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An episode of “The Soccer’s” show focuses on a family shopping day  at a downtown mall in Los Angeles.  The family is shopping for Christmas, which is 2 weeks away. The  characters in the Soccer’s family are John, a 35 year old accountant who is somewhat abusive to his long term relationship partner and sometimes to his kids, his partner Sharon, a 32 year old school teacher, and their 2 children Matt and Kat   both 7 and 9  years of age. While at the mall Kat and Matt both get tired of following their parents around they decide to go exploring on their own.  They dash to the toy section and there they see the latest pack of mini Hot wheels cars.  Knowing that their cohabiting parents won’t allow them to buy toys which are not related to educational purposes, Matt and Kat both take their favorite of the mini hot wheel cars and slide it in their back pockets. They then go and find their parents waiting in the line to purchase the stockings and decorations for the Christmas tree. When they are done purchasing they head out towards the exit doors. Once and Matt and Kat leave the doors the security alarm begins to ring because they hadn’t checked out their stolen toys. What can be some family sociological concepts and theories, from this made up proposed episode of a TV show?

Expert Answers

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In order to truly explore sociological concepts and theories, the show would have to have more than this.  The action that you describe hints at possible sociological issues, but does not appear to actually bring them up.  Let us look at some examples of how this is so.

First, you mention that these parents are cohabiting rather than married.  This means that they are, to some degree, deviant because they are in a family structure that is generally not approved of by much of society.  By shoplifting, the children are acting in a manner that is also deviant.  It would be possible to look at the question of whether the deviant parents have been socializing their children to behave in deviant ways.  In other words, are the kids shoplifting because they have gotten messages from their parents that it is okay to flout social norms? 

Alternatively, you mention that John is sometimes abusive towards his kids.  Are they acting out as a way to get back at him for the way he treats them?  As another possibility, are they rebelling because their parents will only allow them to have educational toys?  Either of these ideas could go along with the ideas of conflict theory.  The kids and the parents might be in conflict with one another because of the power relations within the family.

Another issue that is hinted at is the abusive actions of John towards Sharon.  This would tend to move us towards feminist sociological theories of the family.  Feminist theorists see the family as a locus of patriarchy.  John’s abuse of Sharon might imply that this is correct.  Does John abuse Sharon, for example, because he feels that he needs to be in control because he is the man?

Finally, there is the issue of what happens after the alarm goes off.  How do the parents respond?  Will they try to socialize their children properly like functionalists say they would?  Will they respond with violence?  Will we hear messages about how consumerism creates problems in the family (which is something that postmodern theorists talk about)?  The answers to these questions will do much to determine what sociological theories and concepts are embodied in this show.

So, there are many sociological theories and concepts that are hinted at, but none that are actually explored, in the synopsis that you have provided here.

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