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Sociological Theories of Families

  • By: Stan Knapp & Bruce Lott
  • In: Encyclopedia of Family Health
  • Edited by: Martha Craft-Rosenberg & Shelley-Rae Pehler
  • Subject:Family Health, Family Policy, Family Law

Theories are sets of interrelated ideas by which we perceive, describe, integrate, explain, and evaluate various aspects of our world. Sociological theories stress how individual experience is shared with others with similar social characteristics or circumstances. Sociological theories of families also consider how families, and family members as such, reproduce larger social forces, patterns, or processes. Sociological theories of families include those associated with the structural-functionalist, systems, social exchange, symbolic-interaction, family-life course development, conflict, feminist, and ecological theoretical frameworks. While these theories each understand families and society somewhat differently, they are not necessarily entirely at odds. Although some research is clearly linked to a particular theoretical perspective, researchers often draw on several theories to understand particular aspects of families.

One of the earliest sociological theories ...

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