Family Ecology Term Paper

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Family Ecology

The family is considered the basic unit of the society. It is where a person acquires his/her basic characteristics and habits. They say that the personality of an individual is very much affected by the family background. Since ancient times, the family has been an important organization in the society. The family, among the oldest and most fundamental of human institutions, consists of a man and a woman, who are generally expected to produce children, care for them, and help train them in the ways of their culture. This simple family, known as the conjugal, elementary, or nuclear family, is present in virtually all known societies (Lexicon Universal Encyclopedia, 1994). The precise definition of "family" is difficult to attain. Once classical definition is that a family "is a social group characterized by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction; it includes adults of both sexes, at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship, and one or more children, owned or adopted, of the sexually cohabiting adults" (Murdock, 1949). However, this definition is restricted to some degree since it does not include the diverse ways families are constituted today such as single parenthood, cohabiting arrangements, domestic partnerships of homosexuals, families constituted by second marriages, also known as stepfamilies or blended families, and married couples without children either because of decision to delay or the option not to have any.

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Since family members need not be bound my legal marriage or by blood or adoption (Lamanna and Riedman, 1994), a new definition erupted. The family consists of "two or more persons who share resources, share responsibility for decisions, share values and goals and have a commitment to each other over time. The functions attributed to families are economic consumption, socialization of the young and affective dimensions" (Davidson and Moore, 1992). This definition can include a variety of family forms, with emphasis on sharing, commitment and affection without any mention of sexual relations.

Term Paper on Family Ecology Assignment

In sociological terms, the family is unique among social institutions. Institution is an established pattern of norms and values that organizes social life to fulfill social functions (Broom, 1990). The family is the first to provide life-giving support, to bind the individual to a social group, and to socialize the person for participation outside the primary group. It is the setting for growing up, marriage, child rearing and the individual's most intense attachments and conflicts.

Functions of the Family

The family stands at the center of the social life, linking the individual to school, church, the economy, and the nation. It conveys basic norms and values. Therefore, the family was coined as the major building block of the society. Because the family stands at the center of social life, innovations and social change that alter families arouse strong reactions. Many people fear that the family will be unable to adapt to change and that traditional values will break down in the face of the challenges for which the family is not prepared.

Though the family has its own internal structure, it still exists within a network of relationships with other subsystems and with society as a whole. Families are interdependent on their neighborhood, social environment and physical environment. The changes and developments of a family are influenced by the changes in the community it resides in and its environment. The changes occurring in the family and the changes occurring in the outside environment has major impacts to each other. Therefore, the interaction of the family to the surroundings is a very important factor in continuity of the family.

From the point-of-views of the society, the family is significant for its perpetuation and continuity. It contributes to societal maintenance through its reproduction function. In short, the family is responsible for the replacement of society's members. It is also the task of the family to train and prepare individuals for occupational pursuits to become functioning adults in the community. It keeps society's members physically and psychologically fit to participate actively in its affairs. It transmits society's culture through the socialization process, developing in the individual emotions, and inculcating in him values necessary for societal functioning.

While the family plays a vital part for the larger society, institutional activities of society and other subsystems in turn have implications for the family. The economic system determines the family's level of living and affects its income and spending patterns. The religious system, or the church have some bearing on the family members' philosophy of life, family planning methods, non-marital as well as marital sexuality, male and female roles, husband/wife and parent/child relations and so on. The legal system, or polity defines the rights and obligations of parents and children and affects marriage patterns, including the number of spouses, the age at when a person can marry, the acceptance and non-acceptance of common law and same sex marriages, what relationships are considered incestuous, etc. The political system affects both the structure and functions of the family through its laws, for instance, on legitimacy, custody of the children, divorce and separation. The educational system, or the school, plays an important part in the child's socialization and training as well as the family member's level of knowledge and skills for triumphant involvement in the community.

There is an interchange between the family and these subsystems; economy, polity, community and value system. The family acts as a unit, or the individual acts as a representative of his family, contributes goods or behavior responses to the external system and in turn receives from it. The family contributes labor to the economy in exchange for wages; and family assets for goods. The family supplies loyalty and compliance for leadership and decisions made by the polity. The family participates in community activities in exchange for support and identity provided by the community. The family conforms to the norms and standards of morality specified by the value system in exchange for approval. Since the family is intricately attached to society, any change in society will have repercussions on the functioning of the family.


One of the most important functions of the family in all known societies is the reproductive function. There is no other socially approved and recognized social unit to perform this task but the family. It is the family which is legitimately authorized to produce children. Society is especially interested in this function due to its desire to replenish itself, preserve its existence, and insure its continuity.

In some places, children are viewed as some kind of investment or insurance policy with the anticipation of economic support in old age. Parents also see their children as their source of happiness, security and comfort. Reproduction, however, does not occur at random but is governed by social and economic conditions. Urban areas generally have lower fertility rates than the rural population. One of the reasons for the rural-urban differentials in fertility is that the economic burden or the cost of raising children in the rural areas in not so exorbitant because life is simple, the standard of living is low, and food is cheaper and may be raised instead of bought in the open market. Social values also affect fertility rates. Fertility also varies according to the socio-economic status of the family. In developing countries, it was noted that the largest proportion of families with six or more members was found among the poor, and the smallest proportion was found among the rich. In terms of mean family size, the figures also vary across socio-economic status groups.

Education is also a very important factor which influences family size. Family planning in particular has a strong impact on fertility rates. When there is misinformation or lack of information regarding the use of contraceptives and proper family planning, fertility rates are most likely to dramatically increase. In developing countries, induced abortion is also a very common resort because of economic hardship. Unwanted pregnancies occur in teenagers and they are not financially and mentally stable, they cannot suffice the needs of their child. So, abortion is a very familiar option.

Biological Maintenance

Another main function of the family is to provide food, clothing, and other basic needs for its members. The function of Biological safeguarding is critical to society because it necessitates the continued existence of its members. Furthermore, the family should also keep its members biologically fit to participate and engage in societal activities.

How the family performs in its maintenance function depends primarily on its income. The rich has the luxuries and has beyond what is needed to suffice their sustenance, the poor could hardly survive. The community wherein the family resides has a big role in this function. If the family is residing in a crowded and highly urbanized area, and the family members are less educated and capable to compete with the professionals, they would become poorer. but, if proper education is attained and there is less competition, it is easier to get a good job and supply the needs of the family members.

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How to Cite "Family Ecology" Term Paper in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Family Ecology.  (2007, March 14).  Retrieved September 28, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Family Ecology."  14 March 2007.  Web.  28 September 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Family Ecology."  March 14, 2007.  Accessed September 28, 2020.