Sociology Theories' Impacts on the Social Institutions | Free Essay Example

Sociology Theories’ Impacts on the Social Institutions

Words: 1455
Topic: Sociology


Over the years, numerous sociological theories have been espoused. However, the four main evidence based sociological theories are functionalism, utilitarianism, conflict and interactionism. Sociological theories are important because they influence various social institutions. Besides, sociological theories help to explain structures of social institutions (Macionis, 2012). Among the four theories, interactionism is the most relevant in contemporary societies because it allows for dialogue. This paper will utilize one social institution (family) to examine how functionalism, conflict and interactionism theories affect society.

How each theory applies to the family?


Interactionism theorists consider a family as a social group for social reproduction. In this regard, a family is considered as a social group in which meanings are negotiated and maintained by members of the family through interaction. Interactionism analyzes patterns of communication within the family. The theory analyses how a family adjusts to society. Furthermore, interactionism helps families to build emotional bonds. Interactionism helps families to negotiate their relationships. Besides, Interactionism allows role taking, which is essential in appreciating family members’ efforts. Therefore, Interactionism influences families positively as it gives a chance to dialogue.


Functionalism theory has great underpinnings on ecological and biological concepts. Functionalism theorists link a family to a human body. The theory relates diagnosis of the body to analysis of the family setup. This theory focuses on functions of the family in society. Moreover, the theory focuses on functions of each member of the family. In addition, functionalism focuses on how a family maintains stability and order in society. Other theorists such as Murdock and Parsons have also explored the family as an institution through functionalism. Functionalism has also had a positive effect on study of the family as an institution.


Conflict theorists presuppose that those who are wealthy tend to find ways of increasing their wealth at the expense of the poor. Moreover, the theory supposes the wealthy elite usually win power struggles in society. Conflict theory refers to the wealthy as Bourgeoise and the commoners as proletariat. Conflict theorists believe that the latter have to revolt to obtain power from the former. For instance, competition for resources in a family can lead to prejudice, rape, child abuse and sometimes divorce. The theory suggests that struggle for powers between individual members of the family usually create conflict (Kerry & Jill, 2015).

Similarities and differences

Functionalism, conflict and interactionism theorists agree on the need for a structured society. In essence, they believe in the instrumental nature of a family. However, they differ on how families are structured. For instance, while interactionism emphasizes role taking, functionality emphasizes status quo. On the other hand, conflict theory emphasizes competition.

How each theory affects the views of an individual who is part of the family?


Interactionism influences individuals positively because it gives individuals the chance to express themselves. Interactionism promotes role taking which acts to appreciate each individual’s effort. Interactionism helps individuals to build emotional bonds (Barkan, 2015). This helps individuals to prolong their marriages and relationships through negotiations. Individuals in a family setup are encouraged to rejuvenate and reinforce ties and relationships through rituals.


Functionalism has a narrow view on individual members of the family. It views each member as an instrumental part of the family. Every individual has functions that he/she has to carry out for development of the family (Barkan, 2015). For instance, parents are tasked with responsibility of bearing as well as raising children in the family. Functionalism divides the family’s economic functions along gender lines. In this regard, division of labor is utilized. In essence, every individual in the family has a role to play which is aimed at ensuring stable and ordered family system.


Conflict theory considers family as a system in which individual members are in constant struggle for power. For instance, husbands and wives are thought to be in constant duel for authority. Moreover, other members of the family like children are always seeking attention and favors from their parents as they compete for resources within the family. An extended family creates more conflict since there is increased completion for power, fame and pride. Conflict theory sees members of the family system as individuals seeking power and authority that leads to jealousy, domestic violence and discrimination. In essence, conflict theory is biased on individuals with the powerful getting domination over the weak (Barkan, 2015).

How each theory affects approaches to social change within the family?


Interactionism emphasizes social understanding and meanings, which come through individual interactions. Since the theory encourages negotiated meanings within the family, it requires less social change. Instead, it supports role taking which promotes social change (Geradi, 2010). In most cases, approaches to social change are not affected by the theory since relationships in the family is ever evolving. Fruition of relationships is due to interactionism ‘s emphasis on negotiation.


