Professor G. Kelly
Traditionally, one viewed the term “family” to mean a “group of people who are related to one
another by blood, marriage, or adoption and who live together, form an economic unit, and bear and raise
children” (Kendall, 243). However, as time has progressed during the twentieth century, the structure of
family life has changed in several ways. It is no longer necessary to be married or even be in a competed
relationship to have a family and nor does your family need to be blood related. Today’s definition of
family can be defined as “ relationships in which people live together with commitment, form an
economic unit and care for any young, and consider the group critical to their identity” (Kendall, 244).
There are three main perspectives in sociology: functionalist perspectives, conflict perspectives, and
symbolic interactionist’s perspectives. By studying the changes in family under these three perspectives
we will be capable to determine how new family dynamics and relationships differ from those in the past.
___. The conflict perspective can be associated with feminist viewpoints in terms of views on the
changing family. They believe that families are sources of “social inequality and conflict over values,
goals, and access to resources and power” (Kendall, 249). One of the main focuses of conflict analysts is
that of the correlation of class relations in the capitalist economy and how women fit into the workforce.
The majority of women in the past were stay at home mothers whose main duty was to provide food and a
loving home for her husband and children. She was never expected or allowed to go to work and provide
for her own self and those women who did were viewed as outcasts- something socially wrong with them.
By definition “women contribute to capitalism by producing the next generation of workers and providing
the existing labor force with food, clean clothes, and emotional support” (Kendall, 249). However, as
time progressed the women’s job has expanded. They are no longer dominated by their male counterpart,
which began “long before capitalism and the private ownership of property arose as an economic system”
(Kendall, 249). As women have begun to “come into their own” if you will, they have distanced
themselves from men and the idea of a nuclear family. After World War I and the move towards
industrialization, women became self-sufficient and capable of forming their own viewpoints and ideas
thus leading to the nonnuclear-family and the new definition of a family.
__The main view of a functionalist is the importance of the family in “maintaining the stability of
society and the well-being of individuals” (Kendall, 248). In the past, the functionalists highly supported
the individual roles that made up a nuclear family. For example, the husband/father’s purpose was to
support the family financially, make any and all executive decisions, also known as the instrumental role