The family unit in terms of applied sociology is a micro level society, or the smallest structure of society within our vast world of societies. It consists of more than one person that forms the most intimate and personal of groups. Though it may be a very small group of very like-minded people there are still guidelines in place that govern the functionality of the family and create behaviors within the group which makes the tiny society distinguishable from others.
Applied sociology is used to find and address the problems within a society by using various methods that are based on a theory and then tested using both evidence that can be measured and evidence that is more sensory. Looking at your family as a small society you can better understand how these methods can be used to analyze and correct your own problems.
Within the family unit there are still social roles that the family members take on and that are aware to everyone in the group. For example, traditionally the father is the head of the family with the mother a close second, a partner. However, the unique family structures that are becoming prevalent in America are making for interesting questions as to the roles within the family and what affects it will lead to in society outside the family. It is not uncommon to now find single parent led families, grandparents raising grandchildren, step families that combine two family units and other combinations.
Still the fact remains that there is a power hierarchy within the family society and each member has their societal roles. Using applied sociology within the family unit is very similar to practicing it at the micro level. The micro level focuses on the smallest societies which includes the family. Like any applied sociologist in order to use the science within your society you must first understand that society.
It should be easy as a member of your family to recognize the key traits that form the family society. There four areas in which a micro society like a family unit creates the ideas that govern it.
- The first is socialization. Socialization is the creation of shared beliefs and ideals that led to the norms of a micro society. Socialization is the indicator as to how one should interact within a society. An example of socialization would be sharing every meal at the table instead of in front of the television because that is family discussion time.
- Segragation on the other hand is the separation of parts of a society that are found to function better when separated from the whole. Even within the family there are some activities that people are far more comfortable performing in their own space on their own that could otherwise lead to conflict. It’s like each family member having their own room.
- Ritual is also involved in micro level societies. In this circumstance ritual refers to actions that are repeated, typical interactions for the society in a certain situation. They are the action that come second nature within the setting and expected. Tucking a child before bed can be a ritual within a family unit.
- Sanctioning is the fourth social control that makes up a micro society. This is the one on one interaction of reading another person’s actions and expressions to determine the appropriate behavior within the society. By interpreting these gestures and expressions members of the society react to different situations as they understand they should in that moment. It’s the standard I’ll count to three routine that parents use when a child is about to be reprimanded.
By understanding how these elements create the family unit you can better understand the interactions between the family members and the ideas and actions that link you together as a miniature society. As a society the family has overall institutions and policies as well as smaller components that may not affect every member in the same way.
If the larger policies that affect the group as a whole aren’t functioning then the family unit will experience stress. When considering the policies that govern the family every member must be taken into consideration since each individual forms the whole. However, the social roles of each member must also be taken into consideration. The head of the family is the one who keeps order by setting rules and enforcing them.
In the case of problematic children it could be a refusal to recognize their social role in the family. By helping them understand their social role and explaining how it factors into the society children can better understand the need for such regulation. This is especially true if you actively involve the child and really incorporate their needs and thoughts into the policies that are set.
By using the interview method of applied sociology you can discover what factors are important to each family member, what isn’t working or isn’t fair within the current policies, and get an idea as to the changes that can correct problems. Interviewing is a direct way to gain information that can be both measured or a sensory feeling as well as give you the opportunity to observe a family member which is another applied sociology method for gaining valuable information.
An annual family summer vacation would be a circumstance for using these applied sociology methods. It is a policy that affects the entire group, and one person being displeased with it can affect the enjoyment of the entire group. Social roles must still be considered with those paying for the trip being at the top of the hierarchy. However, by asking each member things like where they’d like to go, what type of activities they’d like to do, and the reasons for their answers you may get surprising answers and ideas that help in the planning. If nothing else no one can complain if they feel they were all part of the decision making process.
The applied sociology technique of content analysis can help you improve communication within the family. There’s no denying that age can create a language barrier and this is largely due to the various societies outside the family that members belong to. Content analysis involves studying the type of media that a family member is exposed to and absorbs.
As we take in mass media and other media such as books and newspapers it is a form of communication. We learn from and are influenced by the media we consume thus affecting how we communicate with others as well. Think about someone who watches nothing but MTV, their vernacular is going to be decidedly more youthful and likely laced with the newest catch phrases and slang.
Content analyze also studies the way in which people react to the media they take in. What is it that sparks interest? Does something get them discussing a subject further? This intake of content leads to outward actions and communications. It’s worth the time to understand what outside influences are affecting the way your family members communicate. You’ll have a better understanding as to what will communicate your own ideas more affectively, how they will react to certain information, what interests them and more. Even knowing how certain ideas affect their disposition will aid you in communicating better with your family members.
These are just a few ways in which you can apply applied sociology methods within your own family. By looking at the family unit as the micro level society it is, you can better analyze where improvements can be made to make the society function better to meet the needs of each member.