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The study of the family as a unique social phenomenon is one of the most difficult and urgent problems of our time, which is impossible without solving the further social progress of mankind. Sociological understanding of its role and place over the life cycle within the historical development of society suggests that the family is the most important human values in which the conditions for the existence of a community of people conform to the high social, natural and spiritual expediency

As the fundamental structural unit of society, the family, and today remains one of the most important social institutions. The problem of the relation of the family with society and its social institutions, and the relationship between the individual and the family has always existed in human civilization, and therefore constantly attempts to understanding the social status of the family.

In sociology, with its specific approach to the study of the social world through the relationship of personal and public understanding of this is done through the prism of family mediation: susceptibility (exercising responsive) the social system to the aspirations of the individual and, on the contrary, the person – to the public interest depends on the mutual account of the needs of the family as a whole. Study intermediary role of the family and forms the specificity of the sociological approach to the study of the family.

Family is a complex social education and multi-valued because on the one hand, an understanding of the family as a social institution reveals the importance of family in a broad social perspective in relation to other social institutions and social processes of change and development, modernization. On the other – an understanding of the family as a small social group focused on the regularities of formation, functioning and family breakdown as autonomous integrity. Differentiation features family as an institution and as a group allows you to review the implementation of the last intermediary role, so to speak, at the macro and micro levels of analysis. But this does not mean doubling the subject of investigation – they are different aspects of a single field of activity.

In the study of the family as a social group, the relationship of the individual and society is seen at the level of primary and interpersonal relationships. Conducted within the framework of this approach, empirical study of relationships in the family focus on the interactions of family members in a variety of social and family situations, on the organization of family life and the factors of stability of the family as a group.

To the greatest extent contributed to the development of this tradition of Ernest Burgess views the family as “the unity of interacting individuals” [1, p. 7]. However, the thesis of Burgess to move the “family-institution” to marital partnership cannot be interpreted as a transition from the “family-institution” to the family ceases to be a social institution. We are talking about a change in the “family-institute” nature of group relations between spouses and other family members. Consequently, E. Burgess says about changing types of family as a small group within the social institution of the family. In this sense, we can say that it was guessed the emergence of a new type of family relations, a new distribution of family roles. Distribution of families with two working parents was accompanied by changes in the socio-cultural norms of fecundity in marriage and divorce. Therefore E. Burgess as it anticipated the separation of marriage as a potentially new institution that becomes a reality only in the crisis of the family as a social institution. Gradually, in the study of the institutional nature of the family was a shift from the origin and evolution of the family as a social community to the interest in the transformation of its functions as a social institution.

Structural-functional approach, exploring the factors of effective implementation of the family of their institutional functions, inevitably intersects with microanalysis family of life, allowing you to see how the results of a variety of family behavior fold «macro trends» changes in the family as a social institution.

In domestic and foreign sociology constantly attempts to throw a “bridge” between the macro- and micro-analysis of the family, combine the approaches to the family as an institution and as a group. It is about creating scientific models to track the level of society socially significant results of individual and family behavior, and on the other hand, at the family level and the individual social determinism set of values, attitudes, motives and actions.

One of the ways of integration of institutional and group approach is to work towards the analysis of the family as a system. Among the researchers who tried to combine the “macro-analysis” and “microanalysis” of the family, should be called Talcott Parsons and Kingsley Davis. According to Parsons, the family is not opposed to society it did subsystem that provides the stability of society as a whole by establishing a “tool” of relations with other social subsystems and structures, as well as “expressive” of relations within the family, thanks to the preservation of integrative trends [2, p. 19-25]. According to Davis, the transition from traditional to modern forms of family “related primarily to the transformation of socio-cultural norms of a high birth rate and diffusion of low fertility” [3, p. 112].

In other words, a change in the system of values and social norms of marriage and family, not to replace the “hard” external pressure “forced” to family life, the internal forces of preservation of marriage and family cohesion should see the origins of the family changes. Moreover, the collapse of value system that supports an extended family does not automatically appear in a nuclear family “mutual affection”, which is any external influences public is able to provide socially relevant functions of reproduction of the population and the socialization of new generations of family stability depends both on external, social and cultural influences, and internal interactions. This is the essence of the family as a social phenomenon, and the problem is the adequacy of conceptual schemes and terms. Avoid one-sidedness of each of the two approaches we have mentioned, and their eclectic combination.

The family is the relation through which and through which human reproduction is carried out, the social mechanism of reproduction. This is an important and unique social function of the family as a social institution, is caused by the very socio-historical necessity in it: human reproduction in the unity of the natural and social aspects of the process, its quantitative and qualitative indicators.

The historical development of the social mechanism of human reproduction leads to the transformation of the family – a specific social group – a social institution. In this incarnation of his family should be seen as an institutional element of the social structure of society, dependent on the dominant mode of production in it. The dominant factor in its unity and functioning as a small social groups are socio-psychological ties, which also finds expression and the natural basis of marriage.

The family as a social institution is a condition of functioning of entire social structure. It concluded strong potential impact on processes of social development. It connects own individual existence with a family kind of extension and thus provides a status and role-players other social institutions, promoting their survival and existence of society as a whole.

The family occupies a key position among other social institutions. It’s a special place it is implementation-defined their specific functions. Family – the only social system increases, grows not by accepting new members from the outside, but thanks to the birth of children. It therefore supports the biological continuity of society. Its other functions – socialization and maintenance of children – are in the transmission of social experience and cultural heritage to future generations and maintaining the existence of its members. It is in the implementation of these functions is the historic mission of the family as a social institution.

