Sociology studies various social institutions, such as the family, economy, religion, and law, as well as the interrelationship of these institutions. A social institution is a complex set of interdependent social forces that meet basic needs and serve to reproduce patterns of behavior. Family is one of the most influential forces in socialization, the process through which people learn the values, norms, beliefs, and expectations of their culture.
As a social institution, family influences individuals but also communities and societies at large. Family is the primary agent of socialization, the first institution through which people learn social behavior, expectations, and roles. Like society as a whole, family as a social institution is not stable. It changes along with society, and as family and family structures change, society also changes.