Two linked concepts, marriage and kin, go together. Students who examined the relationship between the two realized that marriages remain a cornerstone for the formation of the most fundamental social entity, a family. Family and marriage also establish prestige structures that the society should understand. The family institution underwent numerous changes in the 20th century that can be traced to domestic violence, child exploitation, gender roles and economic factors. The modern family life is in stark contrast to idealized notions of evolution and creation over the centuries.The conflicts evident in the institution have resulted in the creation of contradictions in the field of public policy with efforts being geared towards the maintenance of the good societal component. A need, therefore, arises to understand the newly evolved family within the framework of what it is and what it is becoming. For this to be a success, there is the need to incorporate the sociological theories that inform researchers.
Application of Sociological Concepts
The manner in which the family is or should be constituted has been a subject of debate to many social scientists as well as other key players in religion and politics. While social conservatives lay more emphasis on the structure and the role to be played by each member, sociologists look at it on the nature of relations between the members rather than the strict configuration of status roles. Three sociological paradigms are essential in studying the changes that have taken place in the family institution. These are the functionalist perspective, critical sociology, and symbolic interactionism. However, to effectively explain the changes, there is the need to narrow down and focus on finer researches that will help in explaining how domestic violence, child abuse, gender roles and the economic factors. Domestic violence will be elaborated using the social representation view. Child abuse will be explained using the intergenerational continuation theory while gender roles will take the feminist perspective. To explain the impact that the economic changes have had on the family and marriage, I will use the economics sociology.
Critical evaluation and Implication
Domestic violence can be understood using the social representation view. An analysis of violence in marriage reveals that men have been considered as being naturally violent compared to their female counterparts. As a result, a man is considered as the symbol of the authority, responsible for preserving the family. On the other hand, women are associated with the concept of motherhood, a concept of representation. The linkage of motherhood to women using the social representation can be regarded as grounded on naturalizing convictions. From the idea of motherhood, women have been assuring stability in the family based on the affective relationship with their children. Marriages had been previously characterized by cheating, lack of respect and a breakaway from the romantic love. Making changes to straighten up these issues have recently seen men under the threat of losing their powers in the family which has for a long time been viewed as a symbol of masculinity. The physical violence can, therefore, be considered as happening when men attempt to re-establish their power in the family. Although it is necessary to have a symbol of authority, the excessive use of power to regain the lost glory is a wrong approach.
Child abuse has also contributed to the changes that have been witnessed in the marriage and family. The intergenerational continuation theory gives the explanation to this. Children, especially young boys who have been abused by their fathers are more likely to end up being violent adults. A study done on the theory revealed that one-third of men who are sexually abusive adopted the behavior from their experiences as children (Silverstein, 1999). Those men who witnessed a conjugal form of violence and with parent-child type of violence have a higher tendency of using verbal and physical aggression when starting relationships. The effects of child abuse begin to show in early years to men when women portray this behavior at a later stage. It is, therefore, true to argue that wife batterers got lesser love and more punishment from their parents, a behavior translated later in life during marriage. Child abuse, therefore, can be regarded as one of the factors which resulted in the changes seen in the marriage and family during the late 20th century. Efforts should be geared towards educating couples on the need to avoid abusing their children so that the future generation play their role in the marriage in an effective manner. Failure to take necessary measures will result in more family break-ups and the devaluation of the family institution.
Gender roles have gradually changed the family institution and can be greatly attributed to the feminist theory. A common ground held by theorists here is the idea that power in the society has been unevenly distributed with women having the most limited resources for progress (Kaufman, 2000). More so, they have been oppressed or silenced in the patriarchal society that has social structures to maintain and support the inequalities. The rise and the intensification of the feminist ideas in the mid and late 20th century saw the marriage and the family structure change drastically with the movements favoring women. Although the movement has advantages such as addressing the inequalities evident in the social structures, it has resulted to the destabilization of the family institution. The fight for the rights of women changed its course and turned into a fight which is against the family. This is particularly so when focusing on the radical feminists who have worked tirelessly to repudiate the family. This has been the case mostly Anglo-American world where the concept has been passionately embraced. As a result of this, the rate of divorce has increased, and the number of fatherless children has skyrocketed. Working mothers who have embraced feminism has seen them as well as their children suffer. Many of these women have been severely fatigued as they attempt to balance their career, childcare, and marriage which has been proven to be almost impossible. It is unfortunate that feminist peer pressure has resulted in family and marriage being sacrificed before career.
Economic factors can also be used to explain the changes in the family and marriage from the mid-20th century. There have been strong economic forces that have emanated from the family wage demands. The dependency on one wage earner to support the family has been met with a lot of challenges. It is now evident that nearly every young family and a couple of older ones have embraced the idea of having a woman or a mother being an integral part of the family_x0092_s economic contributions. A paid form of employment which is outside the home is continually being accepted as a self-assurance for women (White, 2000). Health insurance, social security, and other fringe benefits have become mandatory in complimenting the self-sufficiency needs with the increasing life span being taken into account. As women move into the paid workforce, gender-based maintenance and care of the children and the household have remained within the women_x0092_s province. The emotional and the physical work of family maintenance more so to the children who call for constant nurture and supervision has now become an issue of concern to policy makers as well as the society at large. The changing patterns in the family and marriage, especially the ones pertaining work, have shifted both the expectations and the rights. Although there are profound cultural traditions and the great urge for humans to be in intimate relationships, need to ensure that both partners are self-sufficient has to be underscored. With the strengthening of the women_x0092_s attachment to paid work, the desire to gain more respect, control and being a significant role player in decision making has emerged. This has resulted in the loss of the man_x0092_s position of authority as women continue to perceive themselves as equals. It is, therefore, true to argue that economic factors have had both positive and negative impacts on the marriage and the family. When rights have been infringed, women will opt out of what they will consider as an intolerable marriage or family relationship. This has also been the case when considering men who will want a status in the family.
Kaufman, G. (2000). Do gender role attitudes matter? Family formation and dissolution among traditional and egalitarian men and women. Journal of Family Issues, 21(1), 128-144.
Silverstein, L. B., & Auerbach, C. F. (1999). Deconstructing the essential father. American Psychologist, 54(6), 397.
White, L., & Rogers, S. J. (2000). Economic circumstances and family outcomes: A review of the 1990s. Journal of Marriage and Family, 62(4), 1035-1051.