Meaning and functions of family and its importance as a social institution

Meaning and functions of family and its importance as a social institution

Have you ever been interested to know the meaning and functions of family and its importance as a social institution? Just read the article and learn about the family’s significant role in the life of any individual.

Happy family

A family is the first social community in the life of any person or group of persons. It is from this that an individual attaches and understands the values of culture, assimilates the first social roles and acquires the experience of social behavior. In the family, this person takes their first steps, experiences the first joys and sorrows, and then, leaves the family and faces a big world. Then the person returns when he feels uncomfortable out there.

The family is not just a simple set of individuals engaging in their activities. It’s a complex social formation. Each member of the family is both a unique individuality and an integral part of a whole family group.

The family is a small social group. Individual intra-group processes and phenomena are typical here. At the same time, the family is distinguished from the other small groups by some peculiar features. They are marital or kinship ties among its members, a common way of life, special moral-psychological and emotional-ethical as well as legal relations.

Family scheme

Also, the family has other features like lifelong adherence to the family group (the family is not chosen, a person is born in it). In addition, it has the maximum heterogeneous composition of the group (age, gender, personal, social, professional, and other differences of family members). One more feature is the maximum degree of informal contact in the family and the increased emotional significance of family events.

Any family is created with the purpose of satisfying some important needs for its members.

Nigerian family

Functions of the family in modern society

Reflection of the interaction system between individual and family, family and society as well as the specific activities that meets certain needs of its members’ is what we refer to as the function of the family.

The family as a social institution is organically connected with society, and therefore some functions directly relates the requirements of the society itself.

Functions of family

Functions of family: Types

The family is a society of interpersonal relations, where specific laws and functions operate. In this regard, we can distinguish functions of:

  • society relative to a family;
  • a family relative to society;
  • a family relative to an individual;
  • an individual relative to a family.

On this basis, the functions of the family can be viewed as social (relative to society) and individual (relative to an individual). The functions of the family are closely connected to the society’s needs in the family institution and the individual’s needs as belonging to the family group.

Besides, the functions of the family are deeply historical and closely related to the socio-economic conditions of the society. Therefore, over time, the nature of family functions and their hierarchy change.

We can allocate the main functions of the modern family in connection with the main areas of its life activity and the most important needs.

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Major functions of families

The main functions of the family

The leading role in the modern family belongs to the spouses, who eventually become parents. Therefore, the entire variety of the family functions can be conditionally divided into two groups. The first of these is matrimonial functions, and the second is parental functions.

The group of matrimonial functions includes:

  • functions of spiritual (cultural) communication;
  • household and management (both spouses are the organizers of the family life as a whole);
  • a function of the primary social control;
  • a representative function (spouses represent a family, act on its behalf in other parts of society: organizations, institutions, families, etc.);
  • emotional;
  • intimate and others.

The group of parental functions includes the functions of:

  • birth and upbringing (primary socialization) of children;
  • maintenance and care of minors and disabled (incompetent) family members.
Meaning and functions of family and its importance as a social institution

Let’s dwell in more details on the essential characteristics concerning the most important of the above family functions.

Function of spiritual (cultural) communication

The function of spiritual (cultural) communication is manifested in meeting the needs for joint leisure activities, mutual spiritual enrichment. Its components are:

  • organization of intra-family communication;
  • family mediation in interaction with the media (television, radio, periodical press), literature and art;
  • influence of the family on the variety of its members' links with the surrounding natural and social environment.
Family and love

A happy marriage is a dialogue between the spouses. The exchange of thoughts (information) and mainly positive emotions takes place here. A prerequisite for such an exchange is a clear system of well-assimilated moral norms and rules. The main purpose of this function is to ensure mutual understanding as the most solid foundation in the family. The improvement of spiritual relations assumes an increase in the culture of communication. The basis of spiritual (culture) communication between the spouses is achieved when both of them are able connect well with one another.

Emotional function

The emotional function of the family is realized in satisfying its members' needs for sympathy, respect, recognition, emotional support, psychological protection. The pleasant emotional atmosphere in a family allows each of its members not to hide their emotional state, share joys, talk about failures and grievances. Besides, they can get advice on important issues, restore and replenish their physical and mental strengths and thus maintain a good vitality.

Nigerian family at the North Pole

Function of primary social control

Functions of the family in sociology play an important role. The function of primary social control is to ensure the implementation of social norms and rules by family members. Especially by those who due to various circumstances (age, disease, etc.) do not have sufficient ability to build their behavior in full compliance with social norms independently.

Nobody can ignore the fact that the family establishes relationships and maintains links with state institutions, public organizations, labor collectives, and other families or individuals (relatives, friends, neighbors). This area of its life activity is connected with the representative function’s realization.

It is a result of this function that the family interacts with the social world. It establishes economic, ideological, legal, cultural, emotional and other relations with other social communities and presents itself as the primary unit of society.

Typical Nigerian family

Economic (household) function

The household (economic) function of the family is also among the most important. It’s aimed at satisfying its material needs (food, shelter, clothes, essentials, etc). The function contributes to the physical strengths and health preservation of all family group members.

The economic family function includes the following main components:

  • participation in social production
  • housekeeping
  • family budget forming
  • organization of consumer activities

The impact of the economic function on family relationships can be twofold. The fair distribution of economic and household responsibilities in the family between spouses, older and younger generations, typically leads to the strengthening of marital relations and the labor education of children.

In the case of unfair distribution of domestic work, when it is basically taken over by a woman, a husband acts as a "master", and children are only in the role of consumers. Such influence remains unfavorable and leads to an increase of destructive forces in the family.

Young Nigerian family

Function of intimate relations

An important role in the system of marital relations is the function of intimate relations. The importance of this function in the modern family has increased significantly. Marriage is seen as an alliance, created primarily on an emotional connection, and therefore much priority in the union is given to the intimate needs satisfaction of marriage partners.

Recently, many researchers of marriage and family problems have noted that intimate disharmony is often the cause of disagreement in the family and a cause of tension in marital relations.

Couple in love

Reproductive function

One of the most important family functions is a reproductive one. There are three types of family reproductive systems: many, medium and few children.

Children need not only be reproduced but also educated and brought into the complex world of human relations. Besides reproductive, essential importance is given to the educational function of the family. The individual needs of each spouse in maternity or fatherhood, contacts with children, and their personal formation are satisfied.


Educational function

In the course of fulfilling the educational function, the family, first of all, ensures the primary socialization of a child. In addition, it provides the development of his or her mental (intellectual) traits and personal qualities until they attain social maturity. One of the family education features is the emotional form of the relationship between parents and children and love.

It should be born in mind that family has a systematic educational impact on each of its members throughout their life. It's not just the parents that influence children but also the children's action reflect on the parents and other adult members of the family, encouraging them to self-improvement.

Family with children

Family life is very multifaceted. Each function of the family is social. The social nature of the family functions is determined primarily by the fact that the family is the unit of society first of all. Society influences it by creating one or another type of family group.

Meaning of family

In turn, the family also has a significant impact on the society’s development and way of life. As a result of family functions, the vital needs not only of family members but also of a society as a whole are satisfied.

In addition, the functions of the family will always remain the same. In some families, when some functions and rights are violated, it affects the characteristics of its life activity. For example, at present, the function of primary social control has qualitatively changed, the level of tolerance for the birth of illegitimate children, adultery, etc. has increased.

As you can see the family plays a significant role not only in the society but in the formation of the individuality as well.

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