Sociological Theories


Sociology is the scientific study of human behavior and how human beings relate to one another in all spheres of life within the society. It is concerned with all group activities and social institutions that include; education, politics, family, mass media, economic activities, religion, social opinion and health care among others. All these groups depend on each other, each providing opportunities for interactions and shape their behavior of each group (MacKinnon &Heise 2010).There are a number of sociological theories that try explaining sociology integration. These theories include; functionalism theory that looks at the functions of different institutions, conflict theory that examines the conflicts these groups face and the interactionism theory that checks the connectivity of the social groups (Veenhoven 2009).

Executive Summary

This research paper seeks to examine the family as a social institution and how the functionalism, Conflict and Interactionism sociological theories influence this institution.

This examination starts with analysis of functionalism, Conflict and Interactionism sociological theories in relation to the family as a social institution. The paper analyses how these three theories apply to the family, the effects of the theories on the views of individual's and society and how the theories influence the choices of approaches the society take to solve the problems facing them. The similarities shared by these theories and their differences are also analyzed in the paper.

Sociological theories

These are theories that explain why human being behaves the way they do in the society and the impacts of their behavior to the society.

1) Functionalism theory

This theory focuses mainly on the functional framework of the society and emphasizes that every elements of a society institution have a duty to participate in for the whole system to operate properly.  Some of these elements include the norms, institutions, practice, customs and traditions that are structures put in place to play different interrelated roles. There are norms and customs that help provide procedure and organization of a group including regulations governing institutions (Pontell 2005). The traditions put in place provide a standard way of operations and methods of doing things like in the legal contexts that provide laws guiding the social institutions and the members of the family.

Family as a sociological unit plays an integral role in shaping the behavior of individuals within it and how they perceive things. It is the duty of a family to inculcate the social responsibilities that are always given to families (Trevin%u0303o 2008). These include moral responsibility that ensures that an individual relates well with the neighbors as far as personal discipline, love, care and respect among others are concerned. The family also ensures that security needs of the community and the society in general is well in provided for. This may include community policing, environmental safety and preventing challenges that come with pollution of the environment due to human activities.

How Functionalism theory apply to family institution

Functionalism theory directly applies to the complete operations of a family as an institution. This theory ensures that every institution is given roles top play, in which case, the family owns up its members and trains them to be law abiding citizens who are disciplined, respectful, informed and well educated. It is worth noting, that every individual has a right and need to receive physiological, social, security, self-esteem and self-actualization needs to fully develop to be mature citizens. These human needs are well provided for by a family that loves, cares, encourages and natures the family elements. Families control the standard practices and traditions that also influence the other social institutions like religion. The choice of religion by the parents in a family determines the values that the family will uphold.

It is the existence of moral decay, crime and misunderstanding among members of the society that necessitates institution of police, crime investigators, military, law makers departments which in turn provide job opportunities to the society (Pontell 2005). In this regard, functionalist perspective explains that every behavior however bad or strange plays a purpose in the society. Deviance of members of the society affirms the presence and importance of the social norms and practices and promotes peace and unity of the society. Functionalism theory argues that the complete absence of deviance and crimes leads to no social norms (Pontell 2005).

How Functionalism affect individual and society views

The views that are held by an individual and the society depend on the responsibilities accorded to that particular person and the society. For example is a society is of the view that success can only be achieved through education, then every household and the students will put a lot of value on achieving the highest levels of education in that land like attaining degrees at University level. It is therefore the duty of families and the state to provide proper education to its members and citizens. Functionalism also influences the leadership views on the political institution. The good leadership qualities exhibited at home will reflect on the characteristics the society and individuals considers as the good qualities of a leader, which finally influences how the society chooses its leaders.

Functionalism on the other hand has negative effect on the society. It encourages a sense of irresponsibility among the people who feel that certain roles and duties are supposed to be performed by specific social institutions. For example, an individual may have a view that it is the governments function  to provide security to its citizens and so, will never mind to correct whether it is their own relatives and neighbors who are the source of insecurity.

2)   Conflict theory

Conflict theory is a perspective that highlights the social, economic and political inequality that exists within social groups. According to Karl Marx in classical sociology, it involves the conflict between two major social groups, the ruling class who command strong economic position, own and control production is firms and the subject class who provides labour services and as a result fights for the minimal available resources (Butler & Watt 2007).  This brings about social stratification. Various institutions in the society like the legal and the political institutions are always seen as the tools used by the ruling class to dominate oppress and exploit the less fortunate subject class to offer cheap but hard labor in their firms. This is developed by the capitalistic ideology that further promotes market economies where individuals compete for the same economic gains, with the subject class missing the desirable items in the society (Trevin%u0303o 2008: Veenhoven 2009).

This competition generates to economic conflict between low class individuals and societies against ruling class, and leads to Modern theory of sociology that eventually results in violence to fight for rights like what is currently seen in the Arab World with rampant demonstrations in several states in a bid to take over political power from those perceived to be oppressors.

How Conflict theory apply to family institution

Family is the beginning of a bigger society. This means that the slightest social, economic and political inequality directly translate to the family.

Low class families who cannot provide for themselves enough food, security, and education and protect themselves from the oppressions of the rulers usually suffer most from the effects of conflict. It is the individuals who are members of families who engage in the violent protests when fighting for their rights, protests that occasionally culminate on adverse injuries and deaths.

