Essay on ‘Family’ for class 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12. Find paragraphs, long and short essays on ‘Family’ especially written for school and college students.
Essay on Family
Essay # 1. Definition of Family:
It is a well-known fact that family is found everywhere and it is concomitant with group life. Society and State derive from a circle of intermarrying families banded together to satisfy their basic needs. Sociologically and historically, the family may be viewed as a group consisting of two or more parents and their children.
Such a view suggests itself because there have been great variations in the number of parties entering into the marriage union. Although the family is universal, no particular form of it is primary or inevitable. Like all other institutions, it is a social product subject to change and modification.
In response to varying conditions, different forms of the family have appeared from time to time. But in the present day world Patriarchal family organised under the system of monogamy is most prevalent institution. In such a kill-group that it is both an association and institution and very essential to the life of society.
Essay # 2. Function of Family:
It is an open secret that family plays an important role in the life of society. There is no other human group that dominates the life of the individuals, more than family. It is in the light of this hard fact that, Maciver says, “Of all the organizations, large or small, which society unfolds, none transcends the family in the intensity of its sociological significance. It influences the whole life of society in innumerable ways, and its changes, reverberate through the whole social structure. It is capable of endless variation and yet reveals a remarkable continuity und persistence through change.”
The family occupies a vital place in the working of social order and it is so because it performs certain characteristically significant functions. Davis has characterized the main social functions of the family in four divisions. These are reproduction, maintenance, placement and socialization of the young. It also performs individual functions but these are the corollary of its social functions.
However, Davis has said, “From a sociological point of view we are mainly concerned with the social functions and consequently we stress the four functions mentioned here as being the core functions with which the family is always and everywhere concerned. There may be great variation from one society to another in the precise manner and degree of fulfilment of the functions, but the four mentioned above seem to be the ones which universally require a family organization.”
Lundberg has also mentioned a number of basic functions of the family. In them he has included the regulation of sexual behaviour and reproduction, care and training of children, co-operation and division of labour and primary group satisfactions. Besides, there are many auxiliary functions as well.
Maciver divides the functions of the family into two categories. They are the essential and non-essential functions of the family. Under the essential he includes three functions- (i) Stable satisfaction of sex need, (ii) Production and rearing of children, and (iii) Provision of a home. Under the nonessential functions he mentions religious, educational, economic, health and recreation, which he says have now been transferred to specialized agencies in society.
In short, the various functions of the family can be mentioned in the following way:
1. Essential Functions of Family:
The essential functions of the family are those functions, which it has to perform exclusively. They can neither be shared with any other group nor can they be delegated to any other association. They are the functions, which in every age and in any form the family must perform and there can be no deviation from them.
Some of them are:
(i) Satisfaction of sex need
(ii) Provision of a home
(iii) Production and rearing of children.
They are in a way the primary functions of the family, for the doing of which some sort of family group has ever to remain in existence.
This fact is aptly testified by Reuben Hill in these words, “Family life is probably more than a social habit. The family may be viewed as a device for solving certain fundamental problem, which must be faced by any group of people who live and work together in a society. As a problem-solving device it has simplified the social life of many of its members. Through it sex partners are sorted out and their sex drives are harnessed and linked with the love sentiments to weld together conjugal units into which children can be born, cared for and reared to adulthood. Within it all the basic elemental needs are met and kept from becoming individual problems, which if left unsolved might demand collective action. It simplifies life to live in a family and that is true for adults as well as for children. Certain basic needs of affection, intimate response, recognition, personality, expression, growth and security are met through the family which are not met satisfactorily elsewhere.”
In view of these facts the important essential functions of the family can be explained in some detail in the following manner:
(i) Satisfaction of Sex Need:
This is the first essential function, which the family performs. Satisfaction of sex instinct brings the desire for life-long partnership among male and female. The satisfaction of sex instinct makes for normal personality. If sex instinct is suppressed, it may produce personality maladjustments and disrupt social relations.
