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August 3, 2013

Essay Paper on Divorce


Divorce is the official breakdown of the marriage.  Divorce has retained its spot in the modern and ancient history of human beings as the most pressing social issue over ages. Sociologists have tended to analyze this social issue at different levels and in varying perspectives. They have come up with concrete interpretations of the issue as well as the sweeping generalizations of the society and social behavior.

Functionalism is a structuralist theory, that is to say, it maintains that the social structure (social organization of society) is more important than individuals. This implies it is a "top-down" theory that the lays stress on the importance of society and people collectively and not individuals mentioned therein. Functionalism is in society as more important than the individual is produced by the society and there, people are the product of social influences on them: their family, friends, education and participation in the media.
Everywhere in the world of family life is characterized by huge differences and diversity. But in Britain and after functionalist there should be a group of people having their common residence and spans two generations. A famous sociologist George Peter Murdock (1949) defines family as "a social group of common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. There must be at least two adults of sexes, a socially recognized relationship, established one or more own children. They must maintain a stereotypical family consisting of two generations of heterosexual couples with dependents offspring. (Mudrock, 2010)
Functionalists also suppose that the family is a positive institution and useful for the care of family members who receive care and unconditional love. Of course, this is not always true when it comes to domestic violence, divorce and child abuse. Through a survey on domestic violence it was determined that the incident was reported by a woman to the police every minute.(Stanko, 1993) Divorce can also shatter families and make it a miserable time for the couple and their children. If couples do not love each other they more often prefer to live in empty shell marriages where they stay together because of religion or for the benefit of their children. These marriages are often unhappy for the whole family and put forward arguments that end in divorce or separation. Child abuse is found in recent years and the NSPCC points often at least one child dying every week by the cruelty of adults. This causes damage and stress in the family and may lead to unhappy marriages, surge in divorce rate and the stress of what should be avoided in nuclear families.

                     According to the functionalist perspective the all aspects of society are co-dependent and contribute to the social function as a whole. The government, or state, provides education for children in the family, which in turn pays taxes to the state to keep meeting their need. That is, the family is dependent on aid from the school, children grow up, find good jobs, and they stand up and support the family. It will be law-abiding children, taxpaying citizens, who in turn support the state. Hopefully, those parts of society are essential to produce stability and productivity at collective level. If all does not go well, need to adjust parts of society then get a new order, stability and productivity. For example, during a financial recession with high unemployment and inflation, social programs must be trimmed or cut. The schools offer fewer programs. Families move their budgets and experience a new social order, stability and productivity.

             Functionalists believe that society held together by consensus and social cohesion reach an agreement in which members of society, and work together to achieve what is best for society as a whole. Emile Durkheim suggested that social consensus takes one of two forms:

                Mechanical solidarity implies social cohesion, this is to say, when the values and beliefs of the people are similar and are produced in a similar framework. As a matter of fact, mechanical
solidarity is more common in traditional societies.  
                   On the other hand, organic solidarity is a kind of social cohesion, if people in a society are interdependent, but keep changing values ​​and beliefs and are produced in different types of work. Organic solidarity is most common in developed countries and complex societies like the United States in cities like New York in the 2000s.

                    The functioanlist theory views the norm of the family as “a husband, father, wife, mother and children." According to this theory the family is a basic unit of society which serves the purpose of socializing the young, the regulation of sexual activity and reproduction, providing physical care for family members and psychological support and emotional security for individuals. The precarious situation of the family in modern society originates the fact that the family’s proportion of these functions has significantly slumped while other institutions continue to assume more responsibilities. 

                  Functionalism advocates the absence of trends and denounces the separation of a family. They tend to ignore family violence. Functionalism focuses on the integrity of institutions rather than individuals. Functionalist theorists focus on family members as a unit and recognize their “ability to adjust and reorganize, rather than the need for social change at the macro and extra familial level” (Mudrock, 2010).
               In a "summary of observations made at the White House briefing on the family," said Dr. James Dobson made the remarks on the family. "A family is not a collection of individuals who live under the same address. These are the people who have an intimate and complex relation with each other through marriage, birth or adoption. Together, they form something larger and more significant that the proportion of each person individually.”(Mudrock et al, 2010)
Robertson argues that the functionalists see the family from the viewpoint of universal functions which the institution of family offers to the society. These functions include regulation of sexual behavior, replacement of members, socialization, care and protection, social placement and social status, emotional support and affection.

On the other hand, conflict theorists do not oppose functionalists over the functions of family but they contend that functionalist perspective, however, does not cover the entire issue.  Conflict theory maintains that the family adds to societal injustice, denies women opportunities that are easily given to men. Consequently, the limits in terms of freedom in sexual expression and mate selection are chalked out. The proponents of this theory contends that the imbalanced and inequitable nature of relationship between men and women in family hints at the unequal relationships of sexes in the wider context of society.
Functionalism does not allow the paternal power to be defied or challenged in any case because it creates conflict in the family. The conflict at times may lead to the spousal abuse or violence.  Single parents can empower the children more they alone possess the power at their disposal. The conflict theory presents a different image. Conflict focuses on “differences in power and authority and the exploitation of some groups at times” (Thompson and Hickey 28).