How Conflict theory affect views of society

This theory is perceived as an eye opener to the low subject class members of the society who realizes that they are being oppressed by the ruling rich people, paying them meager salaries for the hard jobs they do and deny them resources through their authoritarian leadership methods. This theory influences the views of individuals and society for fight for their rights whatever the cost to liberate themselves from the oppression by the ruling class.

Conflict theory explains that human potential is usually suppressed by the exploitations. The conflict arising from inequality can be solved through fundamental transformation of the discriminate social relations into new indiscriminate policies that allows all, to democratically acquire power and rule (Butler & Watt 2007).

The perpetual and historic unequal distribution of public resources and social amenities like roads, health services, educational facilities, unemployment and inadequate food distributions becomes an awakening call to the oppressed, that equality cannot be achieved unless one fights for it. The concept of fighting for rights eventually erodes social peace and unity. There have been several revolutions around the world some of which nonviolence struggles and others violence. The approaches to initiate changes in the historical economic, social and political inequalities vary from economic boycotts, social unrests and demonstrations, military actions, revolutions and political consensus among the aggrieved parties.

3)   Interactionism theory

Interactionism is theoretical perspective that emphasizes on the face to face relations between two of more individuals and may include actions and reactions with the aim of communication. interactionism is divided into several subdivisions like, Symbolic interactionism, social action, social constructionism, ethnomethology involving creating illusion of what was probably meant by the other party, phenomenology which involves systematic reflection and analysis of consciousness phenomena and Verstehen (Veenhoven 2009).

This theory seeks to enhance cooperation and conflict resolutions between individuals and social groups and also helps in identity formation. The interactionists recommend a number of methods that include; unstructured interviews, overt participant observation and secret participant observation and content analysis of the historical public and individual documents. These methods help to iron out the historical conflicts existing between individuals.

How Interactionism apply to family institution

It is inevitable for family members to avoid interaction with one another. Communication and observation remain an important aspect of family stability, information as part of the society having that man is a social being that does not exist in an island, family negotiations and consensus are built through interaction (Pontell, 2005).

How Interactionism affect views of individuals and society

People's views and ideas are usually shaped by their interaction with the environment, neighbors, families, politics, social opinions, mass media, education and religion. The norms and cultural practices that are upheld by different social groups tend to influence the way they relate with each other.  For example, if society views gay marriage to be immoral, then the family members and the wider society will adopt the same view through the help of the law makers and enforcers will ensure the norm is enforced and fully implemented. Any view which is help by the majority of the public usually carries the day in the normal operation.

Social reactions that include revolutions, mass protests, and strikes are usually influenced through interactions between individuals, sometimes being the ideas of the top leaders championing such ideologies (MacKinnon &Heise 2010).

Conflict resolution also benefits from interactionism theory through negotiations between aggrieved parties. Negotiation builds friendship and influences the approaches to be used in solving problems like use nonviolence instead of violence, democratic government instead of authoritarian rule among others.

Similarities between the Sociological Theories

The three sociological theories discuss the social behavior of the institutions.  Interactionalists emphasizes the interrelations between the social institutions that have different structural functions like norms, institutions, customs and practices that govern the operations of the social groups. The economic and social inequalities that are created by the social classes are explained by conflict theory which eventually influences the approaches individuals and society adopt to fight for rights.

Both the sociological theories use scientific methodology in investigations of phenomena. The scientific technologies include the preparative technique and measurement techniques whose main objectives are to explicitly identify the functions of institutions, causes and solutions of conflict and how interaction can influence the views of the society (Veenhoven 2009).

All the three theories in as much as they are reflected in the larger society, they are equally very visible in the smallest unit of the society which is the family. For mutual co-existence in the family, there is need for equilibrium between the three theories. A shift in this balance between functionalism, conflict theory and interactionism is bound to cause rifts in the family and society in general.

Differences between the Sociological theories

The difference between these three theories is majorly on their points of emphasis. Functionalism focuses on the roles played by the elements of social institutions like rules and regulations, cultural beliefs. It explains that individuals and social behavior is governed by the elements put in place and are held by the society like the cultural and religious beliefs. Interactionism theory on the other hand focuses on the interaction between people and the environment, political powers and social environment. It explains that individual's views and behavior are shaped depending on how the people and social institutions interact with each other. Conflict theory on the contrary emphasizes that social behavior is governed by the completion for the economic resources motivated by the inequality in the distribution of resources between the rich who control production and the subject class who provide labour (Veenhoven 2009).


Sociology explains why human being behaves the way they do. There are sociological theories that have been developed to explain these behaviors and are concerned with all groups of the sociological institutions that include families, mass media, education, economic activities and religion among other institutions (MacKinnon &Heise 2010).These sociological theories include; functionalism theory that depicts the social institutions as having functional elements and explains that everything however small or strange it is has a function to play in the society.

There is conflict theory that emphasizes on the competition between social stratum caused by the political, economic, educational and social inequality that exists between the low class and the rich class of individuals. This inequality leads to different reaction approaches including violence by the subject class in an effort to liberate them from oppression. Finally, there is the interactionism theory stresses on the inter relations between the social institutions and the influence it has in shaping the views of individuals and the society. This research paper focused on explaining the family as a social institution and how the three sociological theories influence the views and behaviors of the elements in the institution.