Family Theory (Structural-functional) – Essay Example

Summary of Structural-Functional Research The basis for current research in sociology for working with families revolves primarily upon historical research performed in the field after World War II. Parsons (1965) explained the structural-functional theory that proposed the structure of the family was the primary explanation for the interactions and potential issues that surrounded the family. The research performed post-World War II became the foundation of sociological theory and practice for the structural-functional theory. However, the days of the two-parent, heterosexual family structure began to fade and a new definition of family evolved. While the formal familial structure has quickly changed due to alarmingly high divorce rates and other socio-economic factors, professional research now focuses on how the modern family interacts in the community (Scanzoni, 2001). Research has shown that as family members disconnect through acts of divorce and separation, these individuals also tend to disconnect from their communities (Scanzoni, 2001). As this research shows, the structural-functional theory has evolved to utilize the structure of the family to analyze familial and communal disconnect, which is not how Parsons had originally intended.
In addition to the changes in structural-functional theory research, other sociological research has been utilized to explain the trends and patterns within the field insofar as working with families. Currently, research is being performed to analyze how analytical research results are becoming less particular and more difficult to making research-based conclusions – this concept has become known as the “no effect” result of sociological research (Chen & Rossi, 1980). The “no effect” problem has limited the reliability of modern sociological research and professionals are being forced to examine the previous results of the Parsons post-World War II era. Finally, Birckmayer & Weiss (2000) have conducted research to show that the structural-functional theory continues to be utilized by most practitioners when working in the field. This shows that professionals working with families typically rely on the structural-functional theory to help explain and support analyses for each individual case. Clearly, the initial research by Parsons is still alive and well today and will continue to be a cornerstone for sociological practice into the future.
Birckmayer, J.D. and Weiss, C.H. (2000). “Theory-Based Evaluation in Practice: What do we learn?” Evaluation Review, 22(4): 407-431.
Chen, H.T. and Rossi, P.H. (1980). “The Multi-Goal, Theory-Driven Approach to Evaluation: A Model Linking Basic and Applied Social Science.” Social Forces, 59. Retrieved from Web site:;jsessionid=MFvMchtdhhnRNd9fGNKlThK9jlBPdPxdZHlNTtDQJxn26KWhpFrl!-1788688887!-122474816?docId=96421280
Parsons, T. (1965). "The Normal American Family." Man and Civilization: The Familys Search for Survival. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Scanzoni, J. (2001). "Reconnecting Household and Community: An Alternative Strategy for Theory and Policy." Journal of Family Issues, 22: 243–264.