Functionalism is limited in its ability to support approaches to social change. For instance, functionalism focuses on equilibrium and social order. Furthermore, the theory promotes status quo, which hinders social change. It is worth noting that a family cannot be equated to a human being since there are some needs in the family that do not have to be met as is the case in human beings. Therefore, the ontological idea that a family have needs like human beings hinders advocacy for social change. It should be noted that the current dynamic world where men and women work in virtually all sectors defies the precepts of functionalism. Functionality profiles members of the family by outlining their responsibilities, however, this act rejects advocacy as an approach to social change. Thus, functionalism opposes contemporary approaches to social change where both genders share roles.


Conflict theory affects advocacy for children in a family setup. Approaches to social change works to change social norms that are considered as hindrances to development. These include domestic violence, child labor and child abuse. Moreover, conflict theory opposes advocacy for women in the family. Conflict theory opposes the need to give women more role-playing functions in the family as advocated for by social activists (Ashley & Orenstein, 2005). Feminist theory has come up because of conflict theory in the family setup. Conflict theory also opposes advocacy for girl child education especially in African culture. Conflict theory curbs freedom for the oppressed in the family (Geradi, 2010).

How each theory affects the view of society within the family?


Intercationism advocates for a family that lives on shared social meanings. Moreover, it defines understanding within the family as derived from social interaction (Watson, 2008). Therefore, the family views society as a product of negotiated social meanings. In this regard, society is built on communication, interpretation and understanding. In essence, interactionism promotes a communicating and an understanding society (Ashley & Orenstein, 2005).


Functionalism bases its ontological concepts on social balance. Society views a family as the basic unit responsible for bearing and raising children. Moreover, society views a family as a stage of development for individuals before they join society. In this regard, society takes a family as an educational unit. In essence, functionalism influences family’s view on a balanced society where social imbalances are fixed. Therefore, individuals from a family setup take specific responsibilities to build society (Watson, 2008).

Conflict theory distorts society’s view of the family since it narrows its views on struggle for power in which the males dominate. Society views a family as the most important social group since all individual experience life within it (Macionis, 2012). Conflict theory counters progressive views of society a social group that is educational, economical and reproductive. Instead, the theory creates a society in which individuals and social groups compete. Therefore, conflict theory focuses mainly on economic aspect of society where males are providers while females are homemakers. In essence, conflict theory does not support the educative aspect of a family (Hammond, Cheney & Pearsey, 2015).


Sociological theories are essential since they define how families and societies are structured. For instance, interactionism highlights the need to negotiate relationships and social meanings within the family. Therefore, it gives family members a chance to evaluate their efforts and behaviors. Moreover, the theory allows for appreciation of each individual’s contribution within the family. Therefore, interactionism provides the basis for decision-making and role taking. In contrast, functionalism focuses on societal balance and order. Essentially, functionalism shapes family in an ordered and balanced manner.

However, functionalism ends up creating a rigid society that is unyielding to social change. On the other hand, conflict theory focuses on economic instead of wholesome aspect of the family. Besides, it majors on the faults instead of educative functions of families. Clearly, it can be observed that interactionism is the most relevant theory in contemporary societies.

Reference List

Ashley, D., & Orenstein, M. (2005). Sociological theory: Classical statements (6th ed.). Boston, Massachusetts, USA: Pearson Education. pp. 3–5, 38–40. Web.

Barkan, S. (2015). Sociology: Understanding and Changing the Social World. Web.

Geradi, S. (2010). Functionalism 2.0-Rethinking an America Tradition of Conservative Thought. Web.

Hammond, R., Cheney, P., & Pearsey, R. (2015). Introduction to Sociology: Chapter 03-Social Theories. Web.

Kerry, D., & Jill, S. (2015). Introduction to Sociology. (4th ed). W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. Web.

Macionis, J. (2012). Sociology. (14th ed.). Boston: Pearson. Web.

Watson, T. (2008). Sociology, Work, and Industry. London: Routledge. Web.