Perhaps their dating relationship was unusual, or perhaps their upbringing as . Some feminist theories and social conflict theories of family life rely on a critical The meaning of social system, goal, family, and energy would have to be. The Symbolic Interaction theory refers to ways in which a family or with the goal to maximize benefits and minimize costs (Newman, , p). Basically the theory refers to a give and take relationship where there needs. family: A group of people related by blood, marriage, law or custom. Nuclear Family: Structural functionalism also took on the argument that the basic building block of society is the . Describe the goals of first and second-wave feminism.
Although Mead taught in a philosophy department, he is best known by sociologists as the teacher who trained a generation of the best minds in their field. Strangely, he never set forth his wide-ranging ideas in a book or systematic treatise. After his death inhis students pulled together class notes and conversations with their mentor and published Mind, Self and Society in his name.
Mind refers to an individual's ability to use symbols to create meanings for the world around the individual — individuals use language and thought to accomplish this goal.
Self refers to an individual's ability to reflect on the way that the individual is perceived by others. Finally, society, according to Mead, is where all of these interactions are taking place. A general description of Mead's compositions portray how outside social structuresclassesand power and abuse affect the advancement of self, personality for gatherings verifiably denied of the ability to characterize themselves.
Given that Blumer was the first to use symbolic interaction as a term, he is known as the founder of symbolic interaction. According to behaviorismDarwinismpragmatismas well as Max Weberaction theory contributed significantly to the formation of social interactionism as a theoretical perspective in communication studies.
People thus do not respond to this reality directly, but rather to the social understanding of reality ; i. This means that humans exist not in the physical space composed of realities, but in the "world" composed only of "objects".
Three assumptions frame symbolic interactionism: Self-concept is a motivation for behavior. A unique relationship exists between the individual and society. Having defined some of the underlying assumptions of symbolic interactionism, it is necessary to address the premises that each assumption supports. According to Blumer, there are three premises that can be derived from the assumptions above.
Essentially, individuals behave towards objects and others based on the personal meanings that the individual has already given these items. Blumer was trying to put emphasis on the meaning behind individual behaviors, specifically speaking, psychological and sociological explanations for those actions and behaviors. Blumer, following Mead, claimed people interact with each other by interpreting or defining each other's actions instead of merely reacting to each other's actions.
Their "response" is not made directly to the actions of one another but instead is based on the meaning which they attach to such actions.
Thus, human interaction is mediated by the use of symbols and significationby interpretationor by ascertaining the meaning of one another's actions. Symbolic interactionists describe thinking as an inner conversation. These meanings are handled in, and modified through, an interpretive process  used by the person in dealing with the things he encounters. We naturally talk to ourselves in order to sort out the meaning of a difficult situation.
But first, we need language. Before we can think, we must be able to interact symbolically. Role-taking is a key mechanism that permits people to see another person's perspective to understand what an action might mean to another person. Role-taking is a part of our lives at an early age, for instance, playing house and pretending to be someone else.
There is an improvisational quality to roles; however, actors often take on a script that they follow. Because of the uncertainty of roles in social contexts, the burden of role-making is on the person in the situation. In this sense, we are proactive participants in our environment. Participant observation allows researchers to access symbols and meanings, as in Howard S.
Because of this close contact, interactions cannot remain completely liberated of value commitments.
In most cases, they make use of their values in choosing what to study; however, they seek to be objective in how they conduct the research.
Therefore, the symbolic-interaction approach is a micro-level orientation focusing on human interaction in specific situations. Five central ideas[ edit ] There are five central ideas to symbolic interactionism according to Joel M.
It is the constant search for social interaction that leads us to do what we do. Instead of focusing on the individual and his or her personality, or on how the society or social situation causes human behavior, symbolic interactionism focuses on the activities that take place between actors.
Interaction is the basic unit of study. Individuals are created through interaction; society too is created through social interaction. What we do depends on interaction with others earlier in our lifetimes, and it depends on our interaction right now.
Social interaction is central to what we do. If we want to understand cause, focus on social interaction. The human being must be understood as a thinking being. Human action is not only interaction among individuals but also interaction within the individual. It is not our ideas or attitudes or values that are as important as the constant active ongoing process of thinking. We are not simply conditioned, we are not simply beings who are influenced by those around us, we are not simply products of society.
