Just Sociology

The Changing and Declining Functions of the Family: An Evolutionary Journey

The family unit has been a subject of research in sociology for many years. In this article, we will discuss the functions of the family in both pre-industrial and industrial societies, and how these have changed over time.

In pre-industrial societies, the family served as the primary unit of production, caring for dependents, and the primary socialization and control of children, among other functions. As societies became industrialized, the family’s functions shifted towards primary socialization and stabilizing adult personalities.

However, changing cultural dynamics, social policies, and technological developments have led to a shift in the traditional functions of the family. Therefore, this article will examine the changing and declining functions of the family in contemporary society.

Functions of the Family in Pre-Industrial and Industrial Society

Functions of the Family in Pre-Industrial Society

In pre-industrial societies, families had multiple functions, making it the primary unit of production. For example, the family raised crops and animals, gathered firewood, and collected water, among other things.

Children learned from their parents how to farm, hunt, and cook, among other things. Because families lived in extended households, it was easier to care for dependents within these units.

For example, grandparents were bound to contribute to the family’s maintenance, which allowed the parents to focus on farming and raising their children. Children were socialized to conform to the society’s norms, values, and traditions, a process called primary socialization.

This included learning how to behave and develop the necessary skills to contribute to society. The family was also responsible for the education of children in pre-industrial society.

Children were taught by their parents, who instilled in them the necessary knowledge and skills for their occupation. However, there were limited opportunities for formal education, and only a few children could attend school.

Moreover, children were socialized to take over the occupation of their parents. The family unit was also responsible for stabilizing adult personalities in pre-industrial society.

For instance, marriage was a necessary social institution that allowed families to expand their farm production and social alliances. Parents taught their children the skills needed to maintain a healthy relationship and emphasized the importance of care and respect between couples.

The family unit provided companionship, affection, and support to its members, including the elderly and the sick.

Functions of the Family in Industrial Society

In industrial societies, the family’s functions have shifted towards primary socialization and stabilizing adult personalities. There is a greater emphasis on the family’s role in raising children and instilling in them the necessary skills to succeed in a modern workforce.

Children also learn to conform to the standards of society while balancing their parents’ expectations and their peers’ influences. The family’s role in stabilizing adult personalities has also changed in industrial society.

Marriage is no longer the primary institution for establishing a working household, and partners have more individualistic aspirations. However, couples still seek companionship, affection, and support from each other.

Since the Industrial Revolution, there has been a shift towards nuclear families, making it more challenging for grandparents to contribute to the family’s maintenance.

Changing and Declining Functions of the Family

The Family as a Unit of Production

During the Industrial Revolution, the family’s role shifted from unit of production to consumers of goods and services. Factories replaced home-based workshops, leading to a division of labor between men and women.

Women took on household tasks while men left to work in factories. This shift allowed women to become homemakers and childbearers, which developed the cultural expectation that women should stay at home and care for the children.

Caring for the Young, Old, Sick, and Poor

Social welfare programs and the National Health Service (NHS) have taken over the responsibility of providing care to the young, old, sick, and poor. The government has recognized that families cannot provide adequate care for their sick, elderly, or disabled members.

The elderly population has also increased, making it harder for families to care for them.

Education of Children

Formal education has become a primary responsibility of the state. The Education Act of 1870 made it compulsory for children between 5 and 10 to attend school.

This has led to a significant shift in the way parents view their role in education, as they no longer have the primary responsibility for their children’s education. The changing availability of jobs has also led to a shift in the value placed on education.

Primary Socialization and Control of Children

Since the 1940s, there has been increasing government involvement in the parenting process. This includes the introduction of the Sure Start program, providing support for parents in bringing up their children.

The government has also created policies on juvenile delinquency and the use of media and other technologies in family settings.

Stabilization of Adult Personalities

The family’s role in stabilizing adult personalities has evolved, as the divorce rate has risen. Couples are no longer expected to marry for the purpose of establishing a working household.

As a result, people have redefined their expectations of relationships and the role of the family in their lives.

Conclusion

This article has discussed the functions of the family in pre-industrial and industrial society and how they have changed over time. The traditional functions of the family have reduced with the introduction of social policies, technological developments, and changing cultural dynamics.

The shift towards individualistic aspirations has led to a decrease in families’ roles as a unit of production, and the government has taken on many of the family’s traditional responsibilities. However, the family’s role in raising children and providing companionship, affection, and support to its members remains significant.

In conclusion, this article has explored the functions of the family in pre-industrial and industrial societies and the changing and declining functions of the family in contemporary society. The family has shifted from being a unit of production to being a primary institution for socialization and stabilizing adult personalities.

Social policies, technological developments, and changing cultural dynamics have led to a change in the traditional functions of the family. Although the family’s roles have declined, their importance as a source of companionship, affection, and support remains significant in contemporary society.

FAQs:

1. What were the primary functions of the family in pre-industrial society?

The family served as the primary unit of production, cared for dependents, provided primary socialization and control of children, educated children, and stabilized adult personalities. 2.

How have technological developments changed the family’s functions in contemporary society? Technological developments have shifted families away from being a unit of production and made their role in care and education of children and stabilizing adult personalities less important.

3. What is the role of the state in caring for the young, old, sick, and poor?

Social welfare programs and the National Health Service (NHS) have taken over the responsibility of providing care for the young, old, sick, and poor. 4.

What is the impact of the Education Act of 1870? The Education Act of 1870 made it compulsory for children between the ages of 5 and 10 to attend school, significantly shifting parents’ views on their role in education.

5. How has the family’s role in stabilizing adult personalities changed over time?

The divorce rate has risen, and people no longer marry for the purpose of bringing up a working household, leading to a redefinition of expectations of relationships and the role of the family in their lives.

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