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In order to answer this, let us first look at what the AGIL acronym stands for. Talcott Parsons argues that every social system needs four characteristics in order for it to survive. First, it has to be able to adapt (this is where the “A” comes from) to and transform its environment. Second, it has to be able to create and achieve goals (the “G”). Third, it must integrate (I) its various parts. This means that it needs to regulate the relationships between various groups within it. Finally, it must be able to renew the patterns within the culture that motivate people. Parsons calls this the “latency” function (L). A family is a type of social system. Therefore, each family needs to fulfill each of these four functions. Challenges to the modern family are problems that make it difficult for them to do so. Let us look at some of these problems.
The first problem is an economic problem. The “A” function has to do with getting the resources that the family needs in order to get by. Many families in today’s United States have economic difficulties. If the workers in the family cannot make enough money, the family suffers. This is a growing problem for families whose members are not highly educated.
The second problem has to do with integrating the various parts of the family. The problem here is that the various members of the family might not have clear roles or might not want to play the roles that others in the family want them to. This is particularly problematic in today’s changing society. Husbands and wives might not agree on how to divide the housework. They might disagree on whether or how much the wife should work. These are issues having to do with the relationships between members.
Finally, there are problems having to do with reproducing patterns. This comes about when parents have problems getting their children to adhere to the values and behaviors that they expect of them. In our modern society, values are in flux enough that children will often not wish to follow in their parents’ footsteps. This can cause problems within the family.
In these ways, we can see that problems facing the modern family can be understood in terms of the AGIL framework.
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