Throughout the years much effort has been given to understanding the “family” and its role in society. With time, many changes have taken place in civilization that have affected and inevitably shaped the purpose of the family in the modern world. Today, structural functionalists believe that the functions of the traditional family have been taken over by other social institutions and, therefore, the family as an institution is “breaking down”.
Although I understand that much change has taken place in the lifestyle and the structure of the family, I disagree with the above statement. I believe that today, more than ever, the family unit is the backbone of society and the most influential social institution in our culture.
There are two family functions that are of main importance: 1) the primary socialization of children so that they can truly become members of the society into which they have been born, and 2) the stabilization of the adult personalities of the society (Eshleman & Wilson, p.13).
Examining the first function of the family unit much data can be collected to support it. Our society has evolved to become high paced, always on the go and technology oriented. Today, in order to be successful, it is vital to become an independent thinker with strong beliefs. With overactive media it can be an overwhelming and a confusing process to undergo. In this culture family unit plays the most influential role in socializing children. It is the family unit, whether one or two parent, that is responsible for installing proper values in an individual and developing ideals and morals.
Although in the past the family would spend more time together (working in the fields, maintaining a farm, or managing the family business), the time that the family spends together today, although lesser in its amount, is much more influential and beneficial in the socialization of children. Family is the only place where true emotions and feelings can be expressed and the mental support that a child requires obtained. It is the place where the strongest aspects of one’s personality are influenced to develop. Today many other institutions (school, daycare, and sport clubs) are widely developed and often aid in the completion of the socializing process which the family initiates. This permits more time and energy to be spent by the family in establishing and developing the fundamental aspects of socialization process.
The second function of the family that is of great importance is the stabilization of the adult personalities of the society. In the past the incentive for marriage was mainly economics. The family unit was formed in order to create a financially stable environment. Emotional factors such as love, passion and romance had less importance. Today the main motive for creation of a family is love. It fulfills the basic human need of being cared for and creates a nurturing environment. Family is the prime stabilizer of the adult personality. By being accepted, supported, loved and understood, a person in turn becomes more secure in oneself and is able to cope with the pressure and demands of life more successfully. Many of the changes that have taken place in society over the years have had a positive outcome on the family life. Technological advances provide better lifestyle and allow for more quality time to be spent within the family. By having the time to deal with personal matters more stable adult personalities develop.
In conclusion it can be clearly seen that family remains the most important social institution in our culture.
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