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Impact of Family in Socialization

This article discusses the impact of family in socialization. It initially looks upon the context of both past and contemporary families in tracing the changing impact on socialization. Moreover, this article also gives emphasis to parenting and its potential effect on children and the family as a whole. The impact of family on socialization presented in this article also considers the opinions of the society along with previous literature relevant to this subject.

Role of the Family The significance of popular portrayals of the family and the association between those portrayals and real family life derives, in part, from the significance of the family experience. Even the contemporary family is based on a social model in which the family “raised the food and made most of the clothing and furniture … taught children to read, worship their God, and care for each other in sickness and in old age.

The family was a workplace, a school, a vocational agency, and a place of worship and it carried a heavy burden of responsibility of maintaining social order and stability” (Mintz & Kellogg, 1988, p. 1). Defined in this way, the family was both instrumentally and motivationally significant. On the one hand, the family was responsible for the cultural, vocational, and moral education of its members while, at the same time, it functioned to construct the self-definitions and ambitions of its members; the family was what people were and what they wished to become.

Although the modern family has surrendered an assortment of responsibilities, it continues to be at the center of persons’ self-identity. Most obviously, there is a strong mandate for Americans to marry and to produce children; young dating couples are asked when they intend to get married and, once married, when they intend to have children. Women, in particular, have been implicitly and, often, explicitly instructed to define themselves in terms of home and family, and the preferred trajectory, even for the modern American woman, customarily involves marriage and motherhood.

Indeed, while more and more women anticipate a career of work outside the home, for many women it is the difficulties that surround the integration of career and family that are the most difficult to reconcile (Buxton, 1998). The Essence of Family For most Americans, the family is fundamental to day-to-day life; family members ask each other for advice, when living apart they visit each other and talk on the telephone, they shop together, they worry about each other, and, when they have reason to celebrate, they often do so with each other.

Indeed, the family is such an inherent and expected feature of the American experience that most people simply cannot imagine any alternative. Competing systems, such as open marriage, mate swapping, and the communal family, have never taken root except in the most temporary way. The family, particularly the self-contained family, is empowering so that people are tacitly encouraged to marry and even otherwise marginalized groups, such as lesbian and gay couples, often seek the trappings and status of family.

Perhaps because the family is so compelling, concern for its well-being has been habitual. As Mintz and Kellogg (1988) have observed in their extensive and insightful history of the family, soon after their arrival in the New World, “the colonists feared that their families were disintegrating, that parents were growing ever more irresponsible, and that their children were losing respect for authority”(p. 17). Across the next two centuries, generations of Americans worried about the family for much the same reasons.

In general, concern derived from the changing, and less domestic, role of women, which was seen to produce a variety of negative outcomes usually associated with childrearing and the moral integrity of the family, and the necessarily altered role of men, whose independence and authority were seen to have been diminished (Mintz & Kellogg, 1988). Critics of the family pointed, as well, to more visible signals of distress.

For example, the changes in the family that occurred around the turn of the 20th century were accompanied by a substantial increase in the rate of divorce, which increased by a factor of 15 between 1870 and 1920, and a significant decline in the birth rate. Family size decreased by 50% during the 19th century, prompting one writer to liken a married woman without children to “a soldier who skulks in the trenches when the bugle sounds” (Richards, 1911).

Criticism of the contemporary family has assumed a similar shape. Samuelson (1996), for example, has argued that the “decline of marriage and fatherhood stem from the breakdown of traditional roles in the nuclear family—the man as sole breadwinner, the woman as mother and homemaker. Women can pursue careers and are not confined to the home; they can more easily survive independently. Men feel less essential and are less powerful; they can more easily rationalize indifference or sexual browsing” (p.43).

Others, including Blankenhorn (1995) and Popenoe (1995), have made similar claims, pointing to the decreased marriage rate and increased divorce rate as evidence that personal achievement has come to take priority over commitment to the family. According to these authors, the most specific evidence of this shift, and a causal thread common to marriage and divorce, is the decision of so many women to move into the paid work force.

In contrast to their earlier counterparts, especially those of the 1950s, who, when they did work outside the home, were generally motivated by a desire to improve the family’s standard of living, contemporary women are more often motivated by personal ambition. That is, women have become more intent on establishing a career and, so, more likely to compromise relational objectives, such as marriage, in favor of professional objectives. At the same time, their financial independence means that women are more able and, it is argued, more willing to dissolve marriages that are unsatisfying.

Critics of the modern family argue further that the reduced commitment to marriage and family produce an array of more specific problems. Both Blankenhorn (1995) and Samuelson (1996) have proposed that family relations have become more conflictual. In addition, Popenoe (1993a) has concluded that, compared to the family of the 1950s and early 1960s, the contemporary family is less able to socialize children effectively, in part because the authority of parents has been reduced, and less able to provide care, affection, and companionship to its members.

Finally, there is broad agreement among critics that the effects of these shortcomings are experienced most profoundly by children. Elkind (1995), for example, has argued generally that children are especially vulnerable to the hardships of post-modern family life and has suggested more particularly that their “needs for limit-setting, guidance, and value-modeling are not being met” (p. 28), a position that is consistent in all major respects with that taken by other writers (Blankenhorn, 1995; Rapping, 1992).

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