In the Conflict Perspective marriage and family are not interlaced and intertwined. They somehow concede to the fact the environmental and sociological factors make up the marriage and family but these powers are rooted in structures of social inequality.  The Marxist view is that the haves and have-nots create the imbalance and inequity in the society because capitalism encourages a nasty battle between the capitalistic class and the working class.  “Single mothers can produce cheap labor, social services not amenable to profit making, and new laborers for temporary dead-end jobs” (Thompson and Hickey 378).  Society creates gender disparity to an extent that allows for the rise in divorce rate.

 With the family being functional in many ways, it is also the “principle institutions in which the dominance of men over women has been expressed" (Robertson, 1987). To substantiate this point, they cite traditional marriage vows as its glaring example.
They also raise concern over the increasing violence that takes place within the family structure negating all the established functions of the family. For instance, every fifth murder in United States is committed due to family reasons by a relative. The increasing breakdown of marriage paves the way for domestic violence in the society.
Conflict theorists assert that in case of violence the physically abused victim should choose to leave the family. Conflict theorists call for the presence of patriarchal family and its importance in the society.  In terms of conflict theory, feminism plays a pivotal role in analyzing the social significance of divorce and family. Conflict theorist are said to be in line with the perspective of feminism. Feminism states that the family violence in a family or society is caused by the larger contradictions created by patriarchal power. Conflict theorists shape their argument on the basis of inequality and diversity in family setting.
On the contrary, symbolic interactionsim creates a carefree environment. According to the symbolic interactionist perspective there are no fixed meanings. Marriage and family do not concur as in functionalism. Symbolic interactionism does not mix marriage with the word family. “Most single parent families are headed either by ex-spouses who have custody of the children and depend on inadequate child-care payments or by unmarried women” (Thompson and Hickey 387). Women today are more confident having a sense of security than they were hundred years ago. Who chooses to become a single mother or father and what are the laws that govern these choices? These choices remain at the heart of interactionist discourse.  The choices that the families make come under the category called social actions. A social action or social act can be defined as “behaviors influenced by or shaped by the presence of others” (Thompson and Hickey 143).
Symbolic Interactionism comes up with a different perspective towards divorce. Trends go along with divorce, single parenting, and individuality. If the problems can be resolved or dwindled down in the family through divorce then the symbolic interactionism will encourage such an action under the laws of the state and the government.  This theory asserts that the individuals should be free to enter and break marriages just as they are free to choose their spouses. They must also be free to get rid of their spouses in the time of urgency.   “Today marriages have often become individual endeavors in which partners seek to satisfy their own needs - and can often easily dissolve the marriage when needs are unmet” (Johnson, 1960).
 Symbolic interactionism strongly advocates individuality and regards family as an important institution for it provides the basis for culture, humanism, power and character.
Nevertheless, the proponents of symbolic interactionism do not buy this idea that the institution of the family is the whole foundation of all knowledge, but instead “the significance of the relationship to the human conduct is nevertheless a by-product of interaction with others” (Blumer, 2004). So parenting, much less single parenting is a result of social interaction with the children. Power in family holds an important position. It ascertains who is in charge and who is not and who wields the authority and who does not. The sociological meaning of power is “the ability to realize one’s will, even against resistance and the opposition of others” (Thompson and Hickey, 2010).
   Power determines the fate of the family in terms of make-up or break-up.
Wilson, a Marxist sociologist, maintains, “There has always been abuse but the difference between the present and the past is that there is more help for women today.” Single parenting supports this feature. In symbolic interactionism, “the interactionist approach lays stress on how individuals and groups utilize symbols to define and interpret reality” (Thompson and Hickey, 2010). This characteristic still continues to be a significant factor in America, as it was 50 years ago.  In interactiuonism, symbols and meanings continue to a part of our everyday lives. In terms of single parenting, every individual plays an important role in its own right and the whole family can be knotted closely by culture and its influence.

Mudrock, Peter George, (2010) “Social Structure” General Books LLC
Stanko, Elizabeth, (1990) “Everyday Violence: how women and men experience sexual and physical danger” University of California
Thomson and Hickey,(2010) “Society in focus: An introduction to Sociology” Pearson Education Canada
Johnson,Morton (1960) “Sociology: a systemic introduction” Allied Publishers
Blumer, Herbert (2004) “George Herbert Mead and human conduct” Rowman Altamira
Robertson, Ian (1987) “Sociology” Worth Publishers


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