The modern family can satisfy this instinct in greater degree and in a better way than the traditional family. In the old family the sexual act was combined with reproduction and the fear of pregnancy as a result of intercourse prevented the couple to satisfy their sex urge. But in modern family the task of sexual satisfaction has been eased by the invention of contraceptives and other methods of birth-control.
It has now become a primary function of the modern family. According to Reed, “The fundamental function of the family is to regulate and gratify sexual needs. Manu accepts sexual satisfaction besides production as the aim of family. Vatsyayan also regards sexual satisfaction as the primary objective of the family.
(ii) Provision of Home:
The desire for a home is a powerful incentive for men as well as women after marriage. Man after the hard toil of the day returns home where in the midst of his wife and children he sheds off his fatigue.
Though, in modern times there are hotels and clubs which also provide recreation to the man but the joy that a man feels within the congenial circle of women, parents and children stands far above the momentary pleasure, which is provided by club and hotel. In spite of these re-creative agencies the home is still the heaven and sanctuary where its members find comfort and affection.
(iii) Production and Rearing of Children:
The inevitable result of sexual satisfaction is procreation. The task on race perpetuation has always been an important function of the family. It is an institution par excellence for the production and rearing of children. The function of child-rearing is better performed today than in the past because now more skill and knowledge are devoted to the care of the unborn and new-born children.
The infant death rate has shown a market declare. In the achievement of this result specialized agencies like nursing child welfare centres have come to the aid of the family. A close study of the available statistical data reveals that the number of illegitimate children is falling down, the practice of prostitution is vanishing away and the number of marriages is increasing rapidly.
It is a pointer to the fact that the function of procreation of race is only performed through family. In most human societies of the world the child is believed to be the nucleus of the family. Procreation perpetuates the family. It increases the population of the country.
(iv) Protection and Care of the Young:
It is another essential function of the family and it may be said to be a corollary of its sexual and procreative functions. According to Groves the protection and care of children is one necessary function of the family. The human child is the most helpless and weak being. A family is needed in order to maintain its existence and to ensure its coordinated and balanced development.
Its balanced development is achieved with difficulty and that too with the care of the parents and other family members. It is right that in the modern age this function of the family is losing much of its past significance and it is being handed over to the subsidiary agencies. But all the same it still continues to be one of the essential functions of the family and the Indian families are particularly known for this function.
(v) Provision of Psychological Satisfaction and Security:
Another fundamental and universal function of the family is to meet the psychological needs of its members. Ogburn has included affectional functions in the necessary or vital functions of the family. According to Groves it is the functions of the family to provide opportunities for the establishment of intimate relations.
Burgess and Lock have written, “Mutual affection is becoming the essential basis of marriage and family:” The individual receives affection, sympathy, love and psychological security in the family. The relations between man and woman in the family are not exclusively physical. Profound conjugal affection for each other is generated in husband and wife by working together in the family and by sharing each other’s joys and sorrows.
An all-around development of individual is not possible in the absence of family love. The family has an important part to play especially in the development of the child’s personality. Ralph Linton has written that merely the satisfaction of bodily needs is not sufficient for the proper development of the infant.
2. Non-Essential Functions of the Family:
The non-essential functions of the family are those functions which it performed in the traditional society but which it is giving up one by one in the modern times. These functions are being either delegated to the subsidiary agencies or they can be shared with other groups.
They are no longer the exclusive function of the family but still in some societies the family is associated with them in some form or the other. The Indian society is one such example where the family despite so many modifications and being placed under limits has been laying its claims on the so-called non-essential functions along with the essential functions.
Some of the nonessential functions of the family can be enumerated in the following order:
i. An Economic Unit:
A very important non-essential function of the family is that it serves as an economic unit. In the traditional family most of the goods for consumption were made at home. The members of the family were all engaged in the family occupation. The ancient Hindu joint family served as a sort of mutual insurance society. It was a unit of production and the centre of economic activities.
