Sociologists have analyzed the family unit in many ways. They have examined the origin, structure, functions of families, and the roles of people as family members.
Prior to the nineteen hundreds sociologists studied primitive societies to determine the development of the family and its origin. After World War I, W.F. Ogburn, Joseph Folsen, Harvey Locke, and Ernest Burgess opposed the “evolutionary approach”. They thought that the study of anthropology had nothing to do with understanding the contemporary family. They initiated the analysis of social organization. Around the same time, psychologists reorientated their thinking to interpersonal relations and social roles.
A third influence on the theory of the family was the so called Chicago School of Urban Sociology. This was founded by Ernest Burgess. Chicago was chosen as the model because people moved there from the country to find employment. It appeared to these sociologists that the city “was the natural habitat of civilized man”. (Lasch 1977: pg. 34) This study concluded that urbanization was partially responsible for the breakdown of our traditional culture, and that the new family type should be studied as a group of distinct, interacting personalities. Interaction is the process through which one family member’s actions are directly affected by the actions of the other family members.
I think Ogburn stated it best when he said, “as the institutional functions of the family declined, personality functions took on greater importance”. (Lasch 1977: pg 35)
Enjoying one’s children means accepting them as persons in their own right. Parents should supply unconditional love for their children, and look upon them as people with the right to express their real feelings. They must value the personality of each of their children and recognize that children need to pull away from parents as they become autonomous individuals. But many parents cannot provide this type of environment. Parents may not have the skills, desire, or energy to deal with modern problems. They are subject to much stress, anxiety, and insecurity. After a hard day’s work, parents are tired, irritable, and want to relax. They seem to have accepted the negative family interactions which occur too often in many families today. This is a tragedy because children follow the words and actions of their parents. Parents have knowledge and wisdom which comes with experience, but they do not share it with their children.
Students are confused and frustrated in their attempts to cope with family stresses and difficulties. They have not learned the process of selecting the best and rejecting the worst elements for decision making. Frustration is the inability to fulfill a need. The need here is to interact in a positive and productive way with their parents and other family members. Frustration is both unnecessary and unproductive. Frustrations suffered by many teenagers produce unhappiness that directly affects academic performance.
Sociologists agree that members of the modern American family experience extreme stress and frustration from such “common” social problems as the increasing divorce rate, changing sex roles, lack of communication, and conflict of needs.
My unit will explore these social problems, their causes, and the effects they have on family members. This will help the student understand and realize that their parents love them, but are experiencing many stresses and strains. This understanding may bridge the “generation gap” and create a positive interaction with other family members.