Families are essential institutions because they help nurture and develop individuals specifically in their social status, roles as well as in the realization of their social identity. There are seven theories used in understanding the dynamics of families. The main classification is based on the system level used in explaining them: macrosystem and microsystem. Included in the first group are conflict theory, feminist theory and ecological theory, while symbolic interaction, social exchange, family development, and systems theories belong to the latter.
Despite the similarities in the system, each theory is further differentiated based on their individual basic components. The macrosystem theories, conflict, feminist and ecological theories differ a lot. Conflict theory deemed family as a competitive arena, thus it is a place of conflict for individuals concerned mainly about their own interest therefore dissolution is inevitable. Feminist theory, on the other hand, attributes dissolution to social inequity in gender politics, economics and politics while ecological theory sees biological, social and individual factors instrumental in the formation and maintenance of families.
Macrosystem outlook on family can be seen in Zimmerman’s three kinds of family stems. Family becomes an arena for competition basically due to the presence of rights and domination, and such domestic environment could be attributed as reasons why families stay together or become separated. In the case of feminist theory the patriarchal nature of trustee families implies subordination of women, which is considered a factor for dissolution. Microsystem theories, on the other hand, explore deeper and uncover more intimate reasons why family members stay together.
Symbolic interaction theory finds the individual meanings and interpretations important in defining how family members behave with one another. Social exchange theory examines the relationship of families based on cost-benefit standards stating that dissolution may occur when the earlier outweighs the latter. Family development theory analyzes the influence that the family of orientation has on the development of family of procreation arguing that the effect diminishes eventually due to the changes that happen over time and that in the end agreements of the family of procreation would become primary.
Lastly, family systems theory acknowledges the unique bond shared by family members which surpasses the collection of material resources. The microsystem theories are greatly applicable in studying the changes that occur in the 17th century, where sentiment became supreme to survival of families as well as in understanding the compounding influences that affect marriage such as the union between native and non-native which produces an adaptation of culture, allowing a new characteristic for a family of procreation to surface.
It can be observed in the differentiation that the main scope and limitation of the theories are anchored on the ability of families to stay together or be dissolved. Individually, they are weak because they each has a very narrow focus which could make them disregard other essential details, however, that can also be considered a strength since they are able to maximize on those factors allowing them to provide a more in-depth analysis.