However, in the present time the importance of family as an economic unit has been lessened because most of its economic activities have been taken over by some outside agencies. The members of the modern family do not work together as they did in the old family.
They are engaged in different activities outside the come. Moreover the family has not even remained the unit of production as most the goods for consumption including even the food are purchased ready-made from the market.
But with all these shifts in the family as an economic unit, it has not been reduced to a passive body. This is to say that the old pattern has not been destroyed, it has been merely changed. In the family one or the other profession is still carried on though of a different sort and in a different atmosphere. In the West the family might have lost much of its role as an economic unit but in India it still to a certain extent continues to perform this traditional function.
ii. Centre of Religious Activities:
Another non-essential function, which the family performs is of a religious character. It is a centre for the religious training of the children who learn from their parents various religious virtues. In the old family, different religious practices like idol worship, yagya, religious discourses and sermons by pandits were carried on which made the outlook of the children religious in India. The modern family, however, does not observe religious practices and has become secular in outlook.
iii. Centre of Education:
One more function performed in the family is the education of children. The family is an important education agency. The child learns the first letters under the guidance of parents though today he learns them in a nursery-school. The traditional family was the centre of vocational education because the children from the early childhood were associated with the family task.
The modern family has delegated the task of vocational education to technical institutes and colleges. But despite all this the role of the family as a center of education has not vanished completely and in a somewhat modified form it still continues to perform some of the educational functions.
For instance, it is even now in and through family that the people learn their social habits and moral virtues. It is in no way an in significant function for which the Indian families are conspicuously known and popular.
iv. Guardian of Culture:
The family keeps the culture of society, alive. It moulds its members according to the social culture. The children are educated in the various aspects of culture from their infancy. The family creates such an environment for them that they learn to live and behave in acccordance with their culture.
The elderly members of the family impart training in matters of conduct, thinking religion and ethics etc. to the children. The family is aptly described as the maker and guardian of Culture.
v. Centre of Recreation:
The old family provided recreation to its members. They used to sing and dance together and visit the family relations. In modern times family relationship is individual rather than collective. The present forms of recreation such as bridge tennis carrom and movies, provide for only individual or couple participation.
Moreover, recreation is now had in club or hotel rather than in home. In this way> there has also occurred a shift in the recreational functions of-the family. However, it needs be said that in countries like India having close ties of ancient culture the family is still acting as a centre of recreation at least in the rural areas.
It is clear from the foregoing facts that there has come about a great change in the functions of the family whereas about a hundred years back the family was more of a community, it has become today more of an association. The very importance of the family has been loosened. It is no longer a home for recreation of its members, a school of education for children or a centre for their religious training.
Many family duties, which were performed formerly by the parents have now been transferred to external agencies. The functions of a modern family are very much limited both in their number and extent. Even the task of procreation has suffered a setback. Of course the task of satisfaction of sex need is better performed, by modern family.
In short, the family has lost some of its former functions. It is to be, however, remembered that though there is a loss of functions the family is not going to perish. There are certain functions for this performance of which no human society can do without family. Thus it may be said in the end that despite its structural and functional changes, the family still plays a significant role in social strength and social solidarity.
Essay # 3. Family as a Social System:
It is customary to regard family as a social system. In fact there are many kinds of social systems and these are composed of variety of elements. So far as family is concerned, it fulfils many of the conditions, which go to make it a social system. It is for this reason that family is characterised as being a perfect social system and this notion fully holds good at least in the case of joint family.
Defining social system Talcott Parsons writes, “The social system is composed of the patterned interaction of members. It consists of interaction of a plurality of individual actors, whose relations to each other are mutually oriented through the definition and mediation of a pattern of structured and shared symbols and expectations.”
Similarly C.P. Loomis is also of the opinion, “Sociologists frame of reference is inter action, characterised by patterned social relation that display in their uniformities social elements articulated by social processes, the dynamics of which account for the emergence, maintenance and change of social system.”