We are, to our very core, thinking animals, always conversing with ourselves as we interact with others. If we want to understand cause, focus on human thinking. Humans do not sense their environment directly, instead, humans define the situation they are in. An environment may actually exist, but it is our definition of it that is important.
Symbolic interactionism - Wikipedia
Definition does not simply randomly happen; instead, it results from ongoing social interaction and thinking. The cause of human action is the result of what is occurring in our present situation.
Cause unfolds in the present social interaction, present thinking, and present definition. It is not society's encounters with us in our past, that causes action nor is it our own past experience that does.
It is, instead, social interaction, thinking, definition of the situation that takes place in the present. Our past enters into our actions primarily because we think about it and apply it to the definition of the present situation. Human beings are described as active beings in relation to their environment.
Words such as conditioning, responding, controlled, imprisoned, and formed are not used to describe the human being in symbolic interaction. In contrast to other social-scientific perspectives humans are not thought of as being passive in relation to their surroundings, but actively involved in what they do. Keeping Blumer's earlier work in mind David A. Snowprofessor of sociology at the University of California, Irvinesuggests four broader and even more basic orienting principles: Snow uses these four principles as the thematic bases for identifying and discussing contributions to the study of social movements.
Consider the discovery that physical abuse of children by parents is fairly common in the United States. A scholar may develop a good theory about why some parents abuse their children and others do not. Perhaps one causal factor in the theory is the extent to which parents feel they have the right to punish children as they see fit. Those parents who feel that severe physical punishment is acceptable then use this form of punishment. A good theory should allow the theorist to determine what needs to be done to reduce the likelihood of child abuse.
In this example, what is needed is a change in the belief by some parents that their behavior is acceptable. The problem is that parents may not feel that their punishing behaviors are unacceptable.
The only way to avoid controversy surrounding the use of family theories to change families is to identify a goal that everyone accepts. Even if there is no controversy over goals and values, it may be difficult to implement the desired change.
If the theory implies that families must be changed, a program of action must be developed to reach families and change them. Sufficient confidence in the theory must exist so that a change in the causal factors has a good chance of producing the desired effect.
This often requires careful research, because undesirable consequences of well-intentioned changes may occur. Finally, the required change in the cause may be difficult in principle to produce. If, for example, a theory argued that the basic fabric of society must be changed in order to reduce child abusefiguring out how to change the fabric of society would be a tall order.
If a theory explains well what has happened in the past, it should provide a good prediction about the future. Another purpose of family theory is to enable accurate estimates of what families will be like in the future. Therefore, once a theory has been formulated, further research must be conducted to see if the theory remains useful.
The connection between past and future, however, depends on a fairly stable environment. Some family theories do not survive events that take place after they have been formulated. This usually means that the original theory must be revised to reflect changes in families and in their environments more accurately. If a theory cannot be revised, it tends to be discarded.
Difficulty predicting family life may not be a serious deficit. The future is difficult to predict in many areas of science. Nevertheless, it is important to notice when a family theory was developed, and to find out what has happened subsequently. If an older theory about the family is encountered that no longer seems popular, newer literature can be examined to see if this loss of popularity is due to faulty prediction or a failure to revise the theory.
Family theories usually are not static entities. They tend to change as families and their environments change, and as new theorists with new insights join the field. Meaning of Family Another important difference among family theories is in the way their central topic, the family, is defined and used. While all theories have a descriptive purpose, not all family theorists view families identically. In fact, they view families according to four different meanings of the term family.
One way to look at families is based on structural features. Families contain varying numbers of persons who are related in particular ways, including such persons as mothers, fathers, and children. This view may be extended to include grandparents, in-laws, step-relations, and perhaps even former relatives. Structural definitions of family focus on the composition of its membership. They may indicate that family members are related by blood, marriage, or some other legal bond such as adoption.
Sharing a household may be another structural feature. With a structural definition, the theorist is able to determine which kinds of social groups do not qualify as families and which individuals are in a particular family. Structural definitions of family also attend to the types of relationships that create social bonds between members. Important bonds are created by communication, power, and affection, as well as the daily work and leisure performed by family members.
