Origins: Various theories have been used to explain changes in the nature of the Family, as an institution. Each school of thought has its own assumptions and focus, from Marxist approaches to a functional view of "natural" change as a response to changing social and economic demands. Family Change theorists are a blending of social historians, political scientists, and sociologists, with a few psychologist types included. What follows is an overview of all these approaches to family change from a larger, cultural, more global perspective.
Family as a Functional Unit of a Changing Society
In some views, the only remaining social function of the family is the last one - Emotional Function, or Love. In these same views, Love is strong enough an attraction to marriage in the beginning of relationships, but is too fleeting to serve as a strong enough attraction to stay married. Without other supporting social functions, marriages won't last - and this is exactly what has happened. The Family as Refuge Christopher Lasch, in his book The Culture of Narcissism, describes the family of early modern capitalism, when the world was a hostile place for the average American. He calls it A Haven in a Heartless World. The family was designed to receive the bone tired factory worker or miner into its nurturant bosom, to heal him for the next day's travail. This image benefited capitalism in three ways:
2. It kept women saddled with family responsibilities, and at the ready to serve in the reserve labor force when needed. This, coupled with heavy immigration which severed extended family ties, served to place men and women at an economic disadvantage.
3. It aided in controlling the masses of workers needed for industrialization. Strong values concerning the family and the threat of a constantly maintained surplus labor pool kept males actively revolting against an unfair economy.
2. To 1950 Family as a Refuge - As industrialization moved more
families to urban centers, labor was transformed from farm to factory work.
It was both dangerous and laborious--and defined adult males as its primary
work force. Home was literally a refuge, as Lasch described it.
This arrangement disallowed married women from work outside the home, thus
creating a natural division of labor based on gender. Observers such
as Parsons and Bales saw only the expressive female and instrumental
male tradition, failing to understand the forces behind the arrangement.
Read Hamper's Rivethead.
3. 1950 to present Family as Encounter Group - Dangerous work
is replaced by monotonous work as the economy began to move away from a
physical labor intensive model and toward the paper shuffling, sales and
services approach. Because the new work model replaced physical skill
with social and political acumen, personality factors (i.e., amiability,
working as a team player, having a company image, having a corporate mind),
expressing true feelings does not serve a worker's financial interests.
Emotions are allowed expression in the family only. Excitement
for life not found in work could be vented, created, explored within the
family. Family life provides warm fuzzies for the businessman.
Watch a production of Miller's Death of a Salesman.
2. The family as a refuge is a sentimental family image. Increased interfamily member interaction, increased privacy, clear institutional boundaries, and a strong division of labor based on gender are all present. It is the family of the 1950s that serves as our image of the traditional American family. Skolnick sees more family solidarity, loyalty, and more frustrations with one's life as feelings and emotions become restricted in the next stage.
3. As the family becomes an encounter group, family members are beset with feelings of anomie (i.e., feelings that satisfaction never comes). With the loss of most of the original seven functions of the family, the only remaining function is to meet family member emotional needs. This function is squarely placed in the role of wife and mother.
For fifty years, the University of Chicago was an important center for discussion of American society and social problems. By and large, the faculty was comprised of bright farm boys who showed enough academic promise to come to the big city to study. They were part of the phenomenon they studied--massive urbanization. The theories of Ogburn, Burgess, Wirth, and others remain important to the discussion of family change.
Big Bang Theories of the Chicago School
Ogburn's Cultural Lag Theory
Essentially, Ogburn argued that family change arises out of the family's inability to adapt to changes in the material culture (i.e., technological change, changes in social structure, and the concommitant changes in personal relations). Lag refers to the time between the introduction of an innovation and its complete integration into the larger society. Because of this lag, there results a continuously high level of social maladjustment. The superstructure of society, what Ogburn calls adaptive culture, but what we would call family, education, religion, government, economy) must try to adapt to changes in the material culture. Its inability to keep up allows for high levels of social stress. He pointed out the rapid, one-generation changes in family life patterns that have become standard for families since 1900. In very real relationship terms, think of life without a television set, a telephone, or electricity. The impact of these artifacts on family life is empirically measurable.
This point is illustrated in a wonderful movie, Avalon, which is the story of a typical immigrant family that settled in Baltimore. The evening meal took a long time to complete because everyone had the opportunity to join in stories and conversation. Then a television set was introduced into the family's life.Now, as the family starts to eat, and conversations begin, someone shouts, "It's starting!" and each person stops talking, gathers up their plate, drink, napkins, and eating utensils to come sit in front of the t.v. and watch Milton Berle.
Some of the results of increases in high technological social change for the family:
Louie Wirth's Social Disorganization Theory (see Urbanism
as a Way of Life, 1938).
Wirth maintained that rapid movement from the farm into urban centers resulted in anomie, anonymity, and loneliness, and a host of difficulties that he called urban pathologies. It's the idea of the sick society that was popular in the 1960s (i.e., sex, drugs, rock and roll, urban decay).
