, the men who include father and son are the leader and they have authority in the household, economy, and polity (Al-Krenawi, 1996 in Al-Krenawi & Graham, 1999). Thus, the role of father is to set the family rules and manage the household economy. However, the roles of Bedouin-Arab women in polygamous family are to bear children.

Not similar with the Bedouin-Arab society抯 role expectations, Parsons and Bales (1955) propose that both of the father and mother are superior in a family. Parsons and Bales (1955) stated that the family role structure is formed according to the gender roles. Father is serves as an instrumental superior role and mother is serves as an expressive superior role in family. The son is serves as an instrumental inferior role and daughter is serves as an expressive inferior in a family (as cited in White & Klein, 2008). From these, we can see that both of the father and mother also are superior in the family, but the only difference is father has to take care of the household economy and mother has to take care of their children. Again, we can see that how the different society and culture might make different parental roles in a family.

Structural and Functional theory is suitable to apply in polygamous families because it needs the family roles structure and rules which form by the society. The wives have to follow the roles and rules which formed by the society. This may eliminate the conflicts and disagreements between the wives.


Figure 1 Structural Functional Theory explains the parental roles in polygamous family.

Discuss the major critic of development theory. If a researcher wishes to explore family dynamic within a step or blended family, identify suitable concepts from this theory that can guide such study.

Major Critic

The major critic in Development Theory is about the assumption of universality. Not all the families are developed in the same way. Development Theory proposed the development stages that used to explain the family development. For example, there are eight stages in family life cycle (Ross Eshleman, 2003). The stages are as below,

Married couples without children.

Childbearing families with oldest child 30 months.

Families with preschool children (oldest child aged between 2 and half to 6 years old).

Families with school children (oldest child aged between 6 to 13 years old).

Families with teenagers (oldest child aged between 13 to 20 years old).

Families with the first child to last child living outside of home.

Middle-aged parents who already retired.

Aging family members (retirement to death).

All of the stages listed at above are not suitable to all types of families. The stages are

only applicable to the normal developmental families. For example, a woman in a family is unable to pregnant. Thus, the eight stages are not accomplished by that family. Another example is that a teenager was pregnant and then gets married. The stages are not in sequence as what the eight stages have proposed. Nowadays, there is a lot of step-family from in the society. A couple may divorced and get into another marriage. They may stop at the second stage and start the first stage again when they are in the other marriage. Thus, it is not applicable to all forms of the families nowadays.

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Concepts Using in Step Family

If a researchers wishes to study a dynamic within a step-family, the concepts of 揻amily changeand 損ositions, norms, and rolesare suitable to support it. Family change is defined as an outcome change that experienced by the family. In step-family, the family members had experienced the family change. For instance, a couple was divorced and the father gets married with other woman who will be called step-mother in the family. The children in the family are experienced two changes, which are their parents was divorced and their father was remarried again.

When the family changes had happened, the positions, norms, and roles in a family may be changed. From the instance had mentioned, the positions in that step-family include father, step-mother, son, and daughter. All of the family members should follow the norms and roles that had formed by the society. Normally the societal norms are formed for the 搉ormal family The norms and roles can be formed by the step-family itself or formed by the society as well. The roles of the father in step-family can be instrumental and roles of the step-mother can be expressive. However, the roles of father and step-mother can be exchanged as well. It is depends on how the family forms the rules. The decision making is influenced by the societal culture.

One of the roles for the step-parents is to seek affinity from the step-children. Either the step-father or step-mother is seeking affinity to maintain a good relationship in the family. However, some of the step-parents are not seeking the affinity because they do not feel that maintain positive relationship with the children is important. There are three types of affinity, which are not seeking affinity from the step-children, seeking affinity before married only, and seeking affinity before and continuous in the marriage (Ganong, Coleman, Fine & Martin, 1999 in Arnold, 2008).

How does the concept of 搒elf interestdiffer or similar in Conflict Theory and Social Exchange Theory? Propose a research framework using Conflict Theory and highlight the use of self interest as a guiding concept.

Similarity and Differences of 揝elf-Interestin Conflict and Social Exchange Theory

In both of the Conflict and Social Exchange Theory, people are always motivated by their self-interest. In Conflict Theory, when self-interest collides with othersself-interest, the conflict will happen. Self-interest in Conflict Theory is not involving the process of 揺xchange In other words, people prefer to get what they are interested without contributing anything. They don抰 want to lose anything when they get the things that they are interested.

In Social Exchange Theory, people get what they want by contribute something. They exchange things and get the profits that they are interested to. For example, a woman would like to give up her freedom to marry her boy friend. This woman lost her freedom but she will get various supports form her husband. Self-interest in Social Exchange Theory is involving rational thinking. People gain the profits through two procedures, which are Comparison Level (CL) and Comparison Level for Alternatives (CL+). According to White and Klein (2008), CL is defined as people compare their profits with other people who have same situation. C+ is defined as an individual compare the profits with the other choice or alternative.

Table 1 Compare Self-interest in Social Conflict and Social Exchange Theory

Social Conflict TheorySocial Exchange TheoryNot involved in 揺xchangeExperience the exchange procedure:

loss and gainNot involved in rational thinking. Involves rational thinking.

