Family Roles and Changing Functions of the Family


In every society, the family is regarded as an important unit for the achievement of social and economic development due to the significant role it plays in the fulfillment of the physical and emotional needs. The family has been described as a close group of people who may be related or may not be related but offer support to each other. Though sociologists do not agree on a common definition of the family, the see it as a component which focuses on specific relationships within the family unit (marriage) or relationships that focus on the unit (support). In this aspect, the definition and function of the family varies depending on the theoretical perspective that one takes.

Family roles have been changing over time. Most modern families have mothers who work with no father in the home. It is a mandate for children to attend school hence there are few children in families. In the past, there were larger families. Dinner time is now in front of the TV, or when there is extra time between ballet and soccer. The structure of family members is also different. The sole financial provider is not assumed any more. The social activities for children like sewing, musical, social, athletics, religious, and their travel opportunities among others have expanded. The parental activities and social events have increased. There is increasing acceptance of the same sex parents, single parents, and the step-parents. The way things are done have now been significantly influenced by computers, increased earnings, parents education level, advanced technologies in the home and internet access. As a result of all these adjustments, parental and teaching expectations, with regard to the responsibility of who is to socialize or educate or the child, changes.

The culturally favored marriage type today is monogamy, which permits only one spouse.  Polygamy at the same time has been preferred in the past by some group of people. This permits more than one spouse at the same time. It is still common and legal in many nations.  It was a deep routed in China with Chinese men having many wives and lots of children. Upbringing of children has also changed. In many family settings, a boy child gets more significant responsibilities than girls.  The inferiority complex experienced in childhood, makes girls target minor goals, a factor that has weakened the influence of women in the field of education and research.

Parents are also currently buying toys for their children in an attempt to please them. This is opposed to the traditional set up where children were trained using real things and not toys, like feeding real cows with the dads. Girls receive dolls while boys get toys molded in the form of motor vehicles and puzzle games. Boys used to grow up knowing that the society expects them to be brave, innovative and creative. They were commonly involved in research and those that pull through came up with exceptionally good ideas. This is increasingly changing with time.

According to Bales & Parsons (2003), the traditional functions of the family include socialization of children, stabilization of adult personalities (marriage and emotional security), stipulation of norms and codes of conduct (social control), provision of economic support and reproduction. However, the last 100 years have witnessed a breakdown of traditional values and functions of the family either diminished or eroded. People’s social attitudes regarding the institution of marriage have changed as divorce is seen as socially acceptable. Research has shown that there is a decline in first marriages, with 67% of British republic citizens living as cohabiting couples with no intentions of getting married. The role of the husband as the head of the family is slowly but gradually becoming distinct as many women are devoting their time to work and become financially independent, thus resulting into the presence of single parent led households (Bale & Parsons, 2003).


With increased changes in the performance of roles, family roles and functions are also changing. Family time has reduced. Changes are also in the sole financial providers of the family. Roles are also changing in regard to what women or men were originally supposed to do. These changes have been significantly contributed by computers, increased earnings, parent’s education level, advanced technologies in the home internet access, among others. The nature of the child upbringing facilitates gender inequality. Boys are brought up differently from girls. Girls are made to see that their life revolves about relationship and family while men have other bigger roles. This affects their mind and makes women to be dormant in terms of development while boys strive since they see development as their responsibility. Education is also attributed to be a factor that affects the lives of boys and girls.

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