When these observations are applied on family, it becomes clear that the family is contained in a number of elements, which are found in every social system. These are some of those elements of which most family groups consist and on the basis of which family is entitled to be called a social system.
Every family consists of a number of persons and all of them have a certain status. This status of the members of a family is normally determined on the basis of age and sex. But sometimes learning and occupation also have some effect in this matter. The status of parents is always higher than that of the children.
Similarly in a family sons enjoy better status than daughters. Status helps in making gradation in the position of the different members of their family and their social relations are determined in accordance with their position.
Since father’s status in the family is the highest of all, he is authorised to perform all the family responsibilities. The eldest son being next in importance to his father automatically obtains the same position after his father’s death.
All the members of the family perform a certain role and it is by this means that the working of the family is made possible. The roles that the different persons perform are determined and conditioned by the status that they hold in the family. In fact every status has a correspondent role attached to it.
Role is the outward manifestation of the status and, thus both of them go together. Every member of the family while performing his role keeps in view his status in the family and does the things accordingly.
The role maintains the balance of status system and thereby keeps intact the structure of the family. Since, there are a variety of status differing from person to person, so there are a number of roles varying from person to person according to his status.
For Instance, the role of parents in the family is quite different from that of the children but it needs be said that the functioning of the family can go well only if all of its members perform their respective roles properly.
In a social system every unit is gifted with a certain kind of privileges. These privileges also go with the roles that they perform and the status that they hold in a social structure. It is through the enjoyment of privileges that a unit is enabled to do its responsibilities nicely under all circumstance. It is this element that gives stability and continuity to a social system. The same thing can be said in the case of family as well. The members of the family are always in the enjoyment of certain privileges according to their status. It is by the exercise of these privileges enjoyed by the members that structure and functioning of the family remain intact.
4. Necessities and Aims:
Every social system consists of the needs, aims and ends of the people. They are related to the level of cultural and economic progress of the society. Sometimes they are also concerned with the social development of the people. Men have some basic needs and the fulfilment of them is the chief aim of a social system. For realization of these aims a social system has to set before it its certain ideals and ends.
In this way needs and alms play a vital role in the efficient working of any social system. Family as a social system is concerned with fulfilling some-physical and social needs of the people. There are some basic needs like sex impulse, procreation of race and the provision of home, which cannot be met elsewhere except in the family.
These needs aim at ensuring good life to the people. It is right that in the modern times many of the functions of the family have been taken over by some other associations, but all the same there are some primary functions which must be performed in the family in all civilized societies.
The sanctions determined by the social values and Ideals play in important part in the field of human conduct. The social sanctions make a distinction between what is right and what is wrong in the activities and behaviour of the individuals. Society permits its members to do certain things and forbids them to do others and thereby lays down a standard for the general conduct of its members.
The members are allowed to do only those things, which are beneficial for the life and stability of the social order. In this way sanctions also help a lot in the strengthening of a social system. They maintain discipline and orderly conditions in it. This element is found in abundance in the working of the family as well. There are some set rules and codes of behaviour which are binding on the members and which they cannot ignore easily.
Thus the family as a social system depends largely for its life and sound working on a set of rules, which operate in the form of social sanctions. The more active and forceful are these social sanctions, the more solid and the longer lasting will be the structure of the family. This is why in the past families were more integrated and well-disciplined because there was more force behind the social sanctions.
In every social system there exists a supreme power which acts as a controlling figure in it. It, on the one hand, resolves the conflicts of different units and on the other, keeps intact the unity of that social system. The family as a social system vests its supreme power in the father or husband who supervises and controls the activities of other members.
There can be no challenge or disobedience to the command of the head of the family. Only such families last long in which there is unity of command and a well-knit controlling power.
7. Ideal Principles:
The family, as a social system, derives its life out of the inter-relations and inter-actions of its members. Every member of the family has a special function to do and a particular role to play for its well-being. There is great need of making. It certain that all the members of the family do their part well. For this purpose there exists some ideal principles. These principles maintain solidarity and balance in the family. These principles are in the form on unwritten maxim and are based on common consent. They are so vital to the social life that they cannot be set aside easily and in their absence a good family life cannot be made possible.
