Family Theories

This paper is a summative description of the theories looked at in class. The theories are the conflict theory, exchange theory, systems theory, and the symbolic interaction theory. To wrap it up, an example based on one of the theories will be provided to show understanding of the concepts in the theories. 

Conflict Theory

The Conflict Theory, an advancement of Karl Marx, claims that societies are shaped by conflict, inequality and change which is a culmination of competition over scarce resources. Different members and groups in the societies have divergent needs and ambitions. As such, the needs of each of the members cannot be fully catered for to their satisfaction leading to a struggle. The struggle is a way to meet individual’s own interests. 

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When projected to a family and gender set-ups, the conflict theory can be used to explain the struggles observed in such set-ups. People at high social classes have more resources at their disposal and they mount resistance to any attempts to outdo this order. The attempt to change the order and the resistance to such attempts is the conflict that this theory focuses on. Those with power and resources will suppress those without in attempts to retain their positions. 

Exchange Theory

Relationships can be viewed as transactions where the aspect of give and take comes to effect. In any form of relationships, the parties involved must have made some investment to sustain the relationship. The investment can be in the form of emotions, financial, or intellectual energy among other considerations. Such investments can be seen as the costs that a party pays. In return, the person paying the cost needs a reward to balance the equation. The exchange between the costs and rewards in a relationship should balance on both sides to sustain the relationship. Should the costs be more than the rewards, a party is likely to forego the relationship since the exchange is not beneficial. The theory is applicable in many facets of our lives, for instance, in romantic relationships, government to government, families, work, and in social places. Humans are structured in such a way that they will go for those alternatives that maximize the net benefit to them. 

Systems Theory 

Human beings do not operate in isolation. As such, individuals cannot be understood in isolation from each other, but rather, they can be understood in the confines of their families or even as part of social set ups. Families are emotional units and as systems, they provide an environment complete with rules and responsibilities. Individuals in the family system are expected, implicitly and explicitly, to operate within the boundaries and as such, respond appropriately to each other. This creates behaviors in the family which can be predicted. Predictable behaviors in the family set up creates a balance if such behaviors are positive and a dysfunction if the behaviors are negative. A new behavior is likely to create a new equilibrium in the family. For instance, if a husband starts drinking, a new equilibrium is sought so as to adjust the family to the shock. A disturbance in a system calls for adjustment to ensure that there is an equilibrium that retains the system in sustainability. 

Symbolic Interaction Theory

The Symbolic Interaction Theory is used to understand how families create meaning. Families have diverse functions which serve individuals and the society. These functions include, teaching, socialization, nurturing, emotional support and provision of solace, and resource sharing among others. The social interaction theory provides a lens for examining how socialization takes place, role performance, meaning and identity formation. The theory asserts that individual family members find meanings through their interaction with the social environment and also the physical one. The theory finds the meanings of aspects of social behavior such as images, roles, and interactions. The theory explains how individuals interpret exchanges (rewards and costs) in their daily lives. The more individuals agree about the interpretation of a phenomenon, the more they will understand each other and form cohesive bonds. 

Example: Systems Theory

Systems theory examines the interrelationships between individuals and their roles in the family system. Their interactions in the system determine behaviors which should be predictable for stability to be found. Shocks or new developments in the system must be reacted to and a new equilibrium sought. On this line, am considering a family with one 5-year old child and then expecting another child. When the expectant mother delivers the expected child, the family will certainly experience shock. Privileges will shift from the 5-year old to the newborn. The father will have to split his attention between three members of the family especially to the more jealous 5-year old. The mother will have to balance between the needs of the helpless newborn and his sibling who most likely will be throwing tantrums to get attention. The two parent will get reduced times for their interactions and might become strangers due to the new development. In due course, the family should find a new equilibrium and go on with life.

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