Scientists can observe how patterns of social interaction among the members are structured, and they can specify the various rules or principles that families use to organize their activities. Families may be structured by such characteristics as gender, age, and generation, as well as their connections to the outside world. These structures also are useful for distinguishing families from other kinds of social groups and organizations.
Theories about the family usually focus on some limited structural form. For example, they may apply only to married couples or to mothers and daughters. Sometimes theories compare different family structures.
A theory might deal with how parent-child relations differ when two-parent families are compared to mother-led families. A second way to look at families is based on functional elements. Why do families exist in the first place? Every human society has families, so they must serve some generally recognized purpose or function. Most functional definitions of the family focus on the importance of human reproduction and the necessity of nurturing dependent children for a relatively long period of time.
Functional family theories often address the structural variety of families, with assertions about how effective each structure is in accomplishing the requisite functions that families everywhere have.
From this perspective, if a certain structure does not fulfill some family function, families with that structure may be considered to be dysfunctional families. A third meaning of family is based on interactional features, that is, it emphasizes repeatable processes of social interaction within families.
Such interaction may be patterned or structured, but the focus is on the ongoing activity within the family, often conducted jointly by the members or otherwise coordinated. Family theories that rely on an interactional definition include concepts and variables describing what each participant is doing, how the members influence each other, and the quality of their relationships.
From this perspective, a group need not have any particular structure to be counted as a family. Any social group that acts like a family would qualify as being a family. Social exchange theories often adopt an interactional view of family relationships Sabatelli and Shehan The fourth meaning of family is based on symbolic elements. Focus is on the meanings, perceptions, and interpretations that people have about family experiences.
Only by watching how persons communicate or use dialogue to construct, challenge, and alter meanings do social scientists come to understand what a family is. Often this expression is verbal. The symbols people use to create and recreate family go beyond spoken words, however.
Other important symbols are nonverbal intonations, bodily gestures, practices of dress and grooming, written statements, and visual images such as photographs and the spatial arrangement and condition of possessions in the home. Family theories based on the symbolic perspective emphasize various languages used to communicate, as well as the many artifacts with symbolic meaning created by families. These four meanings of family are not always used separately. Two combinations are especially common.
A combined structural and functional perspective informs structure-functional theory Kingsbury and Scanzoni A combined interactional and symbolic perspective informs symbolic interaction theory LaRossa and Reitzes Each of the four meanings of family can be used alone, however.
For example, it is possible to have a structural theory about some aspect of family life, perhaps offering structural causes of some limited family activity, without implying anything about the functionality of what is explained. For instance, the size of families or the size of communities in which they live might influence the amount of companionship among family members.
It is also possible to use patterns of interaction as a cause or as the outcome in a family theory, without incorporating any ideas about the symbolic significance of the interaction to the family's members. For example, how often family members argue may influence how household chores are performed.
Level or Scope of Family Theories Theories about the family differ in terms of their breadth of vision, level of analysis, and scope. Microscopic theories tend to focus on the internal workings of families, viewed as small groups of people in fairly intense relationships. Mesoscopic theories focus on the transactions between families and people in the near environment who represent other groups and organizations.
At this level, family theories are concerned with such things as friendships between members of different families, and the linkages between families and schools, churches, places of employment, the mass media, retail firms, and other public or private facilities and organizations.
Macroscopic theories concentrate on how the family as a social institution is embedded in society at large or in the nonhuman environment. They may, for instance, address how contemporary ways of family living emerged from significant changes in the economy, in national politics, or in technological developments. Structural and functional theories tend toward the macroscopic end of the spectrum, while symbolic and interactional theories tend toward the microscopic end.
Scope is a relative matter.
For theorists of the human family, the social unit called family is roughly at the center of the spectrum, so that moving outward makes a particular theory more macro and moving inward makes it more micro. Some family theorists focus on a fairly narrow range of the spectrum and formulate all of their ideas at one level or another.
Other family theorists deliberately bridge levels, creating a transcopic theory. These multilevel theories often argue that phenomena at one level are the causes of phenomena at another level.
Among such theories, the most common is a top-down approach. Societies affect families, and families in turn affect the individual persons in them. Increasingly popular are bottom-up theories that simply reverse the direction of causation, and reciprocating transcopic theories that emphasize mutual causation between levels in either alternating or simultaneous patterns.