Sentiments occupy an important place in a social system. The sentiments especially influence collective life. It is under their influence that an individual gives preference to collective interest over his own individual gain. They develop general working patterns of different groups, which afford stability and uniformity to a social system.
Family as a social system gives expression to a number of sentiments. The chief among these are a sentiment of love, the sentiment of co-operation, sentiment of sympathy and the sentiment of respect. These sentiments form the be all and end all of family life.
Thus it is clear from the above facts that family is truly a social system because it contains most of the basic elements of a social system. It is right that in the modern times family is undergoing great changes. As a result of this fact it is feared that family may not lose in course of time, its character of being a social system.
But such doubts appear to be unfounded because there are so many elements of social system, which cannot vanish from family. Thus in the end it can be said that family is definitely a social system with this much exception that it has been more apparent in a joint family.
Essay # 4. Changes in the Modern Family:
It is a well-known fact that change is the Law of Nature. There is no human organisation on social institution which has remained uniform and static at all times and under all circumstances. It has to move and change with the changing conditions, or it is apt to become obsolete and go out of existence. This rule is fully applicable on the age-old institution of family as well. The family as it is now is much different from what it was a few generations ago.
Several changes have taken place in its nature and structure with the result that it has undergone an overall transformation. Whereas about a century back the family was more of a community, it has become today more of an association.
According to Ogburn and Nimcoff, “The family has changed a good deal in the past and has assumed many different forms and functions. The family has proved to be a very resilient and flexible institution. Despite radical changes in form and function, the family has continued to exist in every society known to us.”
It points to the fact that in the recent times many changes have occurred in the family and some of them may briefly be mentioned here.
Referring to some of the changes occurred in the modern family and the forces bringing about them Davis writes, “Modern civilization characterized by an elaborate industrial technology, a high degree of urbanization, and a great amount of geographical and social ability, has sheered away the extended kingship bonds. The role effective kinship group is now the immediate family and even this unit has lost in size and function. True, the immediate family has gamed in importance by being freed from the control of extended kindred, but it has declined in importance in other ways.”
It is clear from this statement that in the modern time a large number of changes have occurred in the organization and working have the family and several factors has been operating to bring about these changes.
Some of the more important changes in family life need be mentioned here in order to reveal its present position:
(i) To begin with, the joint family system is declining and in its place single-family system is coming into prominence. Unlike the large family of traditional society the modern families are small in size. They consist of the husband, wife and their minor children. This is of course the first and the fundamental change that has occurred in the structure of family.
(ii) In the modern time there has occurred a change in the mutual relation of parents and children. The control of parents over their children has lessened a great deal and now the family discipline is not as tight as it was in the ancient families. The children have become less obedient to their parents and they are very particular about their freedoms and rights.
(iii) There has taken place a change in the mutual relation of husband and wife in the family. Unlike old times women have become independent and self-reliant in many ways. Now that the women have gamed equal fights with men, their mutual relationship has undergone much change. Mowrer has correctly written of modern woman that ‘she is no longer the drudge and slave of other days.’
(iv) The modern family is no longer a permanent association. It is precarious and can be rendered void at any time. Marriage has been reduced to a mere social contract, which it is not difficult to break in the event of even the slightest friction. According to Maciver, “The Modern family in comparison with the ancient and medieval families is very weak and unstable.”
(v) There has come about a good deal of change in the extent of family functions. Many of the functions which family performed previously are no longer under its care. They have been transferred to several external agencies. The family has ceased to be an economic as well as social unit. When compared with the family of medieval times, the functions of the modern family are few. All but gone are its economic educational, religious and protective functions. They have been transferred to the State, the church, the school, and industry.
