Symbolic interactionism (SI) is a principal family theory that originated in the 1920s and 1930s. This theory describes how symbols are created through human interactions and how those symbols then influence other human interactions. This theory also explains the idea that families are social groups comprising interacting selves and identities. This entry explores the history and the key assumptions and concepts of SI.

Historical Background

While SI has evolved over the years, with certain generations using concepts and ideas that were pertinent to the social issues of their era, SI does have a strong conceptual and research background. It drew from ideas put forth by moralists and idealists, the most critical contributors being American pragmatists Josiah Royce, Charles Peirce, William James, and John Dewey. These moralists, idealists, ...

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