Family theories based on ecological principles currently are popular among those that are transcopic Bubolz and Sontag The scope of a theory helps scientists see the amount of causal agency attributed to families, as opposed to other factors outside or inside the family.
Some theorists argue that families are primary causal agents. What they do has important consequences, and what makes them act may be important but is not addressed in the theory.
Other theorists take exactly the opposite approach. Phenomena at the family level are to be explained by forces external or internal to them. If a theory remains entirely at the family level, it will explain something about family life in terms of causes elsewhere at the family level. A causal theory must have at least some cause or some effect at the family level to really be a theory about families. Some theories are called family theories even if they deal with only parts of a family, such as a theory about divorce or about the relationship between grandparents and grandchildren.
Time Perspectives All theories about the family deal with the flow of chronological time, and sometimes with the social and psychological organization of time. Four principal time perspectives are common: In some theories, time is suspended or relegated to the margins. The idea is to craft a theory that is timeless. This static picture may be useful, especially if it is a general description.
Given the previously noted problems associated with change, however, static family theories are themselves not very durable. Often, the image of time is episodic. A process is being described and perhaps explained, and it is temporary.
The entire process may last a few moments, a few days, or several months. If scientists trace what is happening over the course of events contained in the theory, everything can be observed with moderate effort when the theory is tested. Another image of time is biographical. This perspective usually considers the entire span or course of life. Family phenomena begin at birth, develop through time, change along the way, and end when life ends.
The idea of a "life" comes from the study of individual organisms, and it must be adjusted to speak meaningfully about the lifetime of a social group containing several organisms. One adjustment is to consider the "birth" of the group to occur when the group itself forms, with the "death" of the group corresponding to the dissolution of the group. Some of the members will be alive before the group forms, after it dissolves, or both. New members may be added after the family forms, and some may be lost before the family ends.
Families may endure even with great turnover in membership, as for example a lineage that survives over many generations. Individual persons may have experiences as members of several different families over the course of their own lives. Becoming a widow, getting divorced, remarrying, and giving birth to or adopting a child are among the events marking the course of both an individual's life and the life of the group. Because it is usually impractical for one scholar to study large numbers of families from their formation to their dissolution, many theories that deal with biographical time concentrate on a shorter time segment.
Some describe and explain what is happening during a particular stage of family life, such as when children are adolescents or after all of the children have become adults and left their parental homes.
Another common alternative is to focus on a particular transition period. For instance, some theories focus on the process by which couples get married, or why some get married and others do not, tracing events from first meeting to the early years after marriage or until a breakup before marriage.FAML 400 Presentation: Symbolic Interactionism Theory & Family Communication
Other time-limited biographical theories concern the transition to parenthood, the transition to the "empty nest," and so on. Family development is the most common name for the theories that treat families in biographical time Rodgers and White The other image of time is epochal. Fairly broad sweeps of history may be examined and categorized into periods.
Families in ancient Greece, families in the American colonies, families during the early industrial era, and families during the Great Depression represent some of the historical categories that may give focus to a family theory. Other theories take a more sweeping historical perspective. Theorists may wish, for example, to explain how human families evolved from primate families, or how the contemporary family emerged from forces at work over several centuries. While many family theories using an epochal image of time are descriptive, evolutionary or biosocial theories of family life usually are explanatory as well Troost and Filsinger Forms of Expressing Theory One useful way to differentiate theories about the family concerns the way they are expressed by their authors.
Some theories are written in narrative form. They use prose expressed in commonly understood language. Other family theories are somewhat more formalized and are called propositional. A theorist identifies a set of well-bounded, declarative statements that serve as the theory's core propositions. Many of the concepts in these statements have technical meanings, and definitions are included.
Often, the propositions assert how two or more variables are related, how strong the connections are and when they happen, and whether or not causal influence is implied. Theories that use shorthand, technical expressions are even more formalized. They contain mathematical symbols, diagrams with arrows, flow charts, or figures with classifications into types. All forms of expression have virtues and limitations.
More formalized theories are precise, and they are easy to distinguish from other theories with similar content. If a theory is imprecise or fuzzy, it is difficult for the scientific community to agree on what is meant, and extremely difficult to demonstrate that some of the arguments may be incorrect. Formalized theories require specialized training to be fully interpreted, however. Because technical expressions are arbitrary and may require intricate rules, some family theorists avoid them.