Not involved in CL and CL+ Involves CL and CL+

Research Framework

The research topic is 搕he relationship between self-interest marital satisfactions with the mediator of marital conflict


Conflict is very common in a family. The conflicts between parents, couples, parent and child are very common nowadays. Conflicts occurred because the family members have their own different tastes, habits, likes and dislikes, values and standards (Marital Conflicts, n.d.). If the opinions of two people had crashed, conflict will happened. For example, parents may have their own preferred parenting style, child-rearing patterns, activities, religion, career decision, and so on. If their self-interest is crash with their partner’s and they do not seek for the solutions, mostly they will facing conflicts. Conflict will lead to both positive and negative outcomes if it does not be solved. Conflict may leads to divorce and low marital satisfaction (Morawska & Thompson, 2008).

Theory and Concept used

Social Conflict Theory will be used to explain this study. The concept of self-interest explains how the conflicts happened between the couples. Self-interest of couples may different in the aspect of finance, sexual relations, career decision, and leisure times. When self-interest of the couples in these aspects is different, they will face conflict. Thus, the self-interest and marital conflicts of these four aspects will be measured.

Research Question

Is there any significant relationship between marital conflict and marital satisfaction?

Research Hypothesis

There is a significant relationship between marital conflict and marital satisfaction.


Mix-method will be conducted in this study. Questionnaires which consist of open-ended and closed-ended questions will be used to collect data. Researchers will interview the respondents who have already married.

Independent Variable: Self-interest will be measured based on four aspect, which are financial

investment, sexual relations, career decision, and leisure times.

Mediator Variable: Marital conflict will be measured based on four aspects, which are

financial investment, sexual relations, career decision, and leisure times.

Dependent Variable: Marital satisfaction

Urie Bronfenbrenner proposed that the smallest unit of analysis in studying development is the dyad, not the individual person. Describe this proposition in the context of delinquent behavior.

Bronfenbrenner抯 ecological system theory proposed that there are five interrelated system level, which are Microsystems, Mesosystem, Exosystem, Macrosystem, and Chronosystem (Hong, Huang, Sabri & Kim, 2011). Microsystem will used to apply in the context of delinquent behavior.

Microsystem Level

According to Bronfenbrenner, Microsystem is the layer closest to the child. The layer contains some structures which have direct interaction with an individual. One of the structures is family (Ryan, 2001). In Microsystem level, a child has direct interaction with their parents. Parents considered as the primary agent to have interaction with the child. Thus, the parent-child is considered as 揹yad

Parents Influence on Child抯 Behaviors

Interaction between the child and parents will bring impact on both of them. However, the negative impact on child will be discussed at here only. Bronfenbrenner believes the reason that child抯 behavior is mostly influenced by their parents is because the parents assist the child to explore the environment. In between, parents are also giving their child the affirmations (Ryan, 2001). The child will adapt to the environment and maintain it when dealing with other complex environment in the future (Bronfenbrenner, 1979 as cited in White & Klein, 2008). If this immediate interaction is break down, child will adopts delinquent behaviors especially during adolescence.

Empirical Implication

Parent-youth relationship is associated with youth抯 delinquency and substances used (Chang & Le, 2005 in Hong, Huang, Sabri & Kim, 2011). The communication and socialization between parent-child is important to influences on child抯 development. Parents would like to socialize and communicate with their child about the consequences of delinquent behaviors. This will reduce the tendency of child to engage in delinquent behaviors (Hong, Huang, Sabri & Kim, 2011).

One of the studies was using the instrument which developed by Bronfenbrenner to measure the maternal and paternal parenting. The parentings are including support, communication, and psychological control (Torrente & Vazsonyi, 2008). The researchers aim to examine the parenting influences on adolescentsantisocial and delinquent behavior. The result revealed that there is a significant difference of maternal parenting on male and female adolescents. Female adolescents reported higher support and communication parenting compare to male adolescents. Male adolescents reported higher psychological control parenting compare to female adolescents. Besides that, the result also showed that mother抯 support and communication were negatively correlated with adolescentsdelinquent behavior. However, there was only father抯 support has significant negative correlation with adolescentsdelinquent behavior. Lastly, the study found that, maternal support was significantly predicting the male抯 delinquent behavior negatively and, maternal psychological control was significantly predicting the female抯 delinquent behavior positively. In another word, high maternal support will lead to less delinquency among male adolescents, and high maternal psychological control will lead to high delinquency among female adolescents. The father did not show any significant parenting predictors towards adolescentsdelinquency (Torrente & Vazsonyi, 2008).


One of the reasons to explain that mothers have significant contribution to the adolescentsdelinquent behavior is, they are spending more time together with their children. They have more socialization with their children during their children抯 development. Therefore, mothers develop an important relationship with their children more than the fathers. They provide supports when their children are facing difficulties. This may assist the child to solve problem and adapt to the environment. Mothers always communicate with their children about their thinking and belief will assist the child to learn it and understand what they should not to do.


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