Modernity Theories - Emerging from structural functional theory,
the family is seen as a social system (an organic analogy) consisting of
complementary functions, rather than specific functions attributable to
specific persons. One role or organization of functions differentiates
into two or more roles or organizations, which work more effectively in
new historical circumstances. New social units are structurally distinct
from each other, but together provide that same function. As a society
becomes modern, there emerges specialists, like the difference between
the country doctor and an ear, nose and throat man. The modern family
requires parental guidance rather than a mom or dad. Mothers usually
took care of child care, therefore the issue never arose until mothers
went to work in great numbers. Suddenly, child care is an important
issue that must have attention--and quality child care at that.
ORIGINS: The first official realization of the concept of family violence in the social sciences came in 1962 with Kempe's published research entitled The Battered Child Syndrome. By 1970, some sociologists began to extrapolate from studies of deviance theory. The first national survey on family violence was conducted by a University of New Hampshire research group in 1978, headed by Murray Straus. This was a telephone survey, from which most of the information was used to theorize about family violence for the next four years.
FOCUS: From three perspectives:
Social Science attacked the concept of family violence using existing theories (the Big Five).
Family Therapy began developing treatment strategies.
Feminist oriented academicians and practitioners set up models of independent living for women choosing to be free of violence in their relationships.
Theories attempting to explain violence in the family are many,
despite a paucity of confirming empirical research (15 separate models
from psychology, sociology, and social psychology are reported in Gelles,
1979). However, in the interest of our class and the Big Five we
have already studied, we can look at three theoretical levels of social
organization that work together to explain family violence. Social
factors that push and pull us toward aggression and violence.
Perpetuation of Violence in the Culture
Research indicates that children who have witnessed conjugal violence are likely to engage in family violence later on in their lives. This "cycle of violence" approach does not allow for the large numbers of violence prone folk who have not witnessed such early lessons in aggressive behavior. However, taking two fundamental concepts from Symbolic Interaction theory - we can address the perpetuation of violence in the family and elsewhere in our society. Cooley's Looking Glass Self - whereby individuals come to evaluate themselves and alter their behavior in terms of the reactions of others. If we are met with violent evaluations of ourselves, we will come to expect to give and receive violence ourselves.
Mead's development of the Generalized Other is useful in explaining the production of violent relationships. Mead holds that by imitating at first and later perceiving others' evaluations through the eyes of the other, expected behavior is learned by steadily increasing the number of other roles through play until a generalized set of expectations is internalized. Countless thousands of repetitions of the I-me dialectic insure the internalization of dominant cultural attitudes. The expectation, and even the enjoyment, of violent behaviors and violent symbols is the result of the dominant values(the real values of our culture) being violent in nature. You are what you take in. This is the stuff from which Normative Violence is made. Therefore one of the consequences of sex role socialization is the social manufacture of stereotypical sets of expectations concerning the behavior of boys and girls / men and women.
The social production of female types or personalities who are dependent on male types for material and emotional welfare is perfectly consistent with status quo social relations where the male is working almost exclusively toward the performance of his provider role. It is only when the economy, which greatly benefits from this arrangement, fails to give males ample opportunity to perform this role, that increases in the normal levels of family violence occur. In such "hard times" it is likely that frustrated persons will vent their anger at those who most immediately remind them of their failures (e.g., women and children for underemployed males, and children for single parent mothers).
The real source of stress and frustration (e.g., inadequate or misplaced government policy, a faltering economy, poor educational opportunities) remains free of violence. The ill effects of internalizing the norms of a violent culture extend beyond the production of physically violent citizens:
Feminists generally agree that the root cause of family violence is not the economy in the Marxist sense of it. They argue that patriarchy and not capitalism is the problem. Almost all that we see, hear, and expect from society occurs in a patriarchal context, which generally serves to oppress women as a group.
Think about the recent requests of politically conservative candidates for a return to "traditional family values". These folk would like for us to believe that it was change in male/female relationships over the past 20 years that have "caused" the current crisis in male/female relationships, and family problems. In other words, the first cause of the man/woman crisis has more to do with women working outside the home than anything else. I might add that women did not choose to work. They were forced out into the labor market by a changing economy. Even though Feminist scholars have revealed the "traditional American family" as a cultural myth - the traditional family form serves as an Ideal without substance for four reasons:
Without accompanying opportunity to improve the substance of family life, the symbolism of healthy families is pointless and empty. By living under conditions whereby the feeble security of the family could be totally destroyed by any one of several sources of economic distress, family members become alienated from each other in a culture already primed for violent reactions. Instead of facilitating caring and concern, it appears that we encourage intrafamilial conflict.
Putting all of this into perspective, there exists a culture predisposed
to the advocacy of the use of "pragmatic" violence, which serves as an
interpretive "umbrella" for members of society. The norms of this culture
are transmitted through socialization practices largely within the family.
This tendency to use violence "as necessary" is embodied in an ideology
kept salient by the relationship between economic classes. The economy
finds the "threat of violence" beneficial to the social system's goals.
Women in this system have been uniformly subordinate to their husbands,
creating a class of potential victims. Producing change in
the levels of family violence involves radical change in several aspects
of the culture. The goal is to reduce the amount of social stress
produced by economic flux and to devalue violence as an appropriate response
to stress in other aspects of social life.