Feminist Family Theory





Feminist Family Theory


Many scholars in the field of social sciences have developed theories that try to explain the concept of the family. Through these analyses, scholars hope to develop a greater understanding of the way people function within their families as well as the manner in which the unit interacts with the rest of society. The fact that the family is one of the most important social units for human beings makes this understanding important. The feminist family theory is one of the most important arguments concerning the social units as it attempts to reconfigure the roles that traditional hypothesis assign to different people within group. The theory particularly challenges the patriarchal grounding that traditional hypothesis had concerning families. Through its tenets and arguments, the feminist family theory successfully challenges the traditional discourse on the social unit, leading to a redefinition of roles that increases equality in modern homes.

Main Arguments of the Theory

At its core, the feminist family theory is a hypothesis that challenges the traditional explanation of the family unit, which was fiercely patriarchal. According to functionalist theories, the family is a basic unit of society that plays a key role in the socialization of young people. This social unit is typically harmonious, particularly because of the careful designation of roles between males and females based on their qualities and characteristics (Smith and Hamon 53). These theories guided the basic understanding of human families for years until the feminist school of thought started challenging the established ideals. Within its counterarguments, the feminist family theory emphasizes several issues. Perhaps the most serious concern was that the functionalist theories overstated the extent to which the family unit was stable and peaceful (Smith and Hamon 342). Indeed, a key grounding issue in the feminist family theory is the argument that there is a significant amount of conflict within the typical family, particularly because of the way that the assigned roles place women and children at a disadvantage at the favor of men.

A key argument in the feminist family theory is that the designation of roles within the family unit normally places men at an advantage over women and children. The feminist family theory particularly challenges the manner in which the functionalist hypotheses structure the homes (Smith and Hamon 343). The functionalist theories normally assign specific roles and duties to men women and children within the family. In these structures, men bear the most significant roles as they find themselves in charge of key decisions while also bearing the significant responsibility of providing for the family. The feminist family theory challenges the structures that place men above women and children in the family hierarchy (Smith and Hamon 343). According to the theory, the disadvantage that the structures create diminishes the symmetry that functionalists describe within the family unit. By diminishing the symmetry, the fixed roles that different members of families have contribute to conflict within the unit; an issue that feminists claim is a key concern.

Another key argument in the feminist family theory concerns the assigned roles that different members of the social unit have. Traditional hypotheses regarding the family assign specific roles to the different members, based on qualities and characteristics that are allegedly inherent within people. Based on these supposedly inherent qualities, children are further socialized to fit into their assigned roles within the family. The family acts as a unit of socialization by ensuring that girls grow up to be dependent and obedient, while boys become dominant and independent. Key arguments within the feminist family theory challenge these assumptions regarding inherent qualities and assigned roles. According to the theory, there is no biological basis allowing functionalists to assume that girls and boys are suited for specific roles (Smith and Hamon 345). Accordingly, the role that the family plays in socializing girls and boys affects them in several negative ways. For instance, it assigns them roles that may not necessarily fit their inherent qualities. It also teaches girls to be submissive, an attitude that places at a disadvantage in the family and within society.

Central Themes of the Feminist Family Theory

Based on these arguments in the feminist family theory, the hypothesis covers several key themes concerning the social unit. One key theme that the feminist family theory addresses is inequality. According to the theory, the idea that men and women have inherent qualities determining their roles in the family and society results in an unequal distribution of power. Another key issue that the theory covers is conflict. The feminist family theory claims that conflict in the social unit is a concern that the functionalists understate. The conflict results from the asymmetrical structure that is present in families, due to the advantage that men receive from their assigned roles.


The feminist family theory is a hypothesis that primarily challenges the traditionalists’ perspective on the family. In the traditionalists’ view, the family was a social unit in which men and women have assigned roles that supposedly suit their inherent abilities. The feminist family theory primarily challenges this assumption on two fronts. Firstly, it claims that there is no biological basis for the roles assigned and that the qualities actually emerge from the family’s position as a unit of socialization. Secondly, they claim that the family’s structure places men at an advantage, leading to conflict within the social unit. Accordingly, the theory seeks to reconfigure the family in a way that is promotes equality and reduces conflict.


Work Cited

Smith, Suzanne, R. and Raeann R. Hamon. Exploring Family Theories (3rd Edition). New York: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.

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