BY : FESTUS OPPONG K. ASANTE.
Sociology is a subject founded on theories and is composed of two words- socius meaning companion or associate and logos meaning science or study. Historically it is viewed as a relatively young subject which made its appearance in the 19th Century, it involves the systematic or scientific study of social behavior and human groups. It focuses on how human relationships influence human behaviors and how societies, which is the sum total of all these relationships develop and change. C. Wright Mills believes one has to have a sociological imagination in order to understand social behavior and society. Thus, it helps us to understand ourselves better. A Family then as defined by Maxeo Constantine is a domestic group(s) of people linked together through descent from a common ancestor(i.e. consanguinity), marriage or adoption with a goal of improving their standard of living and circumstances (Maxeo Constantine, 2003).Sociological perspective is a lens through which sociologist view the society, this lens gives us basic insight into how human behavior is shaped by the groups to which people belong and by the social interaction that take place within those groups. We are who we are and we behave the way we do, because we happen to live in a particular society at a particular point in space and time. People tend to accept their social world unquestioningly, as something “natural.” But the sociological perspective enables us to see society as a temporary social product, created by human beings and capable of being changed by them as well. Conflict perspective focuses their attention on society as a whole. Conflict theorists see society as in a continuous sate of conflict between groups and classes, as society is held together through the power of dominant groups or classes. They thus seek to find out who benefits, who loses, who suffers, who dominates and who are dominated and was propounded by Karl Marx. Conflicts theorists argue that the family helps to maintain inequality in the society. This academic piece seeks to enumerate some Conflict perspectives on the Family.
To begin with, Conflict theorists accuse the family as an institution for legitimizing dominance. In that, males are the dominant due to their greater strength, size, and aggressiveness. Women have been victimized by their smaller size and their vulnerability as child bearers. Over entire history, women have been taken as sexual property, taken as booty in war, used by their fathers in economic bargaining, and considered the property of their husbands as argued by Sociologist Randall Collins. As such, much as egalitarian societies are beginning to emerge the status quo of women as sexual property and men the dominant has been set, through the influence of the Family.
Second, the family as a social institution contributes to social inequality. Families pass along their wealth to their children, and because families differ greatly in the amount of wealth they have, the family helps reinforce existing inequality. As it developed through the centuries, and especially during the era of industrialization, the family also became more and more of a patriarchal unit (since men made money working in factories while women stayed home), helping to reinforce men’s status at the top of the social hierarchy. This transfer of power, property and privileges from one generation to the next has lead to the rich becoming richer and the poor poorer.
Moreover, the family can also be a source of conflict for its own members. Although the Functional perspective assumes the family provides its members emotional comfort and support, many families do just the opposite and are far from the harmonious happy groups depicted by the Functionalists. Instead, they argue, shout, and use emotional cruelty and physical violence. Physical coercion is thus learnt by the younger generation(mostly males), as the means of gaining control and power over the opposite sex.
Also, The socio-economic position of the family also affects the child health or nutritional status. Frank E. Furstenberg Jr. a prominent sociologist, argued that “steep differences exist across social classes” in mothers’ prenatal experiences, such as the quality of their diet and health care, as well as in the health care that their infants receive. As a result, he says, “children enter the world endowed unequally.” This inequality worsens if they are born into low-income families, as they are much more likely to experience negative events, such as death, poor health, unemployment, divorce, and criminal victimization. When these negative events do occur, says Furstenberg, “the social class of the family’s affects its ability to cushion this blow…Life is simply harder and more brutish at the bottom.” These negative events produce great amounts of stress; this stress in turn causes children to experience various developmental problems especially psychologically.
To end it all, the social class of parents greatly influences children’s socialization process, in that, low-income parents are much less likely to read and speak regularly to their infants and young children due to tight schedules and late working hours, these children are thus slower to develop cognitive and reading skills; this problem in turn impairs their school performances and their communicating skills when communicating with their peers. This disparity has a detrimental effect on the socialization process of said children.
In Conclusion, much as the family provides emotional support and sympathy in times of need, Conflict theorists argue then that many societal problems stem from them as they reinforce ideologies of economic inequality, social inequality among others which has created a platform for strict social statuses. These problems reflect the conflicting nature of the family and its effects on the shaping of Society and its members as a whole.