(vi) The modern family is under less religious control. It has been replaced by legal control. With the decline of the Influence of religion the family morals have also become comparatively loose. The modern family has become secular in outlook and it has given up many of its religious activities.
(vii) The rigidity traditionally associated with marital and sexual relationships no longer characterizes the modern family. The use of contraceptive and means of birth control has rendered the size of the family very small. There is not much affinity among the blood relations of the family. In this way the relations in the family have become more formal and mechanical in Nature.
(viii) The family seems to be coming on the verge of disorganization. The number of divorces is on the increase. The control, which the family exercises over the individual is being lessened rapidly. Thus the family has undergone a good deal of transformation in the present century.
Factors Responsible for Changes in the Family:
It is clear from the foregoing facts that a large number of changes have occurred in the structure of family. This process has not completed yet and is liable to continue till indefinitely even in the unknown future. There is not one but many factors which are working at the root of all these changes.
Referring to some of these factors Jay Rumney and Joseph Maier write, “The modern family which is still essentially patriarchal in character has been shorn of much of its power. The State is tending to become a super-parent, having arrogated to itself much of the patriarch’s authority. Profound economic changes since the Industrial Revolution have deprived the family of its economic functions as a unit of production. It is now mainly a unit of consumption. The new economy, requiring the use of womanpower opened up new occupations to women, they became economically in dependent of their husbands. The political and economic emancipation of woman as well as periods of prolonged unemployment undermined the authority of the father, especially if his earnings were surpassed by those of his wife and children. A new morality emerged in conflict with the traditional moral standards. Large families became rare. Urbanization led to a wide dissemination of contraceptive knowledge. The small independent if it, consisting of parents and one or two offspring became the rule.”
Thus, lit short, some of the causes and factors of family changes may be explained in the following order:
1. Impact of Industrialization:
The first important factor bringing about changes in the structure of family has been the force of industrialization. The Industrial Revolution substituted the power machine for the manual tool. As new techniques of production advanced they shelved the old family of its economic functions. New factories with heavy machines have been set up which have taken both the work and the workers out of the family.
Now cloth is produced not on the family handloom but in the textile mill. Thousands of workers who are drawn out of home are required to work in the factory. Not only males but females also have begun to go to the factory for work. The work of women has become specialized like that of men. They instead of being busy with the multifarious tasks of the family have started going to workshops and factories for work.
As a result of it women have become as good the earning members of the family as men. This earning power of the women has made them free from dependence on men. In this way industrialization has greatly affected the character of modern family. As Maciver says, ” The family has changed from a production to consumption unit.”
2. Decline of Religious Control:
The modern family has become secular in its outlook because of the decline of the force of religions. Marriage has become a civil contract rather than a religious sacrament. It can be broken at any time. The authority of religion over the conditions of marriage and divorce has suffered a great decline.
Divorce is a frequent occurrence in modern family while in traditional family it was a rare phenomenon. Religion has been a great uniting and solidifying factor in the, family. And with the loss of its force the family is bound to undergo disintegration.
3. Effect of Urbanism:
An inevitable result of industrialization has been the, growth of urbanism. Urbanism has materially affected not merely the size of the home but also the essentials of the family life. It has substituted legal controls for informal controls and has brought the family into competition with specialized agencies. The result is that many of the family functions have been taken over by the external agencies.
For example, the educational, health and recreational functions of the family are now performed by schools, hospitals and recreational centres respectively. Under the joint force of industrialization and urbanization the family has ceased to be a social as well as economic unit. The joint family system is vanishing and in its place the single-family system is becoming the order of the day. It has even affected the mutual relations of the different members of the family.
To quote Davis,” It has forced individuals to co-operate with countless person who are not kinsmen. It has also encouraged them to join special interest groups thus drawing them out of the unspecialized and heterogeneous family with its wide sex and age differences.” In this way urbanism and industrialization have caused considerable modifications in the structure of family.
