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institutions, and structure.

There is no easy way to understand change. There are many causes of change. Sociologists try to study change by isolating tendencies, general directions, and trends. Trends is a VERY important aspect for study within sociology.  

Chapter 13: The Family in Society

The Importance of the Family to Sociology

Auguste Comte, the first sociologist, was truly dedicated to the idea that society was an entity in and of itself. Society is not simply a bunch of individuals. In fact, he went on, individuals have never existed without society, and the basic unit of society has never been the individual at all. The basic unit of society is the group we call the FAMILY because it is the family that forms the individual and makes society possible.

It is the family that makes us social beings ready to take on our positions, a culture, and social institutions. It is unimaginable, therefore, to even consider the possibility for human society or the human individual without considering the role of the family.

The study of family is truly a study of social change. The rate of change  in our family life accelerated throughout the twentieth century. Modern society has brought individualism and choice in our lives, and this has affected what our families have become. Many of our problems as individuals and as society can be traced to the changes in the family, and many of the benefits we enjoy can also be traced to these family changes. Our attitudes toward unmarried couples living together, premarital sex, women’s and men’s roles, having children, and socializing children have undergone considerable change. In both family structure and sexuality, we regard more and more varied behavior as normal and agree less and less about what constitutes deviant behavior.

Sociological Definition of Family

The family is a primary group that lives in a single household whose universal function is to have the primary responsibility for the socialization of children. It also has important economic and social functions, and it is important for placing children into the class system. Increasingly, it has taken on important expressive functions, where all the members are expected to find a place of intimacy, love, and personal happiness.

Do not read “single household” as indicating ONLY “single-parent” households.

The family:

A primary group in a household

The socialization function

Economic and social functions

The social class placement function

The expressive function

Copyright © 2005 Mount Vernon Nazarene University Adult and Graduate Studies

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