Provide three examples of how society shapes family life.Provide three examples of how society shapes family life.

Expert Answers
M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Society shapes our family lives in several way, three of which are:

1. Financially

2. Behaviorally

3. Intellectually (Cognitively)


Financially, society affects us by bombarding our families with suggestions for wants and needs that we may or may not be able to afford. These range from housing choices, to schooling choices for college, shopping options, places to go, and things to do for which we would have to invest from our budget. If this constant exposure did not occur, perhaps the family unit would make less biased decisions on how they would spend their dollars.

2. Behaviorally, society affects us by the dyadic division of individuals and groups by preferences, race, language, commonalities, religion, ethnicity, and preferences. If you live in a place where customs are nowhere like what you are used to, you will behaviorally choose to either join them or radically isolate yourself from the group. Since the latter is not the likeliest choice, chances are that in some way or another, regardless of how independently you live, you will still acquire one or two mannerisms from your immediate social circle such as accent, drawl, idioms, intonations, or customs.

3. Intellectually- What society offers us we either take or not. If society offers a higher quality of life where our quality is valued, we would make very high-thinking analyses on where we want society to go, and what role we play within it. We also would question how we can help improve the quality of our social strata, and we also would want to find benchmarks, philosophical foundations, and recent research that would help us make our surroundings both qualitatively and quantitatively sufficient for its residents.

Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One aspect of society that has not been mentioned thus far is that of class.  The United States is theoretically a classless society, but that is far from the truth, and the class of the family one is born into often dictates outcomes for the family and the individuals in the family.  This is largely because socio-economic class of a family dictates its prioritites in everyday activities and longterm goals. A lower-class family, for example, has a daily struggle with the the lower needs on Maslow's hierarchy of needs, working to provide food, shelter, and warmth, living paycheck to paycheck.  For such families, eating dinner together or checking children's homework arenot the priorities they are in families that are middle or upper-class. This causes longterm goals such as education to be far more difficult to achieve than for those of other classes. The family's handling of health can be affected, as well, for instance in the need to buy cheap, filling foods that are not particularly healthy and avoiding medical care because there is no health insurance. A third effect is cultural, since no one has time or money to take children to plays, museums, or libraries.  This creates further obstacles to achieving any longterm goals, since in such a family, the children are competing with others who have reaped the benefits of this kind of enrichment. This daily struggle has a profound influence on the family. One book that discusses this struggle is Nickeled and Dimed, by Barabara Ehrenreich, and I have provided a link to the enotes materials on this book for you, if you are interested.

readerofbooks eNotes educator| Certified Educator

That is a great question. Society shapes not only family life, but almost every aspect of life. Since you ask about family life, here are three ways that society influences family life.

First, society defines categories. So, it defines what is family. Some cultures define family as father, mother and children. Other societies define families to include grandparents, aunts and uncles. So, the very definition of family is defined by society.

Second, what a family does is also defined by culture. Whether a family goes to the movies, plays board games, worships God, or goes shopping is also related to society.

Finally, society also influences roles within a family. Is the father in control? Is it the grandfather? Or is it the mother. The dynamic between family members is determined by society.

Please seek link on a great social theory.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A social order plays a formative role on family life.  A given culture or society helps to define what values families deem important.  If education, material acquisition, or spirituality hold specific values help to shape what the family deems as important.  At the same time, society helps to form family identity in terms of how the family will represent their own identities and senses of self.  Another example of how society shapes family life is that the varied nature of society in terms of representing what is and/ or what should be is something that families make a strong judgment for or against.  For example, if a society views one particular action or behavior as "incorrect," the family is poised in a situation where they must choose if they will accept society's judgment or if they will rebel against it and embrace such action or behavior.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This, of course, differs from country to country and even by regions or different religions or social classes within a country.

Here are some examples from here in the United States:

  1. Societal expectations tend to define what jobs will be done by which family members.  It is unusual, for example, for the man in a family to do all the cooking.
  2. It is society that makes us get married formally.
  3. It is society that determines (largely) who will be included in our "family."  Here in the US, our family tends to consist just of our own nuclear family (and only until the children reach college age).

There are many others...

ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I didn’t really see this on other posts, but society affects family in that the cost of living keeps going up, and parents (and even children sometimes) have to work longer and longer hours just to maintain the status quo. This cuts into time that families might be doing other things. Even the time families have together might be compromised by work obligations and other things put on hold during the work week.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
Society determines what constitutes a family. In some cultures, a family includes a large extended family. On others, it is just the nuclear family. Does a family include same-sex couples? Friends? Adoption? People with similar views? Pets? Those are at least partly cultural determinations. I would argue that the definition of family is changing or has changed throughout the years in the US.
besure77 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Society shapes family life in many different ways. It determines the social norms that we are all expected to follow. This defines how we interact with family, friends, co-workers, etc. Work is another issue here. The roles of women have changed over the years. Decades ago women generally stayed in the home. Today, most women work. This has completely changed family dynamics.

mkcapen1 | Student

The first thing that society shapes in regard to family life is the definition of what constitutes a family.  For example; twenty years ago a homosexual man and his partner would not have been considered a family in America.  As American society changed so did the realization of what constitutes a family changed. 

Dominant religious beliefs in a society also shape how a family lives and how family members respond to one another.  For example: Life among devout Christians and life among devout Muslims is very different.  The holidays that are celebrated and the manner in which the family worships each have their own patterns.  The days of worship are different as well as the belief's of the afterlife and consequences for engaging in certain patterns of behavior.

The hierarchy of a family is also affected by society.  Many years ago women were only allowed to work in the home.  They could not make financial decisions and all property rights were handed down to men.  In some societies this has not changed, but in American and Western society Women experience the same rights as men.

Family values are shaped by society as a whole.  If a person lives in a society where spending time with family members outweighs the need for a median income, the family will forgo even some of the necessities to ensure that both parents spend more time with the children.  In America mothers used to be expected to be home raising their children, but now in many households men stay home and women work.  Children may attend day care while both parents work.

Even weight patterns and body image is shaped by societal expectations.  As a result families find themselves facing rigorous exercise routines, eating too much, and even dysfunctional eating patterns as well as healthy patterns.

Media representation often reflects the social patterns of the family unit.  In media today we are faced with a violent and dangerous society.  The influence of the increase in murders and even dangers to children in schools has resulted in most family unites providing cell phones for their children.

The mobility of a society is also a significant social factor that influences family.    Years ago transportation was limited and took a long time.  Families tended to live closer together and assist one another.  As transportation became cheaper and readily available, business expanded in different directions.  As a direct result extended family units are often spread throughout the world.  Transportation has also made it easier for family to visit one another.

There are so many areas in which family is affected by society.