Essay On Theoretical Perspectives on Families

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Theoretical Perspectives on Families

Benokraitis outlines theoretical perspectives that apply to family, children, and parenting. The theories that are cited in the text include ecological, structural, functionalism, conflict, symbolic interactionism, social constructionism, social exchange, feminist and family life course development. The approaches drawn above hold varied perspectives regarding marriage and family. The following discussion will cover ecological, symbolic interactionism and family life course development theoretical perspectives.

Ecological Perspective

Ecological perspective acknowledges the way families are influenced by the environment around them (Benokraitis 35). There are interlocking systems that shape the development of family and behaviors of respective members. The interlocking system includes microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem and macrosystem setting that manipulate the development and behavior of a family. The microsystem refers to the immediate setting that controls the daily life of the child. The system takes in interconnected behaviors, roles and relationships that affected the child

On the other hand, mesosystem encompasses the interconnection among different settings such as home, day-care or school. Parents establish interactions with teachers and religious leaders, and it could change the way they treat their children. While exosystem covers indirect settings or occurrences that affect a person’s development, macrosystem reaches the society and cultures that involve all the other interlocking systems. The systems identified by the theory affects the development of a child and overall family functioning. The theory also addresses major hurdles that affect parenthood such as drug abuse, adolescence, and marital well-being.

Family Development Perspective

Family development theory puts into perspective changes experienced by families. The changes occur within a lifespan of a family, and they do not include couples who are dating. The theory discusses a family cycle that a typical family encounters different periods and events. The cycle features marriage, child rearing or parenting stage, children leaving, retirement and ultimately death of one of the spouses in the family. Each stage of the family cycle requires spouses to carry out developmental tasks. The tasks encompass responsibilities and expectations that each spouse is supposed to perform in the marriage. Couples might be expected to show affection as a way of interacting and handling challenges that come as they get old (Benokraitis 37).

Conflict erupts along the way concerning handling children or budgeting for family finances. The theory confirms such conflict the greatest source of stress for the couple. According to the theory, the developmental tasks vary from family to another such as single-parent, step families or grandparent families. Problems and conflicts face each family as the members get older by age. The confrontations are passed from one generation to another. For example, the perspective of grandfather may vary from that of a grandson because of the age difference (Benokraitis 38).

Symbolic Interactionism

The theory encompasses daily behavior of an individual by the use of ideas, beliefs and attitudes that determine the life of that person (Benokraitis 38). Benokraitis notes that there are particular beliefs, ideas and attitudes that feature families. The behaviors convey encoded message that cannot be communicated through a word of mouth. Symbolic interactionism recognizes use of symbols to develop interpersonal meanings and communicate to others by individuals. A person in a family setting uses words gestures or pictures that signify a certain behavior. Family recognizes symbols such as wedding rings, birthdays, anniversaries and following traditions of the family to mean love and companionship.
The author uses the theory to describe the importance of partners knowing how to deal with different perceptions of their significant others. The understanding would prevent break ups that often happen as a result of conflicting perceptions regarding meaning of love, communication and interpretation of love. Every member of the family had a respective role to play irrespective of their position. The roles of mother, father, son or grandfather are relational and complementary according to the theory. In addition, they have specific rights and responsibilities that are reciprocated by members of the family.

Favorite Perspective

My favorite perspective is family development theory because it covers the development cycle of a family. Families show patterns that cut across culture and history. The stages covered in the family cycle can be utilized in therapy and counseling sessions to address family problems such as argument and sexual infidelity. Families can use the presented in the theory to challenge themselves on why they are not as successful as other families.

Different perspectives are needed in studying marriage and family because they shed light on aspects of family life that are not known by individuals (Benokraitis 29). Adequate information about the nature of family helps family members to address problems and results to the development and positive behavioral change. The perspectives provide enough information that can be used for sound decision-making in the family. The decisions guide couples in finding the right partner for marriage and prevent future conflicts that could result in divorce. The theories enhance critical thinking in order to shape behaviors in marriage or parenthood accordingly.


Benokraitis, Nijole V. Marriages & Families. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall, 2011. Print.