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From the structural-functionalist perspective, marriage and family are a very basic building block of society. From this perspective, these institutions exist because they are necessary for a stable society. Marriage and family perform a number of necessary functions. For example, they provide a structure in which children can be produced and raised. They also provide a way in which sexual relations can be in some way regulated so that people can fulfill their sexual desires without causing conflict. Finally, they give people a way to feel loved and to feel a sense of belonging. This makes people more likely to be good and productive members of society.
To the conflict perspective, things are much less rosy. These sociologists would see marriage as the outgrowth of conflict between men and women. They would say that marriage and family, as practiced in our society, tend to subjugate women to some degree. Although this may be changing, marriage and family have, they would say, traditionally been a way for men to maintain their dominance.
From the symbolic interactionist perspective, every marriage is different. Marriage is, essentially, what people make of it. There can be marriages in which one of the partners feels subjugated to the other. However, there can also be marriages in which the partners fulfill and complete one another. Symbolic interactionism is a very micro-level perspective and so it sees marriage as something that differs from relationship to relationship.
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