4. Effect of Changing Mores:
The mores concerning family life are constantly changing and this factor has. Also greatly affected the organization of family. Now the mutual relations of different members of the family have undergone remarkable change and it is all the result of changing mores. According to Maciver and Page “The basis of husband wife relationship in the family is no longer domination but cooperation”.
Previously everywhere, the wife was dominated by the husband and so the family stability survived because of the unity of command. But with the removal of this dominance the family organization has been exposed to powerful perils. Thus as a result of all these factors the family organization is not stable and it is undergoing quick modifications. But notwithstanding all these facts the family still continues to be a strategic social Institution.
5. Social Mobility:
The critics are of the opinion that social mobility has cut still deeper into the family organization. In so far as individuals improve their class status by virtue of their own achievement rather than by birth, an intrinsic function of the family is lost to it.
In this connection Davis writes, “In a completely open society where all vertical positions were filled purely by individual accomplishment, there could scarcely be a family organization; each family member would tend to find himself in a different. Social stratum, from the others, and the invidious sentiments thus brought into the family circle would prove incompatible with family sentiment.”
The organizations of the family can remain intact only if its members feel dependent on it for their personal advance in life. If this requirement is fulfilled by some external factors, it adversely affects the family organization. This is exactly what is happening in the present society, people do not feel themselves so much. Attached to family because so many external factors are on their disposal to help them in their individual development.
Essay # 5. Sociology Significance of the Family:
The family is by far the most important primary group in society. Historically it has been transformed from a more or less self-contained unity into a definite and limited organization of minimum size, consisting primarily of the original contracting parties: On the other hand it continues to serve as a total community for the lives born within it, gradually relinquishing this character as they grow toward adulthood. The family more profoundly than any other organization, exists only as a process.
Referring to the sociological of the family Maciver and Page opine, “Of all the organizations, large or small, which society unfolds, none transcends the family in the intensity of its sociological significance. It influences the whole life of society in innumerable ways, and its changes reverberate through the whole social structure. It is capable of endless variation and yet reveals a remarkable continuity and persistence through change”.
Thus, in short, family is the first and foremost organ of society and this fact can be proved by the following arguments:
1. Universal in Character:
The family is the most nearly universal of all social forms. It is found in all societies, at all stages of social development, and exists far below the human level, among a myriad species of animals. Almost every human being is or has been a member of some family. There is no other social group that can equal family in this matter.
2. Formative Influence:
Family is also significant because it exerts the profoundest formative influence on the life of the individuals. It is the earliest social environment of man’s life and plays a vital role in moulding it. No other organization can compete with family in this respect. According to Maciver, “In particular it moulds the character of the individual by the impression both of organic and of mental habits”.
Its influence in infancy determines the personality structure of the individual. It is largely from his parents that the child receives his physical inheritance and mental training, on the basis of which he leads the whole of his life. It is well-said by a critic, “To be well-born is to possess the greatest of all gifts. To be ill-born there is nothing which this world can afford that will be adequate compensation for the lack of good heredity.” Thus family has come to surpass all other social organizations in the matter of formative influence on human personality.
3. Nuclear Position in the Social Structure:
Family is the nucleus of all the social organizations. Frequently in the simpler societies, as well as in the more advanced types of patriarchal society the whole social structure is built of family units. Only in the higher complex civilizations does the family cease to fulfill this function, but even in them the local community, as well as its divisions of social classes tends to remain unions of families. One of the first definitions ever given of a community made it “a union of families” and for the local community the definition, with some qualification, still holds today.
4. Performance of Basic Functions:
The significance of the family as a social institution may be measured by the number of basic functions it performs. Compared with the family of medieval times, the functions of the modern family are few. All but gone are its economic, educational, religious and protective functions. They have been transferred to the State, the church, the school and industry. Notwithstanding the loss of functions, the family remains a strategic social institution. It is our parents that first cure us of our natural wildness, and break in us the spirit of independency we are all born with.
It is to them that we owe the first rudiments of our submission and to the honour and deference which children pay to parents all societies are obliged for the principle of human obedience, writes Mandeville.
