Man's Quest for Social Guidance: The Study of Social Problems

By Howard W. Odum | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XV
THE FAMILY A BASIC INSTITUTION

The Family Unit of Society. Just as the social individual constitutes the smallest single unit of the social population, so the family represents the smallest group unit and the most important of the primary association groups. And just as, in the development of the social personality and in the social measurement and direction of the individual, we found the growth of the individual representative of the highest social objective, so in the family we touch most of the elementary problems and phenomena of human association. It is the first of the "little societies." It is appropriate, therefore, that we begin our second division of study -- that relating to the institutions -- with the family. There are other reasons why the family should be the starting point. It is the first essential in the physical perpetuation of the race. It is the first in the evolution of the race. It is the first in the "social health" of peoples. It is the first in the origin of the other institutions. Beginning in the family was the organic inheritance and evolution of society. Beginning in the family was education. Beginning in the family was industry. Here also were the beginnings of government, of communities, of religion. In the history of the family is found much that is most representative of the story of mankind. But before looking at the historical development of the family, and its relation to the family's present status and form, we may well begin our study of family problems by an examination into the functions of this institution.

The Functions of the Family. For the time being we may omit any distinctions between primary and secondary functions as commonly described in the special works dealing with the family. For the time being, also, we may avoid the use of technical terms and classifications in order to introduce the subject in conformity with the previous discussions in this book and with the final conclusions reached. Through such informal classification of functions we may judge the efficacy of the modern family and attempt

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