But, as already pointed out, the family is not only a social institution, but also a certain kind of social-psychological community of people, which is characterized by interpersonal relationships. Therefore, the family can be seen not only as a small social group, but also as a specific socio-psychological community. This aspect of the analysis is typical for microsociology family and social psychology with their team approach to family

The family as a social system can be stable not only for the normal functioning of their specific institutional functions in society, but also because of their domestic family “coupled” as that can act and moral values, and emotions, and economic interest. In this case, the family has to be described and defined as a group, but not in the narrowly psychological and social meaning of the term. The main difference between these two values is that from a social point of view, the band performs in relation to society as a special respect to the total, it is not only included in the social system, but also to some extent reproduces it. In other words, an intra-interaction is ultimately reflection social interaction, although indirect multiple, relatively independent acquiring visibility sometimes even independence.

Various aspects of the study of the family does not mean that the family ceases to exist as a social institution. However, such a conclusion is doing some scientists believing that the family, losing their institutional functions, transferring them to other social institutions, more everything turns into a moral-psychological community, which should not be public, but a purely personal nature. It allegedly accumulated more intimate life of man, which is why the family has lost multifunctionality and all of its activities is the realization of the intimate life of a person.

“To the family of the past – says the well-known Russian scholar Anatoly Vishnevsky family – were much more natural economic functions or function of maintaining social order. Now the family is increasingly associated with a purely individual, deeply personal in a person’s life and this understanding of the family becomes part of the development of civic consciousness and is recognized as a basis for human behavior in the family sphere” [4, p. 189-190].

Indeed, if we consider the development of the family in the historical aspect, but today it unlike the last family psychological aspect plays a more significant role. However, as is well known, individual human development depends on social and private is a specific manifestation of the social. Therefore, what is society – these and family relations, including interpersonal, mentalizing in the form of expressing the character of social relations.

This raises at least two questions: whether the family exist loss of function of a social institution? Do not turn it completely into the sphere of private life, which serves to express the “intimate aspects of human self”? To these questions, in our view, can only be answered in the negative.

If we consider the family inside, it appears to the researcher as a socio-psychological community, having the nature of the group, as a sphere of private life. If we agree with the thesis that in the future a family of social community is transformed into social-psychological community, then it will inevitably be followed by the conclusion: modern family will develop only on moral and psychological basis.

However, family history suggests that its existence and development is possible only in the institutional form. In the system of social relations the family as a social institution that, like all other social institutions, changing and evolving under the influence of concrete historical mode of production. It is in the family, synthetically, in the unity of all its connections and relationships, as in the whole irreducible autonomous social systems exhibit the operation of general laws of development of socio-economic formations.

So, the family as a specific social phenomenon is based on heterogeneous foundations: natural, socio-economic, socio-demographic and socio-psychological. All this makes the family complex and diverse socio-natural formation and gives its development contradictory.

In society, the family acts as a socio-historical phenomenon as a social system, which has the complex nature of a social institution, a small social group and the specific socio-psychological community. This objective complexity of the phenomenon of the family largely determines the extreme vagueness of the methodological boundaries of its domain of sociological research.

Probably due to the circumstances, either in domestic or foreign sociology of the family still has not developed to the general theory, which refers to the system of family laws, formulated on the basis of experimental studies.

In modern social sciences and humanities descriptive theory gives a picture of the phenomenon, and an explanatory theory says why this phenomenon occurs. Both theories are legitimate.

Inside explanatory theory can distinguish particular theory and the general theory. The first involves a limited explanation of particular aspects of family events, most of which is derived from empirical studies aimed at establishing ordered relations in all aspects of the chosen subject field research family.

The general theory is committed to universal, universal explanations. It involves a wide coverage of the material from the macro-analysis of institutional changes in the structure and functions of the family to microanalysis assumptions about coalition formations in family groups of varying size and composition.

But taking place in modern familistic sociology private theories changes the family and with the family often considered not as a determinant, and as a consequence. For example, these theories treat marital behavior rather as the dependent variable requires an explanation, rather than as a determinant of personality development or social change – no matter how important these issues for other studies.

In our view, the term “general theory of the family” in familistic sociology should describe the dialectics of transition from small generalizations, descriptive and explanatory, on the specific aspects of family events to private theories and, finally, to the general theories of the origin and evolution of the family, it will contribute to a better understanding and, consequently, the scientific explanation of the specifics of the functioning of the family, which by its nature is both objective and social institutions, and small social group, and specific socio-psychological community.

The components of the general theory of the family must be determined, firstly, as a concept, conceptual schemes, is the classification of inter and concepts, and, secondly, as the assumptions about the relationship between concepts within the scheme.

Therefore, for a sociological analysis of the family is necessary to develop optimal conceptual schemes, bringing them into order by clarifying the old or creating new concepts, build concepts, ligaments to explain the family and other systems and concepts for their inter-definition clearer conceptual integration. In turn, this will clarify and methodological boundaries of the subject area of sociological study of the family.


  1. Burgess E. Family as a unity of interacting personalities // Family. 1926. No. 7. – 3-9 pp.
  2. Parsons T. The American family: its relations to personality and the social structure // Family, Socialization and Interaction Process / ed. by Talcott Parsons and Robert Bales. Glencoe, Illinois: The Free Press, 1955. – 422 pp.
  3. Davis K. Sociology of demographic behavior // Sociology Today: Problems and Prospects / ed.: R. Merton, L. Broom, L. Cottrell. New York: Basic Books, 1959. – 623 pp.
  4. Vishnevsky A. Reproduction of the population in the community: the history, the present, look to the future. Moscow: Fynansy i statistica, 1982. – 287 pp.
    Written by: P´yanov Alexander Ivanovich
    Date Published: 05/24/2017
    Edition: ЕВРАЗИЙСКИЙ СОЮЗ УЧЕНЫХ_ 30.01.2015_01(10)
    Available in: Ebook