In addition to performing this all-important function of socializing the individual, the family regulates sexual relationships, provides for the affectional needs of its members, makes possible the prolonged care, which children require and transmits the values of the culture.
It remains a powerful agent of social and political control and economic differentiation. Children generally stay in the social class to which their parents belonged. They inherit both the property and the cultural advantages, which its possession offers.
5. Proper Organization of Society Dependent upon Family:
Proper social organization largely depends upon sound organization of families. If in a particular society families disintegrate, that society can never be safe and sooner or later it is found to meet its doom. This is why at all times one major cause of social disorganization has been family disorganization.
Families develop the characters of the members of the society. In the opinion of ADLER, a man’s role in the family determines his role in society. There is no exaggeration in calling family a cornerstone of society.
6. An Important Agency of Social Control:
Family is an important agency of social control. Family controls sex passions in society. A strict control over sex relationships is necessary for maintaining the order otherwise society will disintegrate. In all cultures, family exercises some degree of control over the unmarried members from falling into bad habits.
No parents would like their children to adopt the career of crime. The children under the influence of their parents drop bad habits and learn good habits. In the making of great men families have always played a major role. In this way the making of a good citizen in society depends upon the parents.
7. Family is the Conveyer of Culture:
The family not only moulds character and personality of the individuals, but it also imparts its culture to them. It is while living in the family that the child acquires knowledge about the culture of society. It is an efficient vehicle for the transmission of culture from one generation to another. It is a very good socializing agency that makes the people social and cultured beings.
According to Deway and Tufts, “The family is a social agency for the education and protection of the race.” It is through family that the individuals come to know the customs, traditions, social values and cultural background of their community. Family provides them knowledge and understanding of the past or d thereby prepares them to live well in the future. Thus in all these ways family plays a vital role in the field of preservation and transmission of social culture.
8. Family is Vital to the Process of Socialization:
Another point of significance of family is that it plays a vital role in the process of socialization of the individuals. Merrill is of the opinion that family is an enduring association of parent and offspring whose primary functions are the socialization of the child and the satisfaction of the members.
It is in the family that child learns all good and human qualities like sincerity, sympathy, self-submission, consciousness of responsibility and so forth. It is the character developed in the family, which helps the child in becoming an important and responsible member of society.
F. J. Wright was quite correct in saying that in every family, the child gets an opportunity for free expression of thoughts and developing his entire personality. It has been conclusively proved that the proper development of the child is impossible without a good environment in the family. The tendencies and habits, which he acquires in the family remain with him for the whole of his life.
It is in view of this fact that Freud says, “The view-point of a child towards the senior in the family determines his attitude and viewpoint towards the elders in society.” Thus it is obvious that ‘family is the cradle of social virtues and no other social group contributes more than family in the process of socializing the individuals. Confucius remarked quite correctly that if you want to improve society, improve its families. Society will improve automatically when the families improve.”
It is clear from the above account that family is the most important social institution. No other human organization can overshadow it in the matter of sociological significance. This fact is true not only from the structural view-point, but also from the functional stand-point.
There are some functions of the family, which no other group can undertake successfully. There are some clear uses of the family, which no one can derive from any other group. Without family the process of socialization would remain incomplete, the task of preserving and transmitting culture to posterity would be half done and there would be no organization to safeguard their social and cultural values. Its significance also lies in the fact of its being the oldest and universal human organization.
It is even the parent of society whose structure is raised on the foundations of family. If family were to vanish, it would expose the whole human race to the horrors of complete decay. The present changes in the family need not be taken to mean the signal of its possible downfall in the future; it is rather a process of its adjustment to the current needs and the changing times. Family in the past has remained an indispensable social system and it is sure to continue as such in the future as well.
Thus on account of its strategic position the family more than any other group exerts persistent, intimate and far reaching influence on the habits, attitudes and social experiences of the people. It plays the foremost role in the formation of personality. It occupies a key place in social organization.