Probably one of the main reasons that family life has never occurred to me (although I am currently in an exclusive relationship) is the impression connoted by my family of orientation. I don’t see myself having one, given my personal circumstance and with weighing the functions implied by a family system in the contemporary times. While being in a family involves building relationships and creating memories together, being a parent or just a family member demands functional prerequisites. Family as a social system like any other social institutions is chiefly responsible for maintaining social order and stability through and by primary socialization. To bring this about, a family system should normatively operate through: (1) value consensus, (2) social solidarity, (3) social integration, (4) social conformity, (5) skill transmission and (6) role allocation.
Pasley and Petren (2015) outlines the common definitions of different family structure in an attempt to characterize and measure the diversity of families and relationships abound to it. In its simple definition, “family structure” reflects relationships at the juncture of biological relatedness, marital and partnership status, and living arrangements which is typically used in reference to at least one child residing in the home under the age of 18. Parallel to this, my family is structured biologically through marital union of my parents. I belong under a consanguine, patrilocal, nuclear family with a female full sibling who is three years younger than me. We follow the Oedipal model of western family communities that is patriarchal in nature.
The family as a social system, requires elements to function — structurally comprising of (a) members and their roles, (b) assets and limitation, © rules and boundaries, and; (d) goals and beliefs. In context, my family has four members — that is my father, working as an auto-technician mechanic and the head of the household, my mother who is a full-time housewife, my 19-year old sister who is a freshman in college and me. Ever since my father got diagnosed of liver cirrhosis, for four years already I share with him the responsibility as the breadwinner of our family. While being in college, I also work as a public official in our barangay as SK Chairperson. On any given free time, I manage to jam-pack my schedule with paperwork-related commissions. I also do tutorials and on previous vacation, I worked as a data collector of a certain university-led research in the province. Elaborately, my family like any other, is a
simple one, although seems a bit unconventional with the interchanging roles and responsibilities happening between me as the child and my parents.
Talcott Parsons (1965) presupposes that a system must engage in four sets of activities in order for it to cope up with the external situational contingencies. He presented the sociological approach of structural functionalism, detailing the four functional imperatives for all “action” systems. The famous AGIL scheme — adaptation (A), goal attainment (G), integration (I), and latency (L), or pattern maintenance — are vitally important.
In a macro-sociological analysis of the entire social system, the family represent the “fiduciary system” — one which handles the latency function by means of transmitting culture (norms and values) to actors and allowing it to be internalized by them (Ritzer, 2011). Parson’s structural-functionalism perspective follows through the premise that action system is embodied by the behavioral organism, the goal attainment function is performed by the personality system, the integration function is managed by the social system and the latency function is executed by the cultural system. The family as the smallest institution unit and the ‘basic building block’ of the society, in more specific on-point analysis arguably functions in similar with the given scheme.
The adaptation of the family in its current environment is carried out by its members and the roles attached to their creation. In the case of my family, each member’s role is definitive to the social circumstance at any given point of time. When father got hospitalized, I temporarily shouldered the financial role, although later, I was compelled to share the responsibility of which I was ready. Our adaptability in the nature of being behavioral organisms, show our capability to adjust and transform the exigency or situation.
While it is imperative for any traditional family to “grow and multiply”, our family on the other hand, primarily aims for financial stability and survival. In this aspect, we utilize our assets and limitations as means to define our system’s goals. We refer our assets to our metal and emotional fortitude — exacerbated as our key out of poverty. Just as like what my mother used to say, “Iskwela kamo mayad kay kinaalam lang gid ang amon mabilin sa inyo”. In fact, my parents’ did invest for our academic needs by parting a huge portion of our monthly budget in education. I was sent to a Catholic private school for my primary and secondary schooling years, which later only caused for a huge financial overturn on our expenses. This poor and unforeseen projection of expectations and limitations has led us to social dilemma in the years
following my enrolment in the university and the hospitalization of my father. It turns out that my parents weren’t financially equipped for my college education. With my inert adapting behavior, I was able to adjust to the situation. I financed myself in college, bought some of my father’s medicine and supplied our monthly household needs, while still aiming for the goal preemptively set by my parents.
Our current setup wouldn’t be of course possible had there been no rules and boundaries that regulate our interrelations. This element follows the integration aspect of the AGIL scheme. At the onset of my financial independence, I admittedly have grown contentious towards my parents. This is because of the “normative” rules and boundaries associated with my family member’s roles and responsibilities. That is supposedly, my parents being responsible for my tertiary education. I felt that my parents did partially complied to their responsibility and it is kind of unfair in my position as the eldest in the family. Other than this specific standard, my family also follows the golden rule of “respect”. For instance, my sister and I weren’t allowed to shout or throw offensive remarks against each other. Conformity with the rules together with good deeds and achievements merits reward. Defiance on the other hand as well as deviant behaviors deserves punishment.
The family as a system has the need to maintain, furnish and renew the motivation of the individuals. Latency, as the final imperative in discussion is represented by the cultural system of the family. In my family’s case, this is operationalized through our goals and beliefs that provides us the norms and values that motivate our action. My mother’s encouraging remarks and my father’s epic story of survival during his prime, although were recounted and retold for many times, were still as inspiring as it has been told at first.
Looking back at how our family survived as a system and recounting the times I get to have a laugh with them, have been both physiological and psychological pampered, to the episodes of tantrums and emotional meltdown, I honestly can’t help but to be grateful that I was born into one. Family life experiences affect deeply the competence, resilience, and well-being of everyone. Like a biological system, it strives for survival and it seeks for “fitness” along with the change of society.
The family shapes the quality of our lives, but — to a certain extent — we also shape the quality the family. As the old saying goes — “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed”. It is not just love but responsibility.
Pasley, K., & Petren, R. E. (2015). Family Structure. Encyclopedia of Family Studies. Retrieved November 22, 2020, from https://doi.org/10.1002/9781119085621.wbefs016
Ritzer, G. (2011). Sociological Theory. 8th edition. New York: McGraw-Hill. From https://www.aca-demia.edu/33077856/_George_Ritzer_Sociological_Theory_8th_Edition_BookFi_org_