Some avoid highly formalized theories because they can dehumanize the subject matter and place more emphasis on the structure of an argument than on its content. A truly good theory may be one that either combines forms of expression or can be translated from one form to another without changing its meaning.
Methods of Creating Theories Theories about families usually develop over time as theorists incorporate prior knowledge and new experience. At first, there may be only fragments, enough of an argument to share the basic shape of a theory with an audience.
If a particular theory has been discussed for a period of time and a consensus has been established, the theory may be named and only brief mention made of its details, on the assumption that colleagues understand what is involved. Working to produce a family theory, however, usually takes place in one of two ways. Deductive theory is produced by starting with fairly abstract ideas and without particular regard for the way families can be observed to operate in the "real" world.
Some of the ideas may be borrowed from other areas of study, and some may represent the integration or modification of existing ideas about family.
Portions may be entirely new, but more often the theorist is just reshaping or recombining ideas that have appeared in other scholarly works.
Theorists may work deductively even when they are not creating deductive explanations. Once the new theory is given a clear structure, the theorist or a colleague who is attracted to the theory conducts empirical research to test some of the arguments. If the theory is supported by research data, gathered and analyzed using suitable methods, the theory is provisionally accepted.
This acceptance is provisional because it takes repeated tests, often by different groups of researchers using somewhat different methods, before a great deal of confidence in the theory is warranted. If the theory is unsupported or refuted by research data, it is revised or discarded in favor of a superior alternative.
Ideally, two rival theories with different explanations and predictions are pitted against each other in a single study or a carefully managed series of studies. This enables scholars to determine which of the two theories is better. Some family scientists object to the deductive process. While they acknowledge that it is the usual textbook approach, they offer either of two arguments. The weak theory objection is that scholars really do not use the deductive method.
Instead, they are guided by hunches derived from the direct experiences they have, either as handlers of empirical data or as participants in family life. The strong theory objection is that every judgment and decision a scholar makes is based on preconceived ideas to which that scholar has very strong attachments.
Because all social scientists have ideas and beliefs about families, the theories they create are biased in ways that escape the attention of even the most impartial theorist. To take advantage of both objections, some family scientists use an inductive method to create their theories. In its pure form, the scientist disregards all previous knowledge and speculation about the topic of interest. Research with minimal biases is conducted, and the participating families and the results they produce are taken at face value.
A useful theory is developed either after the research is concluded or slowly during the process of study. A grounded theory emerges. Much family theorizing is transductive, with elements of both deduction and induction. The two extreme approaches provide models for how to work, but there is room for an intermediate approach.
Many participants are involved in the process of creating any theory. Even if only one author receives credit, that person builds on the ideas of others. If a particular theory has many acknowledged contributors and if it endures sufficiently long, it becomes recognized as a theoretical tradition or school of thought. The family members who participate in the creation of family theory may be recognized as coauthors, but often they are not.
Other Differences Family theories can be distinguished in additional ways. Some theories are relatively abstract and speculative, while others are more concrete and stated in language closer to observable phenomena. Some family theories are quite general, while others are much more context-specific. General theories are claimed to hold regardless of time or place, or apply to broadly encompassed times and places.
Context-specific theories tend to focus on restricted populations, such as one culture or society, the families in one social class, a segment of families with a narrow age structure, one gender, or one racial or ethnic group. Some family theories entail comparisons across contexts, but without covering all of the possibilities. The context of time also varies between family theories. Whether they adopt episodic, biographical, or epochal images of time, most family theories concerned with processes of change carve out a limited span of time for their arguments.
Theories about the family also differ in terms of the breadth of content they cover and which particular subunits within the family are addressed. Theories may be narrow, middle-range, or broad in their content. Relatively speaking, a theory about the effectiveness of communication by husbands is narrow, while a theory of marital quality is middle-range, and a theory of family functioning is broad. In this example, not only does the subject matter become broader with the move from narrow to broad theories, but the relevant units also become broader.
Family theories differ considerably in complexity.
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Simple theories may involve no more than two or three concepts and two or three relationships among them.