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Role of the Family in Society

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Role of the family Family systems, like biological organisms, evolve with time and circumstance. It seems readily evident from an examination of the nature and role of the family in the developing world that form may indeed follow function. Many sociological studies conducted in recent years have indicated that the nuclear family is found at both the primitive and modern stages of economic evolution. The nuclear family predominated in early societies with subsistence hunting and gathering economies where food supplies were uncertain, and still predominates in modern industrial societies where the marketplace requires the geographical mobility of small, nuclear systems. This pattern of family roles in society, established over long centuries, still applies in most of the developing nations of the Third World. Examinations of the sociological histories of various areas of Europe, Asia, and South America provide us with useful examples of the durability of the nuclear family. The nuclear family has always been important in the Third World societies of Eastern Europe, where households have been small and based on monogamous marriage, even where polygamy has been permitted. Ties to both parents? relatives have been and still are respected, even when descent has been traced through only one line. Bonds between parent and child have always been legally and emotionally important.


This development adversely affects rural families, who rely on such work, and they often experience greater poverty. "Foreign owners of Third World factories rely heavily on the cheap labor of women and children, often recruiting and hiring entire families, so employment is possible but there are obvious negative factors as well." (Rosen 109) As industrialization proceeds, the higher classes in developing world societies often lead a movement away from women?s employment, relying instead upon men?s control of capital or high wages to support families. In circumstances such as this fewer married women take industrial jobs, but wages rise for the men and single women who do. Growing industrialization and urbanization separates many families from their kin, but working-class families often rely upon relatives who have preceded them to the city, so the family unit remains very important. For entrepreneurial families, kinship ties are critical for raising capital, hiring reliable employees, and inheriting wealth, especially in the close-knit Hispanic families of Central and South America. The technological developments of recent years affect the family structure of Third World families in many ways, raising productivity and wages, and facilitating a pattern of male breadwinning and female homemaking. Working-class neighborhoods become more stable, and a matrifocal family pattern often emerges in which mothers and daughters retain lifelong bonds while men become somewhat marginalized.


But modern job opportunities and state support make it possible now for women in the Third World to live independently, although not without some lingering economic disadvantages. Disputes over property and visitation often make the post-divorce situation unpleasant for all concerned, especially the children. In addition, increases in step-parenting and isolation from kin often increase the risks of child abuse. Today in developing nations, instead of relying on the family unit, adult children and the elderly often prefer to rely on their own resources or those of the state. The expansion of state support is so expensive, however, that it generates public resistance, especially directed at single mothers. Although premarital pregnancy was also common in earlier times, it was more often followed by marriage or abandonment of the child to a foundling home. As fewer pregnant women marry, fathers have become marginalized. In conclusion, the larger family structure of earlier times has given way to even smaller and more fragmented families in developing societies of the Third World. This does not mean the end of the nuclear family, however, since people continue to form relationships, and children continue to be raised primarily by their own parents. The basic family unit has always been extremely important, and although many changes in the family?s role and importance have occurred as modernization spreads across the world, the traditional family structure appears to be very durable.

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